Even the release of Harry and Meghan it is carefully staged.
Volume I has been released, just three of the six episodes, which is essentially a history lesson largely for US Netflix viewers. There were no previews for journalists and only 3 frames made available to the press.
The episodes appear to explain to a large American audience, outlining the history of the British family, how the royal family is funded by the British public (duh), the Fleet Street press frenzy, the death of Diana, the courtship of the eligible prince and American actress…
…all designed to win audience sympathy before anything is released in Volume II.
Highly produced by Story Syndicate in association with Archewell and Diamond Docs, it’s a long 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 points out that all interviews were completed before August 2022…. subtext, before the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Teases of “exploitation and corruption” within the royal family are not outlined in the first installment, in favor of charity work in Lesotho, the advancement of minorities, the empowerment of women. The extended biographies trace Harry as the grieving son, the party boy prince and his maturation into a young adult. The feisty Meghan blossomed from a nerdy little girl to a biracial actress who was on a steep learning curve to join the company.
Friendly interviews from close associates, piano chords accompanied by tunes and jazz standards, are a Valentine’s Day for the incandescent couple.
Nuances of race are prominent in the context of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union during immigration debates, as well as Britain’s historical ties to colonialism in Jamaica.
Topping the relentless press is social media — to be fair, not something older royals have ever had to deal with. Tabloid headline montages, media grabs (there’s even audio from Tracy Grimshaw), are reminders of life in the spotlight. They present themselves as a devoted couple in an us-versus-them scenario…versus the press, versus the palace, versus the spotlight they need to drive philanthropic efforts forward.
“They’re destroying us,” Meghan says of the paparazzi, while Harry insists fleeing Britain was to protect his family. Admirable sure, but I feel like I’ve heard these points before.
So what’s new about this exercise in telling the story from your own voice?
Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland reflects publicly for the first time.
Niece Ashleigh, daughter of Samantha Markle, recounts favorable memories of Aunt Meghan, with the insight that she should be uninvited to the royal wedding.
Meghan also shares her anguish about her father, Thomas Markle, staging photos for the press right before the wedding.
But what is missing is a right of reply from their targets. Why no point of view from the dads? Nobody speaking for royalty. There is not enough balance for three hours.
Instead, it’s heavily structured to make an argument that this couple was being persecuted. Yet it occurs to me 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 apocalyptic portraits of privilege by birth.
I have to admit that I have not been subjected to racial slurs all my life, nor have I been vetted by the communications teams in the British monarchy, so while there are undoubtedly legitimate grievances, the problem as a viewer is separating yourself from the spin. Not unlike fiction Crownmemories may vary?
In any case I would have welcomed those complaints at less than half the run time allotted by Netflix.
For a couple who object to such scenic control and management of their private lives, it is bizarre that this release is an exercise in just that.
Largely absent from it all is the Queen herself, perhaps out of respect after her death, but even King Charles is reduced to a handful of archival shots.
Will the grenades all come in Volume II or will that too be just another history lesson from an ‘H&M?’ point of view?