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Here at the newsy end of 2022 (war in Ukraine, damaged MAGA movement, Fifa World Cup, near-general strike in the UK), what are we to do with those attention-interlopers Harry & Meghan? Like the color cartoon before the black-and-white main feature, or the joke prize in the box of Cracker Jack, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex pull focus and make it all about themselves. We can’t help but put a look in, if only to protest what a waste of time it all is — the interview, the Netflix series, the podcast, the book — and claim we have more important things to do than follow this particular soap.
Do we? We seem to have an awful a lot of opinions about it all, and I’m still distilling mine. Which side am I on, Team Santa Barbara or Team Buckingham Palace? Wow, this soap has great locations!
Apparently they call themselves “H&M,” like the clothes store, perhaps wanting to attain a level of retail visibility — ironic, as the clothing chain was most recently in the news for axing 1,500 jobs and hiring Justin Bieber as a style consultant, only to have him turn around and dismiss their designs as “trash.”
Are Harry & Meghan trash? In the ubiquitous, pop culture sense, yes probably — the guilty pleasure that people take in while pretending not to care, like somehow knowing all the characters in The White Lotus while insisting they never watch television.
I do watch television, and I read the news, so I know that Harry & Meghan (I’m giving them the ampersand) have built their own outrage machine, a sort of perpetual motion of aggrievement, with people feeling aggrieved about the aggrievement concerning the Sussex’s aggrievement. I tell you, I’m furious about the whole thing! Am I? I’ll let you know in a minute.
First, let me salute their achievements, and not just their reported $100 million deal with Netflix. They’ve attained couple first-name recognition, like Posh and Becks, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, and Bonnie and Clyde. What they haven’t achieved yet is that celebrity supercouple nickname, like Kimye, Bennifer, Brangelina, or Tomkat, perhaps fortuitously (for H&M), as every one those couples subsequently broke up.
But give them an award for Outrage News Penetration in Multiple Platforms, because coming soon (or should I say “Coming Soon”?) is Prince Harry’s highly anticipated memoir entitled, natch, Spare. (Toss me a quarter for every book critic who titles his/her/their book review “Spare me.”)
What will we learn from this book? That Harry grew up in tough circumstances? His parents’ divorce, his mother’s car crash, the monkey suit he had to wear at Eton, all the damn marzipan he had to eat at public events, not to mention the exhausting waving he had to do, etc.? When he got married, to a great-looking biracial American divorcee (i.e., just what the royal family was hoping for), the Windsor wedding was must-see TV. I happen to know this part of the story firsthand, because your humble correspondent attended a party to watch their wedding live on the BBC (we claim we did it for the kiddies, but I showed up for the cake). And who doesn’t like a royal wedding? (Okay, that was way more hands than I was expecting.)
This is where the story gets complicated for me, because I remember much of the British press quickly turning on Meghan, and never quite knowing why. The wedding itself was greeted with near universal acclaim, as if just by the union of this interracial couple, the royal family had somehow belatedly entered the modern era and stamped out racism forever. But apparently a lot of the right-wing press took a severe dislike to the gal, a development I was initially in the dark about, not being a habitué of right-wing media. This was when I found myself defending the handsome couple (as if I cared), saying she seemed okay in my book, were I ever to write one. I didn’t know she insulted tender right-wing sympathies by advocating for avocados (do you know how much water they use up?) and, uh, other things (maybe she didn’t curtsy low enough for the Queen).
I’ve only seen about half of the first episode of the Harry & Meghan Netflix series, as I’ve been too busy watching The Crown. But what I did see was a little too gauzy for my liking, and it hasn’t matched Peter Morgan’s talent for thumping a metaphor into the ground. I’ve read the H&M reviews, which have been mostly pans, but it turns out to be one of the streamer’s most popular programs, and the second trilogy apparently has sharper teeth, such as the revelation that Harry’s brother once yelled at him.
I’ll wait for Peter Morgan’s rewriting of that scene, in which William (Eddie Redmayne?) throws a King Charles III coffee mug at Harry (Ben Wishaw?), which smashes into pieces on a photograph of Princess Diana (Florence Pugh?), which falls onto a corgi, killing it. And to drive the point home (or off a cliff), Morgan will have someone say, “Wow, talk about a metaphor!”
I’ve got a feeling we’ll need Harry & Meghan in 2023, if only to distract us from what’s really going on (and for the metaphors). And anyway, what’s not to like? It’s got everything we need in a serial: great-looking protagonists with good teeth, money, race, family discord, those amazing locations, a true villain everyone can agree on (Prince Andrew), and top-notch guest stars (Oprah, Mariah Carey, Serena Williams). Even as a hate-watch, it’s compulsive viewing. Break out the Korbel, we’re going for another season!
J.B. Miller is an American writer living in England, and is the author of My Life in Action Painting and The Satanic Nurses and Other Literary Parodies.