What a major score for CBS and the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle exclusives. Their Oprah Winfrey special with the Sussexes airs on March 7 and they also air James Corden, which means Carpool Karaoke is theirs too. Before we get to the Harry specifics though, let me just get this out of the way first: yesterday, February 25, was the one-year anniversary of BTS’s Carpool Karaoke. And James namechecked BTS during Prince Harry’s Carpool Karaoke. So if you haven’t already, revisit the BTS Carpool Karaoke – because it’s one of the best, and it has recruited many, many ARMYs, and I appreciate James for this opportunity to sneak in some BTS content in this post, to catch those who might normally otherwise skip my BTS coverage. HA. We got you.
And now back to Harry…
This just might be his best interview. And of course it always helps that he was doing it in a safe space to really shape his message. What, then, were the goals here? Let’s not get it twisted – Harry wasn’t showing up for Carpool Karaoke as a favour to James Corden. There was motivation here, there is a strategy in place, and both Carpool and Oprah are in service of that plan – even more critical now Harry and Meghan are officially not returning to royal duty in the UK and, for all intents and purposes, entirely independent, and after a year of so much controversy and debate, and during a pandemic too, when everyone’s been in lockdown. This, then, was about Harry reintroducing himself. Because for a while now, much of the focus has been on the tensions between him and his family and him and the media; and when we do hear from him, he’s advocating for serious issues – as he should – and calling out social ills and injustices. These are his priorities, and of course it’s important for him to be vocal about them, but that’s not the only part of his personality. One of the reasons Harry is so popular is because people saw him as the fun-loving prince, a member of the British royal family who has a sense of humour, someone you might actually want to hang out and chill with. Through no fault of his own, a lot of that has been missing.
Carpool Karaoke was meant to restore that – and it did. He’s having a great time. Much of that credit goes to James Corden and his team for producing a segment that really lets Harry shine. But we should also acknowledge that Harry did a great job himself of being open to the moment and showing that he’s thriving in the moment because…and this is key… he’s no longer constrained by royal do’s and don’ts. This is established right off the top, as soon as Harry and James get on that open top bus and Harry immediately reveals that it’s his first time. That he wasn’t allowed to before, the implication being that he’s now able to try out the normal experiences that are accessible to other people but were off-limits to him.
From there… well… I don’t know that anyone was expecting this much candor (he actually swears), this much willingness to go there, this much… tea! Hot tea and sweet tea! The hot tea? Harry took a question about The Crown.
Remember, this past season of The Crown was all about his parents, resulting in all kinds of handwringing and anxiety about how negative the narrative was to the Queen and Prince Charles, with the UK tabloids constantly bitching about Netflix, and even some politicians weighing in and demanding that Netflix issue a disclaimer to be attached to their TELEVISION DRAMA SERIES.
And that’s the point Harry drives home – that The Crown is fiction…although it “gives you a rough idea about what that lifestyle” is like. Ahem. Then…there’s this pivot:
“I’m way more comfortable with The Crown than I am seeing the stories written about my family, or my wife, or myself. Because it’s the difference between, that is obviously fiction, take it how you will. But this is being reported as fact because you are supposedly news. I have a real issue with that.”
This is why the British media is pressed today – because he just called them out, again, on American television, and on such a widely-watched platform. What Harry does very astutely though is he balances out the sharpness of his tea with some smooth flavour. The two anecdotes he tells about his grandparents are well-placed moments of lightness and humanity, and great for gossip.
The story about Prince Philip’s abrupt zoom exit? Hilarious, and relatable. Don’t we all have a senior citizen in our lives who doesn’t know how to properly do the tech and ends up slamming things shut instead? And the Queen buying Archie a waffle maker for Christmas. It’s an adorable story about two generations – a baby and his great grandmother, who no doubt would have been amused that a toddler asked for a kitchen appliance.
And then it’s back to the serious business. Harry stresses that he and Meghan were not “walking away” from the royal family, but “stepping back”. Once again Harry puts the heat on the British press and says they were “destroying my mental health”, describing the situation as “toxic”. So he made the decision for his wife and child and here we are… on a bus with James Corden, showing up at the house where they shot the exteriors for The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and Harry says he has to pee and uses their bathroom.
Can you imagine the pearl-clutching happening over in England? A member of the royal family asking to take a leak at a stranger’s house and it’s on camera (not the actual peeing, obviously, but the request alone is NOT PROTOCOL, lol)?!?!
Is this what happens when Harry has no f-cks to give?!
And just as Harry will make a cameo during Meghan’s interview with Oprah, Meghan also cameos here for Carpool Karaoke. This was clearly planned, which is why she looked so f-cking gorgeous in that shot on the phone, but the gossipy bit had to do with how she referred to him. I think this is the first time we hear her calling him by his nickname… Haz?
James picks up on it to emphasise the moment even more – and all of this adds up to Harry’s intention with this appearance, not-so-subtly showing us what he’s like when he’s freed from royal rigidity. Here’s how goofy he is, here’s him knocking on someone’s door asking if he can use the facilities, here’s how he speaks to his wife, and then finally…
He sets a thirst trap.
The end of the Carpool Karaoke involves Harry and James doing a military-style workout, which is an opportunity for Harry to show how fit he is. I mean, he doesn’t take off his shirt, but he gets right into the dirt, and he flies up that rope, and over several walls, and it’s not only a reminder that he’s a stud, but also… more importantly… considering all the talk that has happened over the last few weeks about his military honours, here’s Harry, the prince who is a veteran, flexing his soldier side (cue Destiny’s child, “I know some soldiers in here, where they at, where they at”), as if to say, you can take away those ribbons, but I know this work, I did this work, and I can still do this work.
For the military community then, this had to have been well-received. Through all the noise, the fact of the matter is, here’s a dude who’s literally been there, and this was a signal from him to them that he’s one of them. I don’t think you can overstate how smart this messaging is.
So we should get back then to where we started: messaging. This was a Public Relations win. And every PR win is preceded by PR effort. An excellent effort, shaped by excellent strategy, in a town that specialises in PR, or to be more specific, CELEBRITY PR. That’s what Harry and Meghan are, and always were – they are celebrities, and they seem to be no longer pretending not to be? The royals are celebrities too, they just won’t admit it. With Harry and Meghan now, though, if they can pee in public, they can celebrity in public. And so we can assess them through the lens of celebrity, by the standards of celebrity work. Harry just showed the sh-t out of his work. Harry is working out to be a savvy celebrity indeed.
It’s Meghan’s turn to flex, next with Oprah. Gayle King said on CBS this morning that Oprah says it’s “one of the best interviews she’s ever done” and apparently it’s now a two-hour special? I don’t know that they’ve made an official announcement of the schedule change but if Oprah thinks she has enough to fill two hours, and this is a woman who knows television, the Sussexes could be following up this Harry Karaoke slam dunk with another monster jam.
WATCH: @JKCorden invited Prince Harry for a special episode of #CarpoolKaraoke on Thursday's @LateLateShow on @CBS.— CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) February 26, 2021
The show had plenty of laughs, but Harry also revealed quite a bit about the disconnect between Royal life and his family life. @GayleKing reports. pic.twitter.com/ExXxOHD4tu