Tuesday 17 September 2019

Beckhams' perfection and Harper's cut-glass accent is beyond me

The Beckhams have latterly jumped on the domestic-bliss bandwagon, but it makes no one happier, writes Sarah Caden

Harper Beckham and her mother Victoria pose for the camera
Harper Beckham and her mother Victoria pose for the camera

Sarah Caden

Harper Beckham has a very posh accent. Well, one would imagine this to be the case. One would assume that the six-year-old daughter of Victoria and David Beckham attends a very fine and expensive school in her home city of London, where they expect the pupils to talk properly.

But one doesn't need to imagine or assume, because, of late, little Harper has been enunciating beautifully on Instagram.

To the delight of her parents' followers, who compare her to the Queen and find humour in the fact that her mother is the artist formerly known as Posh, Harper has recently displayed both her reading skills and cut-glass accent online.

Last week, in honour of her father David's 43rd birthday on May 2, Harper Beckham sat in her school uniform and read the card she had written to him. It was cute and impressive for her age and also a showcase for her received pronunciation, her immaculate long plaits and her posh school uniform.

She seems like a lovely little girl. She seems, from this social-media video post and another, last month, reading a card expressing love for her whole family, to be a nicely bought-up kid.

But why she needs to be shared with the world to this extent is beyond me.

The reason it jars is, in part, because the older two of the four Beckham children, Brooklyn (19) and Romeo (15) were never on show to the extent of Harper and Cruz (13). The two older boys were, of course, papped to within an inch of their lives, all their lives, but that was as an extension of their parents' celebrity. They were papped by association but we didn't hear them speak and we didn't get access to their private lives.

The Beckhams always discussed and demonstrated what was a warm, loving and connected family. They did stuff together, they hugged and kissed their kids, the family unit seemed like a relatively down-to-earth core of their celebrity existence.

The world has changed, though, and the manner in which the Beckhams have got on board with the modern habit of handing over your private moments to public view speaks volumes.

There was a time when the ordinary person's social media stream of their trials and tribulations was a striving to feel special and like a celebrity.

Now, in the age of endless uploads, a celebrity has to make available so much more than they had to previously. In an age of fascination with the domestic details of others, they have to start giving that away.

Ordinary folk are hogging all the attention with their cute-kid videos, holiday snaps, wedding highlights and every other bit of domestic detail that we just can't stop looking at.

"Look how happy we are at home" grabs more attention than any red-carpet outing or glitzy event. So hooked are we on comparing ourselves with others and keeping up with the Joneses, that even the likes of the Beckhams are in on it. And if they were not, they'd be left behind, overshadowed by the workaday families who somehow find the time to video their every move for YouTube, out-cuted by kids and parents far less fabulous than they.

Within my own home and I know that it's the same in the homes of my friends, my two under-10 girls are intrigued by the kinds of families who have channels on YouTube cataloguing their every move. These families are having a high-pitched, high-octane ball the entire time, if the videos are anything to go by, and doing the stuff that most of us just don't have the time for.

Their videos feed children's desire to have families that are endlessly fun, endlessly laughing, always having adventure and operating as a unit. They don't get that this is pretty much acting for the camera, they don't see an episode that showed one family giving out Christmas gifts to the hard-up as a self-aggrandising act.

How children see these online families is as the ideal, and their view isn't far off our own, as adults.

When your six-year-old is watching this stuff and wishing their family could be as cute and cosy as the ones on-screen, they are merely being honest about how such material makes us all feel.

It makes us feel inadequate and on the back foot and, for many of us, it's making us feel that we have to compete on a certain level. Not creating our own YouTube channels, per se, but uploading aspects of our lives that are not only fairly boring to everyone else, but also the bits that we might be happier keeping for ourselves.

That's not the effect that the on-show culture cultivates, though. It doesn't make us think that maybe we should become more private, instead, quite the opposite, it makes us feel that we need to compete.

In a domain - the domestic - in which it's really unhealthy to compete. Because you can't win. You can only feel awful about coming up short. It's not enough any more to sit at home hoping that you're not making a complete balls of your marriage or your kids or your life in general. You need to get it out there; put the best bits on show and get the approval. Or not, which is even worse.

The videos of Harper Beckham, with her posh little voice and her heartfelt avowals of love, speak volumes about how the pressure to portray the perfect family punctures everyone - even those you would imagine were immune to it.

Such is the force of this phenomenon that even the Beckhams, whom we'd happily assume to be sorted, even without social-media evidence, feel the need to show how happy they are.

Last week, the Beckhams had a celebratory dinner in London for David's birthday. Their eldest son Brooklyn, who is based in the States, walked into the restaurant, came up behind his dad and surprised him. David choked up instantly, and the clip showed a long and emotional hug between father and son, with Harper finally piping up to say: "I didn't know Brooklyn was coming."

It was sweet. It was on Instagram. And so was the reverse angle on the occurrence, taken from Brooklyn's point of view, by someone walking behind him.

We get the message. It's all good. We're all good; but constantly telling each other isn't making us feel any better.

Sunday Independent

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