The unbelievable narcissism of Harry and Meghan’s Netflix documentary
2 December 2022
‘Why did you want to make this documentary?’ That is the question – over portentous piano chords – that begins the trailer for the next instalment in the apparently endless Sussex saga, Harry and Meghan. The answers that the viewer might supply: publicity-seeking on a grand scale; unbelievable narcissism– are not uttered. Instead, over stylised black and white photographs of the duo kissing, being crazily in love and every inch the perfect couple, Harry replies, with becoming grimness, ‘No one sees what’s happening behind closed doors.’ Cue pictures of Meghan apparently in tears looking at her phone; the Royal Family aloof and cold; and a million photographers, their cameras thrust priapically aloft. Oh, the drama.
For those of us who were beginning to tire of the Harry and Meghan saga, this much-ballyhooed Netflix documentary represents a significant play for our attention. It has been much teased and discussed, not least because it was suggested that its broadcast date was to be delayed, due to concerns that its content was too incendiary in the wake of the Queen’s death. However, as with the imminent publication of Harry’s memoir Spare, such considerations of tact and taste have either been ignored altogether, or it has been felt by someone, somewhere, that the couple’s story – their ‘truth’ – is too important to be suppressed a moment longer. And the viewers will be the fortunate beneficiaries of this provocation when it airs on Netflix next week.
There are moments to relish, even in this minute-long teaser. Harry, looking for all the world like a cut-price Liam Neeson in Taken, sternly declares that ‘I had to do everything I could to protect my family.’ No mention is made of the fact that the Duke’s particular set of skills – causing chaos and turmoil for his ‘other’ family – has kept him and his wife in the headlines for several years now. Shows like this will only serve to fan the flames of the publicity that they crave. And Meghan, looking every inch the sombre and wronged woman, asks ‘When the stakes are this high, doesn’t it make more sense to hear our story from us?’ Well may she ask.
Peter Cook had a sketch about Greta Garbo in which she travelled the streets of London (as ‘Emma Bargo’) shouting through a loudhailer ‘I want to be alone!’ Much the same could now be said of Harry and Meghan. They have appeared on Oprah Winfrey; she has her podcast; there have been countless media interviews. Even those most favourably disposed towards the pair might perhaps concede that they have been allowed ample opportunity to give ‘their side’ of ‘those events’. But this six-part documentary (six parts!) will, presumably, live up to its publicity billing as ‘an unprecedented documentary series that explores the span of their relationship, from the early days of the couple’s courtship to the challenges and controversies that prompted them to step back from the royal family.’ That it will also function as propaganda for the world’s most irrepressible couple is only implicit.
The press announcement boasts that the show will feature ‘historians and journalists who dissect how media influenced Harry and Meghan’s relationship with the royal family and the Commonwealth at large.’ In my own capacity as both an historian and journalist, I could have given them a simple fact for free. When Edward VIII abdicated his throne for Wallis Simpson in 1936, he condemned himself to a life of miserable, drifting obscurity, occasionally interspersed with ill-considered Nazi sympathies. He and his wife were never poor, exactly, but they found themselves singing for their supper in the most undignified of ways. And so history has repeated itself with his great-great nephew and his wife. In their endless struggle to tell the world of the sorrows and tribulations that they have faced, they have turned themselves into a circus attraction.
It is appropriate, then, that the shows on Netflix that Harry and Meghan will compete with include the likes of The Crown, Stranger Things and – perhaps the most fitting title – Dead To Me. Any hope that they had of being accepted back into the Royal Family has withered and died. And that, you suspect, is exactly how they want it.
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