On Tuesday night Harry and Meghan told a credulous audience at an awards ceremony in New York that they were “advocates of healing”. On Thursday Netflix released three hours of beautifully lit navel-gazing motivated by spite, revenge and greed, although I am British, and therefore horrid, so maybe I misjudged it. You might think that revenge would at least make for interesting viewing, but then if you cast your minds back, one of Meghan’s big complaints about life in the royal family was that Kate once didn’t give her a lift to the shops.
Either way, this “global event” that Netflix promised us? Honestly? Damp squib. I’ve watched more interesting in-flight maps. We’ve heard it all before, every last innuendo and brickbat directed at anyone they ever met who signed an NDA and can’t fight back. Who knows? Some of it may even be true. Meghan’s podcast had a fact-checker, although a tedium-checker might have been a better hire, but they didn’t bother with one for the Netflix trailer because not showing misleading footage is for little people, not streaming giants. Instead they mashed up a load of old pictures and words to suit H&M’s beleaguered narrative and told us how stupid we were to take it literally.
Unsurprisingly, Netflix goes to town with their real-life The Crown cash cow, and the opening credits are pretty much interchangeable with the fictional version. I watched it with subtitles, which told me helpfully that “somber music” was playing at the start. We see our hero and heroine on their wedding day, and the late Queen in her carriage, and Diana, with weary inevitability, and finally the happy ending in California with bouncing babies and palm trees and sunshine and music in a major key. See what they’re doing there? Everyone lives happily ever after, or at least they do, and that’s the main thing. Only another six hours to go.
Most of what they both say these days is a word soup, so we might as well write our own to sum it up: lovely Haz maligned Meg hearts flowers first date wedding beastly royals nasty Brits chicken coop the end. If that doesn’t feel like your truth, try chicken Haz flowers Meg beastly Brits coop and see if that works better for you. Or make it up. They do.
I’ve watched more interesting in-flight maps.
Because Harry puts kindness and compassion at the heart of everything he does these days, he effectively accuses William of marrying Kate because she fits “the mold”, and of acting with his head, not his heart. He leaves the whole thing helpfully vague, though, because it’s always so much better that way, I find, when you’re the one doing the lobbing and the other side isn’t going to sue.
“She was trying to live in the moment,” someone says about Meghan. Someone called Silver Tree confirms that Meg was crazy about Haz, claims that she fell in love with him because of his Instagram feed, which was full of elephants and Africa, and definitely not pool parties in Vegas or swastika armbands. Someone who works for Archewell invites us to question the existence of the monarchy, and next time I want to know what someone who works for Archewell thinks of how we run this country I’ll be sure to ask.
Early on, Harry says of his mother, “I think she had a lived experience of how she was struggling,” which was a real “aha!” moment in a parallel universe, but more “eh?” in this one. But for sheer invasion of your own privacy, and casual cruelty to your own family, how about this, to pick just two examples? Harry says that Meghan no longer has a father. And Martin Bashir’s infamous interview with Princess Diana, obtained by lies and deceit, is pillaged and reshown at length, even though Prince William gave a powerful speech saying it should never be shown again. Maybe they were feeding the chickens that day in Montecito.
Headlines from broadsheets are mashed up with supermarket magazines and Twitter trolls, because it’s all the same thing, right? We run through Diana’s death, Harry’s school years, meeting Meghan, yada yada blah. “I couldn’t believe my luck,” Meghan says, as well she might.
Extraordinarily, she films herself talking on the phone to a friend about how Harry is preparing to propose right now, lighting the candles and everything. “It’s happening!” she whispers excitedly, and let’s just pause to reflect on her motivation there, shall we, way back in the beginning when everyone took her at face value and was thrilled? Episode One ends with the song “You’re All I Need to Get By,” and the subtitles read “Although don’t rule out trashing your family for money” or maybe I imagined that.
“Her nature is to never make things more difficult for anyone,” someone says, and the subtitles say “But if they’ve signed an NDA then go right ahead”, but, again, the sun was shining on the screen so maybe I misread. Meghan says that her concerned friends asked if Harry was worth all the press attention and the subtitles show the crying with laughter emoji, and Meghan adds, “I could just authentically be myself but without so much preparedness,” and thank heavens she clarified that.
“I couldn’t believe my luck,” Meghan says, as well she might.
Our warm, hugging heroine relates how Will and Kate came over to meet her and she didn’t realize that her warm, hugging nature was “jarring for a lot of Brits” and on and on and on. Look, this is three hours of the same people moaning about the same things. Harry mumbles incoherent nonsense, Meghan enunciates nonsense very clearly, and the subtitles tell me that melancholic music is playing when we get to the bit about how she doesn’t speak to any of her family (except her mother) because she hardly knew them in the first place, or something. Do you care?
We run through everyone’s lived experience except mine, which is unprintable, and I have to wait until nearly the end of Episode Three for Meghan to talk about turtling. Imagine. It was worth it, though, as mentions of turtling always are. And so our three hours draw to an end, and they’ve managed to defame their families, the monarchy, the world’s press and most of the UK population. Can we sue? We have mashed together variously footage of Nigel Farage and Princess Michael of Kent, linked Brexit with Megxit and promised that next week, a family and a family business are in direct conflict and oh God, not again. I’m done. Over and out. “Stand by me,” Ben E King sings in the closing credits. “Or piss off on a private jet and whinge for a living,” read the subtitles, “either is fine.”
Harry & Meghan is streaming now on Netflix
Hilary Rose is a longtime columnist for The Times of London and the author of the weekly column How to Get Dressed