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How Prince Harry and Meghan Markle changed their reputation with a $100,000,000 documentary.


For anyone who has the vaguest clue about anything to do with the British Royal Family, it is known that the former Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Prince Harry and Meghan Markle) have never been shy of drama surrounding their relationship. For starters, the word "former" preceding their titles already hints that their experience as royals was far from easy. From the start of their relationship to their eventual royal-exit, the couple has been through numerous scandals and has had even the most private portions of their lives exposed to the world via the British press. However, the point of view of the Prince and his wife were never really exposed to the public. That is, until December 2022, when the Netflix docu-series "Harry and Meghan" was released, and with it shocked the world with surprising revelations of the events that really led to the couple's eventual independence from the royal family, in their own words. "Doesn't it make more sense to hear our story from us?", said Meghan Markle in Episode 1.


Already in the first 10 minutes of the first episode, we see how the entire documentary is truly a recounting of events from Harry and Meghan's perspective only. Before any scenes, a black screen shows the sentence: "Members of the Royal Family declined to comment on the content within this series". This indicates both the harm that this could potentially cause the monarchical institution and (in my opinion) the truth that lies behind their perspective since the Royal Family has a reputation for manipulating media and declined to even make a statement to "defend" themselves. And, if we're being honest, a lot of defending was due on their part.


The series was released in two parts, and in the first part (3 episodes), the series deepens the couple’s complaints about Britain’s news media, reveals details of Meghan’s tense relationship with her relatives, and even claims that some royals viewed media harassment as a “rite of passage.” The critiques made in the first part of the series are pointed both towards the royal family and the British press in general, highlighting the claustrophobic feeling that comes with being photographed 24/7. Prince Harry recalls that the paparazzi had always impacted his life. Although he has few recollections from his early childhood of his mother, Princess Diana, he stated "the majority of my memories are of being swarmed by paparazzi. Rarely did we have a holiday without someone with a camera jumping out of a bush, or something.” When discussing the pain caused by the negative press, Harry recollects his mother in the back of cars going to public engagements in “floods of tears” and how she would have 30 seconds to wipe away the tears when his father Charles would remind her “we're almost there.”


A key theme throughout the documentary was that of racism, and how Meghan's race played a key role in the media harassment she was faced with. In the documentary interviews with the couple, Harry mentioned how his family failed to understand how Meghan being mixed race factored into her treatment: “As far as a lot of the family were concerned, everything that she was being put through, they’d been put through as well,” he said, adding: “so it’s almost a rite of passage.” According to Harry, the family thought that Meghan didn't deserve any "special treatment" or better "defence" from the attacks towards her, because media harassment was something every one of them had to endure. What was different in this case however was the fact that many of the attacks against Meghan had to do with her race, with headlines around the time that the couple announced their relationship reading: "Harry's girl is (almost) Straight Outta Compton", "Harry to marry into gangster royalty?", and even some that judged her family's background, having ancestors who lived in the racially divided Jim Crow South.


Shockingly, we learn that racism wasn't an issue solely on the media's part. Interviews with the couple's friends featured in the series helped to support that both Harry and Meghan have the right to speak up against what they see as an outdated institution that, from their point of view, is still subject to conscious or unconscious racist biases. Allegations of racism at the hands of members of the royal family began with a 2020 interview in which Oprah Winfrey met with the former royal couple to discuss them exiting the royal family. Meghan stated that there was concern within the royal family about her baby’s skin tone, and her husband Prince Harry condemned his relatives for failing to criticise colonial undertones in media coverage. This aforementioned "unconscious bias" is also a big reason preventing the family from being able to understand why Meghan is in a particularly vulnerable position, especially with regard to the media.

Throughout the documentary, Harry repeats that he has a duty to "protect his family." The couple opened up about feeling a lack of support from the palace particularly in dealing with the British press' attacks on Meghan, while also implying that certain elements within Buckingham Palace tried to deliberately undermine them due to them receiving more popularity than other senior members of the family. The popularity the couple received was already immense when their relationship was first revealed to the public, and it only grew after the royal wedding, scattered with headlines indicating that they "stole the limelight" away from Prince William and his wife Kate. "Outsiders" taking over the spotlight from the royal family isn't something we haven't seen before. This situation in fact can be seen as very similar to that of his mother Diana, who was often accused of stealing the limelight from her husband Charles. In the series, he and Meghan play the role of misunderstood souls, if not victims, of the oppressive British royal family they broke away from. This, however, is precisely the cause for many viewers dismissing most of what the couple is making public. Not many people are buying the "victim" act they are putting on.


Now, you might be asking yourself, where has the couple gone now that they left the royal family? Well, they both moved to California in June 2020, saying they wanted space to raise their son Archie, and to develop their Archewell Foundation. A daughter, Lilibet, was born in 2021. The couple returned to the UK for the late Queen's Platinum Jubilee in June 2022, and her funeral in September. All in all, the docu-series has received mixed interpretations, with some supporting the couple's decision to leave and others still focusing on the scandals and potentially harmful ramifications of the exit. Regardless of where you stand, there is no doubt that this documentary uncovered parts of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's story that would have forever been unknown to the public otherwise, and surely left many people with something to say about it.


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