Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have arrived in New York – Page Six has the photos here – where tonight they will receive the Ripple of Hope Award from the Robert F Kennedy Human Rights organisation. It’ll be a big deal because they are a big media draw and even though they are talked about constantly, we actually haven’t seen them in a while and this is a gala event in NYC during holiday season… so there’s an expected level of glitz and glamour.
But it’s not just a big night, it’s a big week. Photos of Harry and Meghan at tonight’s awards will be make international headlines all day tomorrow, just hours ahead of their docuseries, Harry & Meghan, on Netflix. No doubt Netflix loves that timing. And, really, no matter what happens, no matter what Harry and Meghan say over the six episodes of the series, no matter whether or not stock footage was used in what scenes in the show or whatever people will be screaming about and debating and arguing over, the winner will be Netflix. As Sarah wrote yesterday in her post about the trailer, “someone at in the Netflix marketing department is a straight up TROLL”, getting this out there right after Prince William and Kate’s not-so Super Bowl.
Then again, Netflix has been trolling the British royal family for years now with The Crown and various other documentaries about Diana and other members of the royal family that call out their messes. And this is exactly what they wanted out of Harry and Meghan’s series – a new entry to add to their existing royal catalogue.
In the weeks leading up to the release of Harry & Meghan, there was speculation that the Sussexes weren’t happy with how the documentary was produced. Some say they were trying to “tone down” what they said on camera and in her interview with Variety back in October, Meghan said of director Liz Garbus that:
“It’s nice to be able to trust someone with our story — a seasoned director whose work I’ve long admired — even if it means it may not be the way we would have told it. But that’s not why we’re telling it. We’re trusting our story to someone else, and that means it will go through their lens.”
We’re now, perhaps, seeing the difference in how they would have told their story and what their story looks like through a Netflix lens… which is that Netflix clearly wanted to lean into the sensationalism. Because, well, isn’t that what the audience wants? If season five of The Crown was dull AF, Harry & Meghan may be here to crank up the excitement. And for whom?
It’s important to consider the target audience. Despite Harry and Meghan’s intentions for doing this documentary, Netflix’s intentions for this documentary are to appeal to their subscribers, the same people who watch hours and hours of Love is Blind and Too Hot to Handle, lol. And also, right now, Wednesday. This is a demographic that’s big on social media, a demo that feeds on DRAMA. A demo whose awareness of the British royal family has been shaped by the drama on multiple seasons of The Crown. This is who Netflix is serving, in the hopes that they will shape the cultural conversation about this story. That scene of Meghan wiping tears off her face? Probably an instant meme.
Netflix is giving the culture what the culture craves: MESS. So of course the British royal family is worried. Because they’re at the heart of this mess. And while most of the blame will fall on Meghan, as usual, you will note, at least from the trailer, that just as it was during their interview with Oprah, it’s Harry who’s dropping the truth-bombs.
It’s Harry who is calling out the misogyny of the British royal family and how, as Sarah pointed out yesterday, it’s the women of the family who are unsupported and made to sacrifice themselves for the monarchy, resulting in “pain and suffering”. And it’s Harry who says in the trailer that, “There’s leaking, but there’s also planting of stories”.
That’s a companion quote to what he told Oprah about the “invisible contract” between the royal institution and the British tabloids. So it would seem then that Harry will be going into more detail about how the viper courtiers inside the palace have been colluding with the British papers – we’ve been promised, in other words, the inside baseball on how royal gossip is produced from someone who was raised inside the palace. And Netflix is serving all this to a generation raised on how the Kardashians operate.
Calling the paps, leaking and planting stories, Kris Jenner pulling the strings behind the scenes… as the saying goes, “the devil works hard but Kris Jenner works harder”. And into that cultural context comes the reality show that is the British royal family and how hard they have worked to pump out their own storylines, even if it means throwing other members under the bus. In the eyes of the Netflix audience, that’s how this series will be consumed by those who’ve been shaped by over a decade of Kardashian gameplay. Netflix always wanted a soap opera, and Harry and Meghan gave them one.