Monday, May 9, 2011

Royal Protocol – A Tale of Two Woodies

The Nielson Company said that an average of 22.7 million viewers at home in the United States watched the royal wedding live on April 29th (between 6 and 7:15 a.m. Eastern daylight time). It amounted to a record ratings day for some television channels.

This has led some to mistakenly believe that Americans accept some role of a monarchy.

I disagree. Americans treat royalty like celebrities and we love celebrities – this explains the success of the television shows “Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice” and “Dancing with the Stars”. Americans also love weddings – and this explains the success of the television shows “Bridal Wars” and “Bridezilla”. So, a celebrity wedding becomes a ratings bonanza in the US. But Americans would never accept a monarchy.

When our republic was first established over 200 years ago it was built on several core beliefs: a strong moral revulsion for the idea of royalty, a look-the-other way acceptance of slavery, and a system where only white male landowners could vote. OK, it took us awhile to get the last two corrected but, the king-queen thing, we definitely knew that was wrong from the start.

Americans get so excited when they meet royalty. But the royal protocol should be offensive to any free humanist. Here’s an excerpt of Thai royal protocol from the Thai Social Etiquette, Ministry of Culture:

“If granted an informal audience, Thai traditional way of crawling on the knees and paying respect to His Majesty with a krap is more suitable. Shoes must not be worn. When approaching His Majesty, krap with the hands raised once and crawl near him at a proper distance, not directly facing him, and make another krap. Then prostrate oneself with hands still pressed together. If His Majesty addresses someone, the person must look up and answer him. When leaving His Majesty’s audience, krap with the hands raised once and crawl backward at a proper distance. Make another krap before standing up.”

My theory is that most royalty are decent folks deep-down-inside decent but I hope at some point they say, “We just feel creepy about other human beings calling us, 'Your Highness'.”

“Your Highness?” Really? It’s just an accident of birth.

We Americans are who we are today because we fought a war to be rid of a monarchy, because we decided we didn’t want to kowtow to some unelected king or queen.

Now it’s not that we don’t disrespect royalty. We’re just not going to put up with lowering ourselves below them or raising them above ourselves. Equality is the name of our game.

For example, 67 year old Alice Frazier showered everyone who showed up at her Marshall Heights home with big, arms-stretched-wide hugs that transferred to others her verve for life. So when Queen Elizabeth II and Barbara Bush popped in for a visit in 1991, Mrs. Frazier did not think it was a big deal when she wrapped her arms around the dignitaries. She did not know -- and friends are not sure she would have cared -- that the queen did not do hugs and that such intimate touching was a serious breach of royal etiquette. 

Ms. Frazier may have started a new American trend of hugging royalty because lately even the President’s wife, Michelle Obama, has been touchy-feely (in a nice and respectful way) with Queen Elizabeth.

Another reason why Americans don’t want to follow protocol may be due to the fact that there are just too many rules to remember. There are pages and pages of royal etiquette rules at the Thai Ministry of Culture’s Thai Social Etiquette link. And even then I don’t think that is an all-inclusive list.

Besides the British Royal Wedding last month, there was another royal television extravaganza, this time in Thailand where Thai celebrity Woody Milintachinda interviewed Princess Chulabhorn. During this interview, there were several lessons I learned about Thai royal protocol. For instance, when invited to dine in front of a Thai princess, one must eat on the floor with the dog and only after the dog has eaten first. This is clearly demonstrated in the following short video clip:

Now, I’m not judging Woody for doing what he’s doing. He can behave that way if he wants to. It’s a free world, except maybe in Thailand where if you don’t behave that way then you go to prison for 15 years. But I think Woody actually loves his Thai royalty and, who knows, maybe Thailand’s royalty loves him too. The Princess did let him share a meal with her pet dog.

But now contrast Woody’s behavior with how a famous American, also named Woody, acts around royalty in this short video clip:

Totally different, isn’t it? Notice the hug at the end. I see genuine affection with no disrespect for royalty there at all.

I also have to admit, even though I love Woody Woodpecker, Woody Milintachinda makes me laugh too. 

1 comment:

  1. you silly bastard it's not Your Highness it's Your Royal Highness and no i don't think they feel "creeped" out by it go hug ya silly president ya daft american