Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepped out last night for the National History Museum’s production of Wider Earth in support of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust. The Sussexes held hands, as usual. Meghan belly-cupped as usual. She is officially, at this point, the most prolific famous belly-cupper. Like even more than Jessica Simpson.
It’s been a week since PEOPLE’s cover story “The Truth About Meghan” was released featuring anonymous commentary from five of her friends speaking out on her behalf. She and Harry were at the Endeavour Fund Awards pretty much the next day. Then her dad, not surprisingly, called up the Daily Mail to show him the letter she wrote him even though he’d previously been saying that he hadn’t heard from her since the wedding. Then George Clooney defended her at the Winter TCA. My point is that Meghan hasn’t been hiding – which is interesting because, if you think that the PEOPLE story was done with her endorsement, then she would have been aware of the timing. And since we know Meghan’s gossip game is first class, this is part of the work behind the press strategy. To get right back out there during all this talk, to reinforce the idea that she is unbothered and to counter any reports that she might be so bothered that she’s in seclusion. Royal Meghan will not retreat.
You know who is bothered though? The royal media. Word is, many were unhappy about George Clooney’s comparison of Meghan to Princess Diana and his suggestion that she’s getting a raw deal, that the UK royal reporters are covering her irresponsibly. This has been an issue for a while. Buzzfeed reported on it back in December, about the accusations that the royal reporters were racist and that the royal reporters obviously, weren’t taking it well, and still aren’t taking it well. Valentine Low wrote a piece refuting George Clooney’s comments yesterday, insisting that there is no bias in their reporting. Basically he says that it’s unfair to draw the comparison between Meghan and Diana because Meghan hasn’t been photographed the way Diana was and she’s not being pursued dangerously and that these “parallels are unjustified”. That is true, to a point. Meghan is rarely papped. When she’s photographed it’s on official assignment. There haven’t been high speed car chases all over London. But what Valentine doesn’t mention is that social media wasn’t around in Diana’s time. And that the commentary from royal media can incite a grossness on Twitter and Instagram that is, in these times, its own form of trauma.
Yomi Adegoke wrote a great piece a few days ago in the Washington Post that addresses “what seems to be a several-months-long smear campaign by pockets of the British press”, pointing out the “racist dog whistles…employed by the press since the relationship between Meghan Markle and Prince Harry became public”, citing example after example and headline after headline in the UK papers that repeatedly tap into Britain’s prejudices.
“In the eyes of so many, people of color are viewed not as duchesses but as reminders of the former colonial territories so many wish the United Kingdom still held.”
“This reality may come as a surprise to many, but the thousands of black women living in the United Kingdom know it all too well.”
Yomi Adegoke, by the way, is a British writer and that’s relevant because Valentine Low’s assertion in his piece is that it’s only the people in the US that have a problem with the way Meghan has been covered in the UK. No, clearly, not only. There are people in the UK who agree. Yomi Adegoke isn’t alone.
But how many of them get to be heard?
And here’s the other issue at play – understandably, no journalists want to be accused of racial bias. Of course they would want to defend themselves. Of course that would be their first instinct: self-defense, survival mode. What I’m curious about, however, is the actual makeup of the royal media in the UK. Is it diverse? Are there any non-white journalists, like Yomi Adegoke, for example, who are part of the royal correspondent circle? And while we’re at it – are there several? Because otherwise, there’s a sameness in the coverage in that it comes from one perspective. Anytime there’s a sameness in perspective, well, you know it can be a problem.
Take, for example, film criticism. Meryl Streep and Brie Larson have called out the lack of diversity in film criticism which can affect film reviews and performance, particularly for female-led stories and storytellers. Straight white men have traditionally dominated that field, so consider what we’ve been told is “good filmmaking” when seen only through one lens.
Similarly, Kathleen wrote a piece about Toronto Fashion Week last week that was met with support and also some blowback:
Sigh. One of these days I hope I won’t have to write pieces like this anymore. On cultural appropriation, cornrows and a certain Toronto Fashion Week show: https://t.co/AROjljb9Kv— Kathleen Newman-Bremang (@KathleenNB) February 6, 2019
It’s not the first time something like this has happened. But it’s one of the only times it’s been criticised because there aren’t a lot of black voices in Canadian media, and certainly not a lot of black voices in Canadian fashion media. Kathleen is one of very few and she has now amplified a frustration that many minorities in Canadian fashion have struggled with for a long time. It only adds value to Canadian fashion media and Canadian media period that Kathleen has a platform.
So, to go back to British royal media – how representative is it? Who are the Kathleens among them who may see Meghan Markle’s situation from a different lens? What are the current members of the British royal media doing to encourage that those voices and that perspective be heard?