Wow! What a stunning closure for the second and final installment of Netflix’s Harry and Meghan documentary. Director Liz Garbus, an Emmy-winning and two-time Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker, came with her A-game to lift the edge of the carpet for an unvarnished view of the underpinnings of the royal institution/family and the British press, and their symbiotic/parasitic relationship used against Meghan, her family, and friends but also against Harry and Meghan, as a unit.
Garbus showed us the tenets as if of a medieval fantasy: enemies at the gate, betrayal within the palace walls, stepmother’s machinations, slaying of dragons, older mentors (fairy godfathers), and a harrowing quest. For this was a story about survival, about winning, about validation against the backdrop of a massive gaslighting, abusive, and manipulative scheme.
In this segment, Harry and Meghan shared those critical moments and the fallout from the Australian/New Zealand/Fiji tour, the South Africa tour, the Sandringham Summit, the mental time-out to Canada, and the secret escape to Los Angeles. At several points, my eyes welled from the emotional punches that they’d endured, especially when shared from their friends’ and Mama Doria’s perspectives.
Let’s back up for a minute. After the first installment, some critics accused Meghan of only complaining now because her otherwise usual acceptance into white space had gone unchallenged. Some accused that she should have known what she was getting into and it’s her fault for not being prepared. Some accused that it was her place to fall into line regardless of how long it took or what it would take to get there. Some accused her Americanness for not loving and respecting the monarchy.
These points are raised to co-opt our focus from this documentation of extreme mental abuse orchestrated and condoned by powerful players, such as the British media and their other news affiliations and the royal institution and its myriad of puppet masters and backstabbers.
To them I say, you’re missing the point. Also, this documentary isn’t a vehicle for your projections. It’s easy to center yourself in the picture and beat your chest boldly to declare what you would and wouldn’t do or say, and to be dismissive of the lengths that Harry and Meghan had to go for their peace. It’s easy to be an armchair-pilot, quarterback, captain at the helm when you have nothing to lose, nothing invested in the manufactured play going on in your head.
For the rest of us, open and willing to empathize, we appreciate Garbus’s artistry, allowing us to see where this couple started, with their hopes and dreams, their nervous expectation that things might be difficult in the beginning, but with dedication and perseverance, they would come through on the other side. This isn’t about centering ourselves in their story. This is a cognitive exercise of compassionate understanding.
Clearly Meghan’s optimism and confidence go hand-in-hand. She’s a problem-solver. We saw this example with the funding issue for the Hubb Community Kitchen when they created a best-selling cookbook, at her guidance. With that focused energy she took their private secretary’s analogy to heart:
“The fish is swimming perfectly, powerful. It’s on the right current. And then one day this little organism comes in. This foreign organism. And the entire thing goes: ‘What is that? What is it doing here? It doesn’t look like us. It doesn’t move like us. We don’t like it. Get it off of us.’ They’ll soon see that it’s stronger, faster, even better with this organism as part of it. It will be hard at the beginning for them to adjust to this new thing, but then it’ll be amazing.”
In this privileged, classist, and racist world of and around the royals, its entrenched traditions, mindset and expectations would have made such a glorified outcome a stretch. And when the “supporting act,” as Harry mentioned, outshines those born into the roles, then that upbeat analogy by the private secretary is on a speedy trajectory of failure. That “fish” preferred swimming in fetid waters, feeding on its own toxicity.
That’s why Harry and Meghan were the bright light in the dismal abyss of the institution. Those special moments were in the poignant images from their wedding on May 19, 2018, with Meghan’s entrance at St. George’s chapel, her solo walk up the aisle, before joining Charles to walk the remaining way to Harry. How can’t your heart melt at Harry’s loving gaze on Meghan? And how sweet to learn that Harry picked the song for Meghan’s walk.
We also got an inside peek of the reception at St. George’s Hall where Sir Elton John performed, unabashed joy of Harry and Meghan’s first dance, and the spectacular fireworks that lit up the night sky. There was a sense of the joyful expectation that all would be well. After all, it’s the “… and they lived happily ever after” that we’ve come to expect at the end of a romantic story.
Alas, the rosy future turned prickly. Meghan and Harry’s global influence and meteoric popularity in the public’s eye fueled royal rivalry with salacious headlines and commentaries, accusing the couple of stealing the limelight, highlighting the inadequacies of the other royals, and/or playing comparison games between Harry and Meghan vs. William and Kate, or of specifically Kate vs Meghan.
The more that Harry and Meghan did to appease the institution’s wishes and demands, the worse the backlash from the media now focused on elevating William over Harry, Kate over Meghan.
“Put them in a box or make them irrelevant” became the idiotic strategy to deal with Harry and Meghan, the symbol of diversity and modernization within the monarchy and for the Commonwealth. The “dirty game” as Harry called it meant that the royal houses were in constant briefings of other members of the family, exchanged favors when inviting the press in, and engaged in leaking and planting of stories.
With the not-so-invisible contract between the media and institution, Meghan said, “I was not thrown to wolves, but fed to the wolves.” As a result, this bright, exuberant woman was diminished and devalued to the point that she not only thought but also said to her mother and Harry, “All of this will stop if I’m not here.” The institution had contributed to her mental health crisis and then refused to allow her access to remedy her needs.
Institutional Harry vs. Husband Harry knew he had to man up. What was important to him? What was he going to do to protect his wife? What steps was he willing to take to save his growing family? Part of that wake-up call for Harry’s confession: “Seeing my brother’s office copy the very same thing that we promised the two of us would never ever do. That was heartbreaking.”
Meghan’s friends also stepped up and said enough is enough and went to work to elevate their friend to the world, resulting in the trending hashtag, #WeloveyouMeghan. “We have to show the world that she’s a person, not a headline. She’s loved.” They collectively offered their insight to their special friendship with Meghan in article published in People magazine.
In another act of solidarity, they hosted Meghan’s baby shower in New York. Of course, the media published false information about how the shower was paid with taxpayer’s funds and insinuations about the extravagance. As for the People magazine article that became a part of the Associated Newspaper’s defense about the duchess’s letter to her father where we then witnessed the congratulatory call that Meghan had won her case.
David had kicked Goliath’s arse, again.
It had been an uphill battle that the institution had no plans of fighting on Meghan’s behalf. We saw not only her courage but core belief in her legal rights. With a solid legal team, the court sided with them. This is despite, Jason Knauf’s (employed by the Cambridges) “neutral” assistance to Meghan’s opposition. Make that make sense.
To comprehend what Meghan faced daily, there were the sobering statistics of the hate machine built around Meghan. Christopher Bouzy, Founder and CEO, Bot Setinel had analyzed 114K hate tweets and saw that 70% of hateful content came from 83 accounts with a reach of 17 million users. He stated, “They were coordinating and talking about what they would discuss for that particular day or week, what pictures they should disseminate. They were actively recruiting people, telling people how to create multiple accounts, how to use virtual private networks, to hide the IP so they don’t get suspended.” This wasn’t the run-of-the-mill trolling.
Why? It was all about the money. Primary accounts were monetized. Secondary accounts were created to spread and instigate hate. A cursory check on Instagram shows many of these accounts are set to Private, have little to no posts, have little to no followers, and more than likely have false profile pictures.
With all-out media war coupled with the royal firm’s constant betrayal, including William’s incandescent rage at the Sandringham Summit (a meeting that they’d waited to have after Meghan’s departure from the UK to get back to Archie), the Sussexes announced their departure.
The couple had a farewell tour in the UK that culminated with the final event, Commonwealth Day. On March 9, 2020, the frosty visages of the royal family were on full display with Phillip and Elizabeth projecting elderly imperialists, Charles and Camilla pretending to be serenely oblivious, William and Kate looking wooden and constipated, Sophie adopting the aged “Mean Girl” persona, and Edward doing his best to project friendly banter.
It was the picture of the royal institution’s epic clumsiness and failure as an entity and as a family incapable of authentic inclusion. It was the bitter face of a family who removed security much needed for a couple with credible dire threats against them, who blatantly leaked the couple’s Canada residence, and who openly wines and dines with the worst racist mouthpieces of British media.
However, since this is a love story against the greatest odds, we saw the couple packing to leave Frogmore Cottage, the home that they thought would be their family residence, and then watch them resettle into their Montecito estate where grandmother, their children, dogs, and chickens can thrive.
We can cheer for the happy reunion with Meghan’s niece, Ashleigh, and the fantastic, rewarding news that Tyler Perry was Lilibeth Diana’s godfather. Under the umbrella of being genuine supporters of this couple, we also cheer for this documentary and for the future of this happy couple.
Harry doesn’t hate his brother. Harry hates what his brother has done. He doesn’t hate his father. He hates how his father has synthesized the situation. He will have the bigger adjustment of life outside of the monarchy, outside of that family, mostly outside of the UK. But with loyal friends, certain family members, and his loyal Archewell team, he has a solid support system as he navigates the next phase of his journey as a prince in America, husband and father, and philanthropist. As he said, when his children ask, “what did you do?” he can answer with pride and dignity intact that he chose love.
And Meghan…well, she emerged from the storm with her shoulders back, chin up, and firm gaze forward. Now when she smiles, it’s not on behalf of the institution or to ward of media sharks. She doesn’t hate her father, just listen to her share the memories with him and inclusion of videos and photos throughout the documentary to understand how important he was in her life. So however, this personal part of the journey goes for her, it’s her business. We don’t need to insert ourselves as the center of her story.
All the knocks and hits slung at her, the constant degradation of her soul, the steady drip of venom and betrayal from those around her have forged a steely exterior. Meghan is done playing and entertaining the disingenuous game of constantly proving herself worthy of the institution and its inmates, working to get the toxic, racist British media’s respect, and embracing a country that refuses to come to terms with the fallout of its bloody imperial history. It’s clear to see in her demeanor and her message, Meghan is done sitting in the corner with an oppressive hand over her mouth.
Regardless of the institution’s passive-aggressive responses with “recollections may vary” or “we were not contacted for comments” and the usual toxic dribble from the British media and their affiliations, Harry and Meghan said what they had to say, and the world listened and continue listening. Detractors twist themselves into knots condemning this couple, underestimating their influence, and hoping for the worst. Stay mad.
At the first installment, Harry and Meghan documentary was Netflix’s biggest documentary debut ever, with 81.55 million hours viewed. The series was watched by 28 million households over four days and was in the Top 10 TV lists in 85 countries.
Of the second installment, only a few days ago, the documentary is in the top Netflix shows in 27 countries and top 10 in every market with #1 in the U.S., U.K. Ireland, South Africa and others.
Let’s not forget that Meghan’s podcast Archetypes With Meghan was #1 when it premiered and was the best Spotify podcast for 2022, of which she won the People’s Choice Award for Pop Podcast of 2022.
Now, preorder Harry’s Spare to be released in 18 languages on January 10, 2023.
Dear Harry and Meghan,
Thank you for sharing your story and wisdom.
Godspeed, both of you.