Mar 22nd, 2021, 03:05 AM

A Royal Obsession

By Sarah Affonso
Image credit: Unsplash/Kings Church International
A psychological angle on the world's obsession with the royal family.

The royal family has forever been a global obsession. Individuals around the world, like myself, know minute aspects of their lives all the way from the lace detailing on Princess Diana's dress to the name of Prince Williams' youngest child. Being a family that lives in the public eye, it is not uncommon for common citizens to almost feel like we know them personally. The recent Oprah interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, popularly known as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, gave us a new angle on the Windsors, reminding us that just because they live in a castle, does not make it a fairytale.

The interview was broadcasted on CBS and was viewed by over 17 million people when it aired in The United States. The network even mentioned that since then, the interview has garnered more than 49 million viewers worldwide. However, this bizarre obsession with the British monarch actually has a psychological explanation, and I have taken it upon myself to inform you that it is, in fact, normal to be as crazy about them as you are. 

Image credit: Unsplash/Zeg Young

After lots of research, the popular mass obsession with the royal family can be explained through what is called, "parasocial relationships." According to Oxford Reference, it is, "a kind of psychological relationship experienced by members of an audience in their mediated encounters with certain members in the mass media." The relationships are said to resemble face-to-face encounters but are in fact "mediated and one-sided." In the interview with Oprah, the extremely personal questions and the filming location in a Los Angeles home close to Harry and Meghan's, made it truly feel no different than having a chat and a cup of tea as I caught up with a close friend. There is a fine line between themselves and the audience and I am quickly becoming aware of it. 

While our obsession with the royals can be compared to others like The Kardashians, 'Brangelina', and Britney Spears, it is interesting to note that it's still not quite the same. While the British royal family offers us the celebrity angle, they also serve a governmental function. It's as simple as the fact that we are attracted to them as they live normal lives, just like you and me, except in the spotlight.

Clinical Psychologist Tar Emrami, Ph. D. explains that it was when Diana married into the family that they graduated into a level of celebrity they had never experienced before. He states, "She was someone just like the rest of us, but then – instantly – she was better."  It is the balance of seeing them do everyday things, keeping them supposedly "normal" and, them being royal, making them supposedly "special" that draws us into their lives. 

Image credit: Unsplash/Robina Weermeijer

In an extreme scenario, when an individual creates this one-sided relationship between themselves and a celebrity, they are truly creating a fantasy they find comforting at the expense of creating real relationships. We can see these developing between characters in the media both fictional and, more often than not, non-fictional. Most are rather harmless, like being overly invested in Khloe and Tristan's turbulent relationship, but some can be dangerous. Take for example Kohn Hinckley Junior's attempted assassination on Ronald Reagan in an attempt to impress Jodie Foster. Thankfully, most of us know when to draw the line with celebrity obsessions but it's no surprise that some people do not. 

While parasocial relationships are absolutely normal, it is important to understand why your brain reacts the way it does when you see your favorite celebrity on-screen or via social media. We are programmed to create these fantasies or non-reciprocated relationships and sometimes it can turn into an obsession. So next time you fawn of Prince Harry just remember it is kind of crazy... unless you're Meghan Markle.