Harry & Meghan spares the royals but not the hyperbole
What do we learn in the first three episodes of hot new reality TV show Harry & Meghan? Lots of cool fun facts. That the Sussexes wore matching penguin costumes to their engagement party. That they unironically call each other H and M as if they’re low-level spies. That they don’t hold hands when not in public. That Meghan acts her head off even when playing herself.
And that their propaganda has become a lot more slick and accomplished since the sledgehammer approach they took in their damaging, divisive Oprah interview.
This beguiling version of Harry and Meghan’s warfare is more subtle but just as deceitful and self-serving as the Oprah bombshells. Because thanks to a giant Netflix budget and huge global interest in the royal drama after the Queen’s death, they have around six hours, your honour, to lay out their case.
And that case is they’re not just more in love than anyone else ever, but also braver, more determined to expose racism, more driven to show that they were pushed from the royal fold by an organised plot against them for just being them, dammit.
They build their narrative with footage of Princess Diana and flow charts of media companies. They obfuscate with discussions about Brexit and history. It’s impressive, professional and biased. It’s awash with hyperbole and thin on evidence.
Some of it is fascinating and some is hilarious, mostly because Harry and Meghan – who filmed themselves on mobiles during their Megxit almost as if they were, I don’t know, already negotiating a $148 million deal with a streaming platform – take themselves so seriously.
“They are DESTROYING us!” emotes a beautifully tearful Meghan, hair wrapped in a towel for relatability. Harry seems immune to the irony of coming to us live from the Windsor Lounge at Heathrow to document his Harryvederci. The behind-the-scenes stuff is as innocuous as the B roll from your dad’s Super 8 camera in the 1970s: Meghan dancing, Meghan smelling roses at sunset, Meghan feeding rescue chickens. Yep, there are two people in the show’s title but only one chief banana. And it’s not the one who is the son of the king of England.
The message is they’re warriors, not whingers. That far from being a privileged, uber wealthy famous couple who had everything they wanted – until what they wanted wasn’t shaking hands with old ladies at Bristol hospices but glamour and unquestioning adulation – they’re victims fighting the good fight. If they were a Year 10 debating team they’d probably win, especially with ruthlessly articulate Megs on rebuttal.
One scene in New York in 2021 aims to show the torment of paparazzi attention. The Sussexes are in the back of a car, allegedly being followed by a photographer. He’s never seen, but the way Harry and Meghan keep looking around, John J Rambo is on their hammer in a tank. “We’ll be with friends in 10 minutes,” Harry murmurs. “Yeah,” says his wife. Intense!
Their romance and personal back stories are laid out, there’s some footage of the kids, Harry says both he and Meghan are Diana 2.0. There are photos of them with elephants in Botswana but scant mention of the elephant in the room: the royal family.
So far the newly-cautious Sussexes, keen to build tension, have merely set the scene for their gripes with the Windsors. But it seems Meghan is dying to unload. When she hams up how she curtsied in actressy fashion to QE2 the first time they met, Harry looks genuinely appalled at her disrespect.
He’s also tight-lipped as his wife – ever the freewheeling earth mama! – describes being “in ripped jeans and bare feet” when William and Kate came over. “I’ve always been a hugger”, she smirks. But the cool Californian was rebuffed by the stiff, suspicious English! Their formality, she says, was “on the outside and the inside … and that was surprising.”
Hmm. Maybe the Waleses were less impervious than Harry to the charms of a master operator.
Stand by. This stage is set for the real action.