Is the Sussexes’ “full truth” the real truth? And do we even care?
You know what is the truth? When Prince Harry of Harry and Meghan said on the toothsome twosome’s eponymous Netflix docu-series that “we know the full truth”, he is really referring to their truth, which is not necessarily the truth. Or the truth of the others spotlighted by this two disgruntled individuals. He said that “the institution knows the full truth and the media knows the full truth because they’ve been in on it”. This full truth of the ex-royals could also be what one Kelly Ann Conway once famously called “alternative facts”, or whatever existed in their seemingly troubled universe. And the truth of the very wealthy H&M is worth a lot of money, but not necessarily the truth that that many of us wish to hear without being inevitably irritated. The truth that is nothing to do with economic disadvantage may not be the reality we can understand, let alone connect with.
The truth of the Sussexes is also boring truth, startlingly devoid of anything truthfully new or the minutiae of married life that might make them more compelling man and wife, and parents. This is self-aggrandising fluff that goes not beyond their ken. Don’t expect deep analysis of what troubles them. Or evidence of the hate against them. The first three of the six-parter are essentially about a fairy tale gone awry and a retelling that might, they had probably hoped, put them in better light. They repeatedly want us not just to listen to “their truth”, but also what they call “our story” and, as Prince Harry enthused, their “great love story”. As the international press had rightly pointed out, they had this all planned before even decamping for America. How do they explain the footages of their lovey-dovey selves leading up to their globally-covered departure from the royal cesspit? How did they have that well-documented video library (or what Netflix calls “never before seen personal archive), with the right words to slip between the “truth-be-told (as Ms Markle stresses)” docu-narrative? Who films themselves crying so that the footages could be used later to tell a story of personal pain and then gain?
H&M are a more-public-than-most millennial couple. H, as Ms Markle—and her friends—refer to him in the series, saw a digital photo of her, which was superimposed with facial parts of some cartoon canine to mimic juvenile cuteness; he was intrigued, as such filters intended, and wanted to uncover the countenance behind the graphic trickery—“who is that?”. M, as she is also known, checked him out through Instagram; she thinks she could better know the person through what he posts. But, strangely they were paired in a rather old-fashioned manner, through a friend—no swiping left or right. And their growing up, their royal-meet-the-commoner, love-trumps-racism story is retold in Harry and Meghan through a video montage that is not unlike those that many us here have to watch between the serving of the soup and the roast chicken at a conventional hotel ballroom wedding.
Prince Harry spoke of wanting to go to shield mode to keep his family from so much harm that threatened him and his clan of (now) four. “I knew that I had to do everything I could to protect my family,” he says. He also describes his dedication as a “job… to keep my family safe”. What dangers are before them, other than the peskiness that was to do with the paparazzi? Could he and his wife and brood be somewhere in Ukraine? He has a rather narrow definition of family, as we learned. It no longer includes even his father and elder brother (there is only mention of his mother), nor his cousins Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice, two of his childhood playmates, who are shown in news footages to have gone skiing with both his elder brother and he. When it comes to protecting, he can, as it appears, be selective. Doria Raglan, Ms Markle’s mother (who, like her daughter, “is ready to have my voice heard—that’s for sure”), says that Prince Harry has “really great manners”. Could she be referring to his wanting to trash his family, the one he does not see the need to protect?
“I realised they’re never gonna to protect you,” M declared conclusively, but she doesn’t explain why she; a grown, worldly individual; needed the protection or if such preservation from harm was just as desperately required before she met H, or while she was married to Trevor Engelson, and if so, who provided it. The need for protection is a constant refrain, as if that was what she required more than anything else from her relationship with a royal. Yet, the series tries to portray her as an extremely strong woman (even as a “big geek” kid), ”very outgoing, super social”, according to friend and producer of Suits, Silver Tree. M was also determined to make the initially long-distance relationship work. And later willing to challenge the more-than-a-thousand-year-old British monarchy and, as many believe, to draw her Prince away from where he was born to her California—that side of trashy. That the leaving of the royal family was dubbed Megxit, after her name, is telling enough of her influence in the decision. Does she need less protection, now that she is no longer a palace resident? Or are the US$15 million Montecito, Santa Barbara mansion and the reported payout of US$100 million by Netflix for the spill-all protection enough?
“There’s a hierarchy in the family,” H says. “Yeah, there’s leaking, there’s also planting of stories.” In the first three episodes, the gripes—as they sounded to us—are largely directed at the media. For H&M, the overwhelming press attention was oppressive. M informs, “my face was everywhere, my life was everywhere, tabloids had taken over everything,” Ms Markle says of her early encounters with the British press. Even getting dressed for a walkabout (she claims she didn’t know what that is) was an ordeal. Are we to believe that she had not expected any of that? Did she choose her prince for placid royal life? We found ourselves shouting: She married the most watched royal family in the world! Yet, she has no qualms in painting herself as some babe in the woods. H says that what the media put his wife through is “feeding frenzy”. But he acknowledges that what she went through with the British press was “a rite of passage” and that “some of the members of the family was like, ‘right, my wife had to go through that, so why should your girlfriend be treated any differently? Why should you get special treatment, why should she be protected?” And he said, “the difference here is the race element.”
The race card, we knew would be played. And it was. Harry and Meghan made sure to let you know that the latter’s mixed race worked against her. And that the British tabloid press is “a white industry”. That M was a target of racism was already broached in last year’s “bombshell” Oprah Winfrey interview. But they’re really racist in the UK, apparently—so much so that it bears repeating. And harping on. To make sure, that you are aware of how Ms Markle was targeted because of her race, they curiously show a photo of her, with what appears to be a rolled-up yoga mat under her right arm, while she passed a place with the sign that read “garbage area for New Balance Toronto” during a segment about the disadvantages she had to endure because of her race. Her H says, “it is amazing what people would do to when offered a huge sum of money… to hand over photographs, to create a story.” So why was that image submitted? And what was the Netflix deal all about if not about the earnings?
And in case you do not believe that racism exists in Britain, a history class is presented in the third episode, elucidating the empire’s slave trade. If you do not know, “Britain had a deep south,” Journalist Afua Hirsch tells you, “that was just as brutal, that actually enslaved more Africans than the United States of America did, but that deep south was the Carribbean”. And slavery was “fueling this early British empire”. And, to lend more heft to what is otherwise a repeated love story, there is the retelling of the Stephen Lawrence case. Mr Lawrence was an 18 year-old Black man who was killed unprovoked back in 1993 (Ms Markle was then about 11 and had appeared on a Nickelodeon program on which she spoke of writing to Procter and Gamble to suggest that they change an ad copy from “women are fighting greasy pots and pans” to “people”). The Sussexes attended a Stephen Lawrence memorial service in 2018, and they became instant heroes for the Black cause at that time.
Despite the social good that they attempted to do, the Sussexes were still ardently in need of media approval. But, the British media, as they see it, was out to “destroy” them. The press was never on the side of the Sussexes until they crossed the Atlantic, where the Americans were far more interested in their story and were sympathetic to their plight. Ms Markle calls a BBC—yes, even the BBC “was on it”—“engagement interview” an “orchestrated reality show” because they “weren’t allowed to tell [their] story.” It was “all rehearsed”, she asserted. It is hard to know for certain (the BBC has denied Ms Markle’s claim), but could such news—even those not generated by tabloids—be part of what Prince Harry calls his “duty to uncover this exploitation and bribery that happens within our media”? And to lay bare became even more exigent because, for poor Ms Markle, “no matter how hard I tried, no matter how good I was, no matter what I did, they were still going to find a way to destroy me.”
Meghan Markle is delineated as her H’s ideal woman and perfect wife. Prince Harry says that in the royal family, “especially the men, there can be a temptation or an urge to marry someone who would fit the mold.” It’s clear Ms Markle could not be the desired fit, even after learning to sing the national anthem of the United Kingdom from Google. “This is the woman who’s turning Britain’s most traditional brand on its head,” one news report went. “Meghan Markle isn’t British, she’s been married before, she’s mixed race, and she doesn’t shy away from politics.” And she wants to play all that up now to better underscore the suffering she had to endure (interestingly, so far, there is no mention of mental illness). The institution needed a new mold for her, but they did not cast it. And it’s time it pays.
Prince Harry saw not only the woman of his dreams, but also someone quite like his mother! Women generally dislike being compared to their mother-in-law, dead or alive, but Ms Markle appears not to have any issue with that, even seemingly enjoying the comparison. Video footages show Princess Diana with Prince Harry and then similar shots of Ms Markle and her eldest, Archie (one, with the little boy looking at a photograph of his grandmother). H says, “So much of what Meghan is and how she is, is so similar to my mom. She has the same compassion, the same empathy, she has the same confidence, she has this warmth about her.” But not the same reverence for the institution of monarchy. Is M playing a Di stand-in for H’s unexplained needs?
For the interview segments conducted by an unidentified woman and largely unseen, Ms Markle is dressed to playdown any fashion statement or to discourage any criticism. She wears a white shirt and a matching pair of slacks when she answers questions with her H and a grey jumper and similarly coloured skirt (sometimes also revealing nut-brown nearly knee-high boots) that could be school-mom proper when she is interviewed alone. Ms Markle is not the fashion plate that her sister-in-law, the Princess of Wales is. In fact, her sense of style veers towards the excruciatingly unexciting. And she has the justification for it. “Most of the time in the UK,” she says, “I rarely wore colour. There was thought in that. To my understanding, can’t ever wear the same colour as Her Majesty, if there’s a group event. But then you also shouldn’t be wearing the same colour as one of the other more senior members of the family. So I wore a lot of muted tones so that I could just blend in. I am not trying to stand out here.” But now she is—in a red Carolina Herrera—through her own docu-series, which, unfortunately, is a deeply dull dud.
Harry & Meghan is streaming now on Netflix. Screen shots: Harry and Meghan/Netflix/YouTube