Watching Harry and Meghan’s new Netflix series, “I reflected that there are two types of celebrities who detest the press”, says Janice Turner in The Times. The first wish to remain utterly private: they pull on baseball caps, resent publicity obligations and “are livid when scandal pulls them into the news”. Among them are Hugh Grant and “noted recluses” like JD Salinger. Then there are celebrities who hate the media “because it does not say exactly what they want”: it snaps them drunk and “points out shortfalls between lofty views and personal deeds”. This camp, which includes Steve Coogan and much of Hollywood, craves “maximum exposure with minimum scrutiny”.
The tragedy is that Harry belongs to the former but Meghan the latter. No one has greater reason to hate photographers than a prince “raised in the gaze of a gazillion lenses”, who as a bereaved child had to greet weeping strangers on TV. But Meghan, though she “fumed at Palace protocols which fed the media photographs of her children”, is less concerned with privacy than with monetising it herself. On Netflix we see the “faces and intimate moments” of her children, like baby Lilibet beside a photograph of “Granny Diana”. She’s constantly performative: even when Harry in the next room is preparing to propose, she’s filming it on her phone for a friend. He chose her, “but not her version of public life”.
📺💰 “Harry finds himself in a position not unlike that endured by a Cold War defector,” says Alex Massie in his Substack newsletter. “He has crossed to the other side with no prospect of return.” To his new paymasters, American television, he is useful for as long as his secrets are relevant and he is willing to offer them up: he will be squeezed until every last drop of gossip or innuendo has been wrung from him. Then, all that’s left is “the sad half-life of the exile, mooning around California, pleading for relevance and knowing, deep down, that it’s all downhill from here”.