If Princess Diana were alive today, would she prefer the iPhone over a Blackberry? Have more than 100,000 friends on Facebook? Favor recent films like "The King's Speech" or the dolphin documentary "The Cove"?
These are all speculative questions that might casually cross the mind of anyone marking the 50th anniversary of her birth, but Newsweek decided that it would make an excellent cover story. And now I'm betting they wish they had thought of something a bit more tasteful.
"This has to rival Time magazine's 'Is God Dead?' for shock value," writes one commenter on their site. "Newsweek has actually brought back the dead! This computer generated ghost, and the accompanying story are the height of crass."
Readers in particular have been upset with the Photoshopped images of an aged Diana shopping with Kate Middleton, flashing an iPhone, and participating in the Clinton Global Initiative. Worst of all is a Facebook page that imagines her becoming friends with Camilla Parker Bowles (which Prince Charles then "likes") and telling her son Harry to "get a haircut."
"And what about her relationship status? It's 'complicated'? It's funny, but not so when you think of how disrespectable (sic) it is," writes another commenter. "I would have expected this sort of irresponsibility from teens, but a sophisticated magazine like Newsweek? I can't really say much."
Of most interest to me is the force for good that Diana would have continued to build. Her untimely death robbed the world of a wonderful person noted as much for her grace and kindness as she was for her generosity. Tina Brown's article imagines this important aspect of her life as growing in both power and reach.
"Davos and the Clinton Global Initiative would have become her new post-palace power circles," writes Brown. "She would perhaps have caused a press sensation with an unplanned pledge from the CGI stage to raise $50 million to help educate women in South Sudan."
And truly, an article centered on Diana's charity would likely have played better than one showcasing her use of social media, trading fashion tips with Middleton, or using today's gadgets. Speculative references like those are painful reminders of her passing, whereas celebrating her legacy reminds us of the woman she was — and our own capacity to improve the world.