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Royal Rot II: When Harry Met Meghan

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The Royal Family
The Royal Family
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The recent Netflix docu-series Harry and Meghan (Garbus 22) is a filmed account of the hapless Prince and his wife's trajectory into and then out of the British Royal family, with all the rumbling in between. Much of it is self-serving tripe centered on the woes of very privileged people. Got a problem? People treating you badly? Hide in a mansion rent-free where everything is done for you, or fly to an exotic country to hang out with descendants of the people your ancestors called "savages." Hmm.

The series traces the normal kinds of difficulties every family endures, from sibling rivalries to disagreeable kin, simmering feuds and second-hand smear jobs. None of it is particularly interesting, or important, except in those rare exchanges when the film, inadvertently, it would seem, exposes some of the ways British Royals use their influence to control how the public perceives them, their lives, their histories and their traditions. The con starts with Harry the Prince.

Harry makes it clear he feels "trapped" as a member of the Royal family. He wants viewers to know that he struggles against the nets and snares of a cold-hearted "institution," its protocols, its rules and regulations and all the subsequent demands he inherited as a result. He is being compelled to play a role he wishes not to play, locked in a position within the family structure that he resents. He did not clamor after fame and fortune; they were thrust on him at birth.

Poor Harry. His complaints are understandable, but only to a point. What the film actually exposes, ironically enough, is Harry trapping himself, self-moored, as it were, as a result of his own calculated ambivalence, or "the simultaneous existence of contradictory feelings and attitudes."

The contradiction becomes evident in the plan he devises for his and Meghan's future participation in the family business. He called it "half in, half out," whereby they would continue to perform some of their duties as Royals but operate on the whole independent of the family. Naturally, the Queen, her son and his son banned any discussion of the plan from the get-go, which is exactly what one would expect from people who have long gilded their brand of savagery as royal. Only Harry seemed to be under the delusion that he could negotiate, as if he didn't understand the people with whom he was dealing, or their history. His history. At the end of the series, Harry tells viewers he feels "free," happy, confident and absolutely settled into his new life in southern California. Yet in the same breath he admits missing "those weird family gatherings," a sentiment that is wildly at odds with reason and reality, given it was this same nest of vipers who tried damn hard to destroy his wife. It was their influence that pushed the media smear that pushed the Duchess to contemplate suicide.

Harry's response to the situation makes the same point. Meghan had helped put together a successful cook book, a best seller, until the Royals and their dregs in the media began slandering her and her culinary co-authors. She was attacked from every side, relentlessly. Where was Harry? Absent. He knows how the system works. His wife was being "destroyed" in the press, he had first-hand knowledge his family was behind it, yet he did nothing. It was, he tells viewers, his greatest "regret."

The con continues.

Harry was in the British Royal Army for ten years (2005-15) and served two tours in Afghanistan, an illegal war instigated by high-ranking villains in his gov't. It was widely reported that UK Special Forces were killing innocent people indiscriminately just before Harry began his second tour of duty. He was an officer. Did he call for an investigation or did he stay quiet and go along? The questions are not rhetorical. The Duke of Sussex is anxious to have viewers believe he is sincere when he says he wants to devote himself to humanitarian efforts, bringing people together, but he also supported his country's extra-legal military invasion that ended up murdering lots of the very people he claims he wants to help. Tough to do that if they're dead.

Speaking of helping people, if Harry is serious, why doesn't he start in his own backyard? Where does the Prince stand on his gov't's gutting of social services? Or its war on workers? Or imprisoning and torturing Julian Assange? Or the growing surveillance state? Or the rise in Christian fascism? Illegal aggression in Ukraine? Israel's treatment of Palestinians? Brexit? Anything?

Not a word.

Like the rest of his muddy relatives, he keeps his royal mouth shut because he knows if he were to do or say anything that challenged the structures of power in any fundamental way, he would be removed from the family altogether. Banished. "Destroyed." Like his wife, persona non grata.

Harry's comments about his grandfather, Prince Phillip, while laughably disingenuous, are part of the same excuse. He calls Phillip "honorable," a good guy and fun to be around. Really? This is the same individual who regularly demonstrated the grossest, most obscene behavior throughout his life, privileged, pompous and vile. Here's what Hamid Dabashi writes about Harry's "grandpa":

Prince Philip's racism is actually quite priceless because it comes so naturally to him. He is not faking it. He is not trying to offend anyone. He is offensive. This is he. This is who he is - and the long panoply of his racist, sexist, elitist, misogynistic, class-privileged and unhinged prejudices is a mobile museum of European bigotry on display.

Harry wants viewers to believe Phillip embodied all the best qualities of a traditional grandfather, kind, gentle and decent. Ignore the fact that Phillip was married to the head of the snake for over seventy years. Never mind that he supported empire building and slave labor and caging undesirables because, hey, he was nice to his grandson. So, either the Prince is an idiot who does not have the mental capacity to comprehend his family's politics, or he's willfully ignorant and chooses to cover his ears to anything that might burst the bubble, or he knows damn well who he is and where he comes from and is simply lying to protect what's left of his position as a member of the British Royal family. He might have issues with a few of them, but certainly not all of them. Translation: half in, half out.

Harry wants to play a Prince without having to pay, without having to acknowledge the grotesque farce his family has become. His choices are limited. Compromise is not an option; there is no middle ground. The only way out is to bolt altogether, cut them all loose, the very thing he appears incapable of doing. He tells viewers he wants to move forward on his own, but the truth is he wants to continue living in a secluded mansion, safe and secure, with all the comforts his inherited fortune can buy.

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BK Faunce is a retired Associate Professor of English (UMW / UCSC) specializing in British Romantic Literature, Film Theory and Writing. His recent work examines the use of state power and its impact on visual culture.

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