Marie Antoinette and Gen Z? Let us elaborate.
We were feeling extra analytical today
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Calling all history nerds and pop culture enthusiasts. This one is for you, my sweeties. Who is the first person that comes to your mind when I say opulence? Or extravagant? Is it Kim Kardashian? Or another tone-deaf influencer? Yeah, I mean, they’re all fair and good guesses, but who was the blueprint? MISS MARIE ANTOINETTE. A lot of what we hear about her is distorted, so I would take this with a grain of salt, but I still wanted to write this because of the interesting parallels I noticed between Marie and some brain-chemistry-altering instances that happened in the… great, great, greaaat year of 2020 which is also when I realized that Miss Antoinette may or may not have started cottagecore before cottagecore was a thing. Such a trendsetting queen.
Why I think she can be seen as a relatable figure that’s appealing to Gen Z is because of all that happened while at Versailles. Again, a lot of what is portrayed about her in the media is distorted because the accounts we have from the time were never in favour of the Queen. There are barely any accounts that are sympathetic. It almost became a trend to blame Marie for all of France’s problems at the time. Newspapers and pamphlets would poke fun at the Queen’s exorbitant spending and busy lifestyle. While genuine criticism of the Queen’s spending was warranted, anything more than that was pure malice. She wasn’t even 20 when she became the Queen, which is reflected in the behaviours and habits seen. Let’s look at those together, shall we?
Miss Antoinette was in her influencer era; I can’t even lie to you, besties. OKAY, I KNOW HOW THAT SOUNDS, BUT HEAR ME OUT. I KNOW SHE WAS A QUEEN, BUT LEMME TELL YOU SOMETHING, LEMME TELL YOU SOMETHING. She loved entertainment and was influential in what shows were to be put at court. She also loved court balls and supported artists (if you have friends doing something creative, please support them in any way you can… we’re out here losing our sanity). Even though it was required due to her position as Queen to entertain and host, her keenness to play billiards and cards, which she often played in excess, led me to believe she actually enjoyed hosting. So much so that she won and lost large sums of money in the games she played, which led to the King banning the riskier games because they were affecting the fortune. She was also a musician and played the harp while appreciating and supporting composers and artists. She was a patron to Elizabeth Vigée Le Brun and supported composers like Gluck and Sacchini. She was maliciously named the “Minister of Fashion” because she often had opinions about her clothes and hairstyle.
Here’s why I think that Gen Z relates to this part of her life. In essence, she’s doing what any teenager/young adult would do, which is enjoying. She obviously grew up in wealth, but she was surrounded by a lot more when she married into the French royal family. I think that her spending an exorbitant amount of money was due to the fact that she was not given a lot to do and had a lot of time on her hands. Suppose any of us were given that amount of money and weren’t guided properly. In that case, I think we’d be in a similar position. You open TikTok, and you’re bombarded by videos of people buying things that we, as the viewer, deem unnecessary and wasteful, which in some cases can be true. How many times have tea pages on Instagram talked about the things influencers, specifically beauty influencers, have bought. History repeats itself; in different ways, but it always, always does. The Kardashians are among the first people that come to my mind because of how many similar instances they’ve had. The criticisms they received. Marie Antoinette had newspapers, pamphlets and caricatures. The Kardashians have news outlets, social media and memes criticizing them. In both cases, the public and the masses criticized and expressed their grievances.
And here’s the thing, right, she was bound by official rituals due to her position as Queen, so she’d have to go through the waking up ceremony, royal audiences, public meals, and so on. The etiquette at Versailles was complex compared to what she experienced in Austria. She wanted to lead a relatively private life and preferred spending time with her close circle of friends in her private chambers. Her need for privacy was so much that she had a model farm built on the palace premises. There are two different accounts of what she used to do on the model farm. One account recalls that she and her ladies-in-waiting would dress up in elaborate costumes and pretend to be milkmaids and shepherdesses. Another recalls that they indulged in no such behaviour. Instead, the Queen would use the estate to go on short walks and host gatherings. Because it was a fully functioning farm, she insisted it served as educational for royal children.
Do you know what this reminded me of? Kim Kardashian going to a private island with all her friends to celebrate her 40th birthday during peak Covid quarantine. She doubled down on it and had the audacity to tell her followers (who, mind you, could not afford basic items) what she did on the island. To quote her, “We danced, rode bikes, swam near whales, kayaked, watched a movie on the beach and so much more. I realize that for most people, this is something that is so far out of reach right now, so in moments like these, I am humbly reminded of how privileged my life is. #thisis40.” Here’s the thing, she knew that people could not do what she was because she very clearly stated it. She also accepted her privilege, but there is nothing humble about this tweet. People weren’t mad about the fact that she went to a private island with all her friends because everyone would’ve done the same had they had the means, but to post for the world to see in a time where millions aren’t even able to say goodbye to their loved ones? That’s low. I don’t know about you guys, but it gave me very “let them eat cake!” energy as one user pointed out.
I’m not here to talk negatively about what wealthy people choose to do with their money. I’m simply here to draw (scary) parallels that may or may not change things. Is it a warning that history often repeats itself? We already know it does, but every time it repeats itself, it tends to get bleaker. 2020 made it clearer than ever that history repeats itself — the pandemic, the celebrities being incredibly unaware of the state of the world (like singing on Twitter would’ve helped anyone) and the common people suffering. So, as Gen Zers continue to navigate through these uncharted waters, I feel like we are determined to learn from the past and strive towards creating a better future. Just as Marie Antoinette's infamous detachment from the struggles of the French people ultimately led to her downfall, Gen Z's witnessing of historic times during 2020 has served as a cautionary reminder to them of the consequences of ignorance and apathy towards the struggles of others.
Thank you for sticking to the end of this article, besties - I promise the next one will be incredibly fun. I love you. <3
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— Written by Shaurya, Trends Reporter at The Z Link
Connect with Shaurya on Instagram where she shares great content and lives her best influencer life as a fashion student in Paris. And she writes all of these great issues too. What can’t she do??? 🧐 Thank you for reading!
Today we have a a little extra something for you! You’ve been reading all these issues written by Shaurya but how well do you actually know her?? The answer is not at all because we kept forgetting to do a little profile on her in these issues. So here we go, Shaurya reporting live from Paris:
Hi everyone, how are we doing, how are we doing? A little birdie (my boss) told me y'all wanted to know more about me 😼 Well, don't worry; I'm here to do exactly that. Okay, so hi, I'm Shaurya; I'm the person writing all these articles that you guys seem to love so so much (thank you for the love, seriously, that'll help me be the next editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine, hopefully). I'm a 19-year-old fashion student (fashion styling and creative direction), and I'm currently based in Paris. I love learning anything creative, so film, photography, writing, graphic design, music, anything. Fun fact, I taught myself all of those skills as well. I also used to run a One Direction fan account, so if you relate to me, we're besties now.
Something I really really want to do is work in PR after graduation and eventually work for one of the F1 teams (if anyone from Mercedes is reading this, I left my Instagram down there, pls text). While I want to do PR professionally, I also want to be a content creator because there's so much I wanna do in life, that being a creator helps me do all of that. It's amazing.
I've always been involved with social media since I joined Instagram in 2013. I was obsessed with being a YouTuber during the golden era of YouTube, so 2014 to maybe 2018. My obsession is still there, and I've thought about starting one multiple times. I even had a thumbnail layout, shooting style, editing style all ready to go, but I just chickened out last minute. But yes, social media has always been a part of me, and I would love to stay a part of it as a creator and also behind the scenes. I do still make videos on Instagram!! My Instagram is @sh.auryaa if you're interested. Come and say hi or ask questions or just see my shenanigans (literally just memes and the occasional self-esteem-boosting picture of myself) 😼😼 !! I'd love to talk to all of you! Thanks for reading, see you in two weeks!
Hey Shaurya! I really enjoyed this issue and love your playful writing voice. Definitely giving you a follow & looking forward to your next post!