Unless you’ve been vacationing in a cave the past few days and just now rejoined the civilized world, you will know that a massive Media Event/Cultural Moment occurred on Sunday night, when 17 million people tuned in to watch the three celebrities who need no last names, to wit, Harry, Meghan and Oprah, talk about life in the British monarchy. 17 million pairs of eyes and ears is a lot. The last time a TV show got that kind of coverage, it was the grand finale of Game of Thrones, which got 18 million. So we are talking big.
I didn’t watch the interview, I must confess, because I’m indifferent to the Royals and not even quite sure why they are such a celebrity item for so many people. Being the granddaughter of three Irish immigrants and one Virginia former plantation owner, displaced from the Civil War — think Scarlett O’Hara and you’ve got me (ethnically, I didn’t grow up in wealth) — and I don’t have misty-eyed visions of the British monarchy, castles and crowns, coaches and beheadings. I grew up hearing the Irish version of the English and it’s emphatically not flattering, to say the very least. So the travails of these people, real or imagined, rank for me somewhere in the realm of Silver Screen and confessional tabloid trash.
Now don’t get me wrong: if Meghan Markle suffered the racist slurs she described, that’s not right and I feel empathy, as any decent human being would. But I emphatically don’t see anybody who was a millionaire, successful actress, when she met the prince, himself also quite well-heeled and born to privilege, as a victim or pair of victims. And certainly there’s no love lost for the institution of the British monarchy.
This was why my attitude towards the interview was to not even watch it, let alone to passionately take a side, and argue whose cause was the more just, because I see it fundamentally as a squabble amongst plutocrats more than anything else and my life concerns are leveled at the struggles of my own class, and those immediately above and below me. The Royals, and their interviewer Oprah, for that matter, are up there on the space station compared to me, socio-economically. Their problems are not my problems and vice versa. I’ll take your word for it if you say that we both put on our pants one leg at a time.
So imagine my delight when I ran across a piece in the Irish Times, that absolutely nails and contextualizes this event. This is one of those great pieces of writing, where until I read it, I didn’t realize that these are my thoughts and feelings, exactly, but ones that I probably would never have been able to codify and express on my own. So now I share it with you. Thank you, Patrick Freyne, Irish Times:
Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories. More specifically, for the Irish, it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.
Beyond this, it’s the stuff of children’s stories. Having a queen as head of state is like having a pirate or a mermaid or Ewok as head of state. What’s the logic? Bees have queens, but the queen bee lays all of the eggs in the hive. The queen of the Britons has laid just four British eggs, and one of those is the sweatless creep Prince Andrew, so it’s hardly deserving of applause.
The contemporary royals have no real power. They serve entirely to enshrine classism in the British nonconstitution. They live in high luxury and low autonomy, cosplaying as their ancestors, and are the subject of constant psychosocial projection from people mourning the loss of empire. They’re basically a Rorschach test that the tabloids hold up in order to gauge what level of hysterical batshittery their readers are capable of at any moment in time.
After this bravura introduction, which had me on the floor, the article then goes on to give you the substance of the interview, which you’ve already undoubtedly heard, that Meghan is accused of bullying servants, of making her sister-in-law cry over the bridesmaid dresses (I must be some kind of a deficient female, because I could not give a rats ass about issues like this.) Then it addresses the racist material.
She does, however, go on to paint a dismal picture of being silenced and unsupported by the institution as racist commentators took aim at her. The royals never defended her. They allowed lies to go unchallenged and misled the press themselves when it suited them. She calls them by the old nickname of the Firm, which makes them sound like a gang of London gangsters, which I suppose they are. At her worst, she says, she felt suicidal. She rather movingly points to a photograph at a royal engagement when she was at her lowest, noting how tightly a worried Harry is holding her hand.
Harry and Meghan report that they didn’t so much leave the monarchy as were edged out by it. But here’s the turnaround. They’re far better off as celebrities with their own entertainment deals going, building their own brand, if you will, then being a part of the horse and pony show at Buckingham Palace.
Over the course of the interview Harry and Meghan, who are charming, clever and good at being celebrities, make the monarchy look like an archaic and endemically racist institution that has no place in the modern world. Well duh. And despite all the outrage you might read in the UK tabloids right now, they also did something else that renders everything else irrelevant: they officially launched themselves in the United States.
Harry revealed their next child’s gender – it’s a girl – in this interview, but Harry and Meghan are also pregnant with a nascent media empire and lucrative Spotify and Netflix contracts. Of course, their critics accuse them of being money-hungry careerists for this, but that’s hilarious coming from sycophants to hereditary tax-suckling grifters. Arranging a Netflix deal that the couple actually have to work for is pretty benign royal behaviour when you compare it with conquest and general parasitism.
Harry and Meghan are ultimately going to win. Despite the tabloid frenzy, this was never the story of an ungrateful pauper being elevated by the monarchy. This was about the potential union of two great houses, the Windsors and Californian Celebrity. Only one of those things has a future, and it’s the one with the Netflix deal.
This is really what’s going on. It’s not the least bit surprising to me that an Irish journalist would so completely nail it, when the rest of the world press is dithering and tittering and buying into the fantasy of the Royals and all the fairy tales that surround them. This is a down to earth, real world assessment of the situation.
And of course the drama continues. Piers Morgan stormed off the set of his own talk show this morning. He got 41,000 complaints for calling the interview “absolutely disgraceful.” This is a full blown cause celebre, morals are umbraged and dudgeons are high, don’t you know. Oh, my goodness. Where are my pearls and my fainting couch?
For my part, I’m going to keep reading the Irish press. They seem to have one foot on the ground, at least for my tastes and sensibilities. I think this showdown with Buckingham Palace is a complete farce and yet another example of mass delusion, much like the political situation in this country. But I take my hat off to the enterprising young California couple, with the media deals. They’re going to do just fine. And I’m sure all the parties involved know that. Ay, there’s the rub.