wWell, it’s Netflix Christmas, okay? The first batch of ‘educational or entertainment’ material the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been contracted to create as part of a £112m deal with the streaming platform has been delivered. Six episodes of Harry and Meghan have been produced, an up close and personal documentary of their lives together. Divided into two “volumes” of three, the first volume is now down. The royal family may feel like a rum in a sock — but for the rest of us it’s entertainment, and actually an education of sorts. Primarily in how right the late queen was to maintain her solidity throughout her 70-year reign.
It is clear that the Sussexes have suffered in ways most of us will never experience. Whether they suffered as much as they think is another question. At one point, Harry says in wonder that his wife first sacrificed everything for him – by leaving her life in the US and joining him and the royal family in England – and then in turn sacrificed everything for her by leaving the royal family and joining her in the US. This is absolutely true but not true at all at the same time. A feeling that lasts throughout the three hours of insight/lack of insight we’ve had so far.
There are plenty of private photos from the couple’s early engagement, and that they were and still are deeply in love — unless they’re both Oscar-winning actors — is indisputable. There is plenty of archival footage of my “mum” — Diana, Princess of Wales — being hounded by hordes of paparazzi. There’s plenty of time spent interviewing the Sussexes and they’re charming and funny all together (“They might have been surprised that Ginger could land such a beautiful woman,” says Harry, recalling Windsor’s first encounter with Meghan). There is less time spent meeting Harry’s friends and more time spent on Meghan, who lavishly praises her for her acting, her compassion, and her activism. “She feeds through the service,” someone says, and it took me a moment to understand her and then another moment to suppress my growing breakfast.
The first episode focuses on Harry’s childhood, the blessed secret courtship and ends with the story of the breakup of their relationship. Part two covers Meghan’s childhood, the engagement’s unquestioned racism — one of the early headlines describes Harry’s girl as “(almost) straight from Compton” — and the absolutely downright bigotry of many of the comments on social media. The third part includes the history of British slavery and the monarchy’s central role in it, Harry’s work on his “unconscious prejudice”, his happy years in the army, and the breakup of Meghan’s family in the run-up to the wedding, courtesy of the royal family. Apparently it was her father’s and half-sister’s desire to talk to desperate tabloids any negative story they could get their hands on.
But in the end – what are we left with? Exactly the same story we’ve always known, told the way we expect to hear it from the people who tell it. Those who don’t care won’t watch. Those who care—meaning voyeuristically invested in the reality soap opera—will still read into it whatever they want and no doubt confirm all of their previous thoughts. There’s plenty here to set off another round of tabloid frenzy, particularly in Harry’s mention of royals who consider pressing anyone to “marry” a rite of passage and resist letting anyone else avoid what their spouses have been through. , and who bow to internal pressure to choose a wife who “fits the mould”. Which means – it’s hard to see who would really benefit from this, other than the media, the bad guys at work? A period of silence should be welcomed.
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