Harry & Meghan

For young ex-Royals complaining about control and stage management of their lives, their Netflix doco is an exercise in just that.

Even the release of Harry & Meghan is carefully stage-managed.

Volume I, three of six episodes only, has been released which is essentially a history lesson largely for US Netflix viewers. There were no previews for journalists, and just 3 stills made available for press.

The episodes feel like they are explainers for a broad American audience, outlining the history of the British family, how the Royal Family is financed by the UK public (duh), the frenzy of Fleet Street press, the death of Diana, the courtship of the eligible Prince and the US actress…

…all designed to win the sympathy of the audience before whatever is dropped in Volume II.

Highly-produced by Story Syndicate in association with Archewell and Diamond Docs, it’s a lengthy experience in need of an edit, which could have offset the tone of a museum reel you’d press on an audio tour.

The doco stresses all interviews were completed before August 2022…. subtext, before the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Teases of “exploitation and bribery” within the Royal Family are not outlined in the first instalment, in favour of charitable work in Lesotho, advancing minorities, empowerment of women. Extended biograhies look back on Harry as the grieving son, the partying prince, and his maturing as a young adult. The effusive Meghan blossomed from nerdy kid to bi-racial actress who was on a steep learning curve to join ‘the firm.’

Friendly interviews from close associates, accompanied woozy piano chords and jazz standards, are a valentine to the glowing couple.

The undertones of race are prominent within the context of the UK exiting the European Union during immigration debates, as well as Britain’s historic ties to colonialism in Jamaica.

On top of the relentless press is social media -to be fair, not something older Royals ever had to face. Montages of tabloid headlines, media grabs (there’s even audio of Tracy Grimshaw), are reminders of life in the spotlight. They present as a devoted couple in an us-versus-them scenario… against the press, against the Palace, against the very spotlight they need in order to further philanthropic endeavours.

“They are destroying us,” Meghan says of the paparazzi, while Harry insists fleeing Britain was to protect his family. Admirable sure, but I feel I’ve heard these points before.

So what is new in this exercise in telling the story from their own voice?

Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland reflects publicly for the first time.

Niece Ashleigh, daughter of Samantha Markle, tells favourable recollections of Aunt Meghan, with insight into having to be uninvited to the Royal Wedding.

Meghan also shares her anguish over her father, Thomas Markle, staging photos for press directly before the wedding.

But what’s lacking is a right of reply from their targets. Why no viewpoint from the paps? Nobody speaking on behalf of the Royals. For three hours there is insufficient balance.

Instead, it is heavily framed to put forward an argument that this couple has been hounded. Yet I’m reminded that William, as heir to the throne, and Kate are also in the public eye and haven’t felt the need to sell their story, painting doomsday portraits of privilege by birth.

Admittedly I also haven’t been subjected to racial taunts all my life, nor been controlled by communications teams in the British monarchy, so while there are doubtless legitimate complaints, the problem as viewer is separating from spin. Not unlike the fictional Crown, recollections may vary?

In any case I would have welcomed those complaints at less than half the running time Netflix has allocated.

For a couple who are objecting to such control and stage management of their private lives, it is bizarre this release is an exercise in precisely that.

Largely absent from it all is the Queen herself, perhaps as a mark of respect following her death, but King Charles is also reduced to a handful of archival shots.

Are the grenades all coming in Volume II or will that too be just another history lesson from the viewpoint of ‘H & M?’

16 Responses

  1. One can only hope that in 2023 Henry Charles Albert David Mountbatten-Windsor and his wife will be allowed to drift into the obscurity that they both desire.

  2. I enjoyed the first three episodes more than I thought I would. I’ve deliberately kept away from reviews (aside from this site :)), as the reviewers are coming with a particular angle. To me that’s been the whole issue for M&H (and other famous people for that matter), where the storyteller has always had a particular narrative, so the true story is not always apparent.

  3. I liked it, but after seeing them at the Queens funeral being treated as senior royals and acting like senior royals I was hoping they would be back in the fold because that’s more interesting to watch than any documentary.
    I am glad they made it though because you get to see them and the kids (our future Prince and Princess) at home being normal. Harry will always be in our hearts and protected by majority of the public after what he went through as a kid and William as a teenager. I just hope Harry and Meghan don’t make it hard for their kids to enjoy and honour their titles in the near future.

  4. I like them. I will save all my dislike for people who actually do something wrong that affects me. TV networks pay huge sums of money to criminals and drug couriers etc and don’t get half the hatred these two do. Doesn’t quite make sense to me?? Seems to me Meghans biggest offence was not being British when she married Harry. All downhill from there.

  5. I experienced a personal growth moment when I pressed play on this limited series, paused, then offered Netflix the thumbs down option. Pity Netflix doesn’t have a sense of humour and offer us Aussies a middle finger option, they should considering what they are now charging us, possibly to recoup the rumoured payment to those I dare not name or shame.

  6. Sometimes I wonder if Harry has had all this angry energy that he built up and just wanted to release it through this series.

    If someone threw that amount of money at anyone it would be hard to say no.
    It’s funny tough scrolling threw social media when it was on. Of course people already had it in there mind they were going to hate it so I just laughed and thought why are you continuing to watch when you are bagging it.

  7. The very long list of media organisations in the credits of episode 1 is quite telling. On one hand they are using the narrative that the media are responsible for their woes, yet the inclusion of so much media stock footage in their doco just proves the symbiotic relationship with the media isn’t all bad. Their problem seems to be, and the resulting tantrum, was when they couldn’t control the narrative like a carefully curated press release. So far, they’ve done nothing but prove that both need each other.
    Hearing them talk about the shortcomings in their respective families engineered in the doco to shock the viewer and sway sympathy to them, left me flat. Just made me think of my own, or any family, and how we don’t always get along. It’s nothing we haven’t all experienced within our own families gathered around the Christmas table. Difference though is with their tantrums they’d be sitting at the card table with the other 4 year olds! Grow up!

  8. I know I’m in the minority here, but I feel a bit sorry for them. Sure, they don’t do themselves any favours a lot of the time, but the media pile-on (particularly of Megan) is just excessive.

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