A six-part Netflix docuseries asks why the world can’t just live the ex-royals alone
Netflix’s “Harry and Meghan,” a six part documentary directed by Liz Garbus is an attempt by Price Harry and Meghan Markle — now commoners with a lucrative Netflix deal — to set the record straight about a variety of issues that – judging from its tepid ratings — no one cares that much about anymore.
Let’s say it’s 2022 and you’re famous and the media is ruining your reputation and the paparazzi are invading your privacy. Your publicity is probably advising you to “take back the narrative” and “reframe your story” on a platform like Instagram or Twitter. Don’t wait for Diane Sawyer to destroy you in an interview! Engage directly with your fans! Cut out the middleman! “Harry and Meghan” is an example of such an engagement.
As we all well know by now, Prince Harry, second in line for the throne (if William and Kate hadn’t had offspring) married an extremely photogenic and media savvy bi-racial American Actress named Meghan Markle. At first, she seemed to be a breath of fresh air; just the sort of thing to modernize the royal family who were in desperate need of a refresh. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before the British tabloids turned on her with a lethal combination of racism, schadenfreude, curiosity, and a traditional, intrinsic dislike of any woman who marries into the royal family.
Thus, Harry and Meghan left the royal family and moved to America. They are now in need of a considerable amount of money to replace the income they would receive as loyal royals and keep them in the lifestyle to which they’re accustomed. This lifestyle, by the way, also includes a much-needed hefty security detail no longer being provided by Buckingham Palace. Enter Netflix, who understandably believed that it could monetize the public’s fascination with the ex-royal couple.
Amid rumors that Netflix is now regretting having gone into business with “H and M” and not greenlighting these anticipated project, it released “Harry and Meghan” last week to apparently poor ratings. After a splash on Thursday, December 8, which set twitter abuzz with both fans and haters, within a few moments, “the conversation” shifted to Sunday’s season finale of The White Lotus and Meghann Fahy replaced Meghan Markle in the public consciousness.
There are problems with a documentary like this. Royals have traditionally been fascinating because we know very little about them and they don’t say much. When an underbutler breaks his NDA and tells the Daily Mail what Charles had for breakfast in 1989, we gasp. We are that starved for information about them. Such is the power of silence. Meghan has no such reserve. She constantly reveals too much. She is like the defendant in a murder trial whose lawyer keeps having to reminder to stop over explaining everything because it makes her look guilty. “Answer the question! Only answer the question!”
The documentary has an agenda. Harry and Meghan need to set the record straight. The problem is, this record that they’re trying to straighten is high school tabloid material that no one cares about anymore. If they had left it alone, the passage of time and their visual appeal would have done the work of restoring their reputation for them. Someone needs to explain “the Streisand Effect” to Meghan. Defending yourself only keeps the lie in the news cycle. Stop talking.
One thing they insist on beating us over our heads with is the assertion that THEY ARE IN LOVE. I never thought they weren’t, but they are so lovey-dovey with each other, and so insistent on revealing every “delicious” detail of their courtship in this documentary, one can only suspect that they’re getting a divorce in a few months. (I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with Meghan and Harry’s relationship. I know nothing. But Meghan needs to TONE IT DOWN.)
The doc starts with a scene of Harry and Meghan watching an old red carpet television interview done – presumably – before Meghan met Harry. The interviewer asks pre-Harry Meghan a bunch of silly questions The last question is “which do you prefer “William or Harry?” Her response? She shrugs. Clearly this is a response to the persistent internet rumor that Meghan was obsessed with the royals since she was a little girl and had plans to marry either Harry or William. Meghan never wanted to marry into the royal family. Never thought about it. No siree.
You know how in a rom com, there’s the sidekick. Sometimes there are two sidekicks? The less attractive, self-deprecating best friend is way too invested in the outcome of the lead characters’ relationship. They usually sit on the couch, make caustic one liners about how they havent’t had a date in years, stuff Chinese food down their gullets and advise the lead to follow their heart, run to the airport, stop the flight, don’t throw away your one chance for love!
Well, there are many talking heads in this documentary playing the sidekick, happy to be on TV, vouching for how in love Meghan and Harry are. One of them from off camera (we don’t even learn his name) advises Meghan to “leave room for some magic” on her one-week holiday…the very holiday that she decided–on a lark–to go to Africa with this random dude named Harry who had slipped into her DMs. Even Abigail Spencer, Meghan’s co-star on Suits has photographic evidence: a selfie she took with Meghan of both of them wearing sunglasses after they both had lunch at Bergdorf’s and Meghan told her she was dating Price Harry! “This is how happy she was!” They actually show that picture.
Not only are they in love but Meghan had NO IDEA what she was getting into marrying into the British Royal Family. So apparently Harry had a mother–I think her name was Diana or something–who married into the royal family back in the eighties and rumor has it that she didn’t have a good time doing so. The paparazzi relentlessly hounded her and ultimately caused her death . Meghan had NO IDEA the same thing might happen to her. Meghan also had no idea she was supposed to curtsey to the queen, Harry’s grandmother. I guess she was too busy to watch The Crown on Netflix (the streaming network she now works for!). It also shocked her to learn that the Brits aren’t a very warm extroverted people and weren’t thrilled about hugging.
At one point Meghan brings up having seen “The Princess Diaries” (some research she actually did do about royal families) and laments the fact that Anne Hathaway had Julie Andrews to show her the ropes and explain royal protocol to her. No one from “the firm”, she claims, gave her any such tutelage. To this, I call bullshit. If you so much as meet Princess Margaret at a cocktail party, a palace official swoops in beforehand gives you a 45 minute lecture on proper protocol, what to call her, how to curtsey properly. She then talks about how she couldn’t wear any color for a long time because to wear the same color as the queen or any of the senior members of the royal would be a breach of protocol. (But if no one explained these things to her, how did she know?)
The show also presents a lot of information via infographics about systemic racism and the nature of the royal family, their relationship with the press, and the commonwealth. It’s a compelling look at the British empire and it draws an informative picture of what might have been behind what kind of treatment Meghan received from the British press and her royal in laws.
Although I do feel there was definitely racism behind Meghan’s treatment in the British press, comparing Meghan’s plight to that of Stephen Lawrence, a black British teen-ager who was stabbed to death at a London bus stop by a gang of white youths who shouted racist epithets, is not exactly a good look. Meghan has demonstrated a tendency to think of her marriage as far more relevant than it really is. Consider her claim–since disproven–that a South African cast member of the Lion King pulled Meghan aside and told her that when she married Harry, there was as much, if not more rejoicing in the streets in South Africa as had been when Nelson Mandela was freed from prison.
And we haven’t even gotten to the wedding yet. Those episodes come out tomorrow!