Previously on The Real “Royals” of Montecito

Anne Chen

The public’s criticism of pop culture grows more and more each day. Everywhere we turn, there is a new Tweet slandering nepotism babies, low blows towards undeserving influencers, and as of late, criticisms of the royal couple who “just want a normal life.” It doesn’t help that Netflix’s documentary “Harry and Meghan” and Prince Harry’s recent memoir are discussed in the same trashy tabloid-like manner that is used surrounding the likes of “The Real Housewives.” 

Since the couple decided to step down from the royal family three years ago, the general perception of them has shifted from progressive modern royalty to Hollywood-style celebrities. Living in their picturesque mansion in Montecito, Calif., Harry and Meghan share their story through interviews, often in the comfort of their lavish living room. While telling one’s own narrative should always be respected, the couple’s approach in doing so spurred controversy and repelled many viewers.

According to a Newsweek poll, the couple lost points in American public opinion and likeability since the release of Netflix’s documentary and Harry’s autobiography “Spare.”

In particular, viewers are angered by the couple’s hypocrisy. Voices in the media called them out for consistently putting themselves in the limelight and profiting from dragged-out discussions about the royal family, all while claiming their independence from it. Moreover, many are roused by Harry and Meghan’s seeming lack of self-awareness and sense of reality. Harry’s self-portrayal as a normal person who buys IKEA lamps and eats takeout and Meghan’s initial “quirky” cluelessness about basic curtsy protocol annoyed viewers even more. Public disapproval grows with each interview, and the more Harry and Meghan say, the more it seems to backfire. After all, there is only so much sympathy the public can extend to modern royalty. 

However, there is no doubt that influencers, talk show hosts, and podcasts in the media can be unnecessarily cruel. Regardless of the couple’s shortcomings that surfaced through recent features, their narrative should not be completely disparaged. As “Spare” reveals, the death of Princess Diana distorted Harry’s entire life, as it would with any person who loses their mother. More shockingly was his confessional vulnerability, as he shared about childhood panic attacks and a history of self-medicating with hallucinogenic drugs. Yet, his narrative was often comical as he revealed the wild interior behind his polished outward appearance. Despite the controversy, other viewers applauded the couple for speaking up and sharing personal stories. 

Both the documentary and memoir explored the humanity of the couple and attempted to uncover the realities of the royal institution, yet they only scratched the surface of important issues. While the series directed some focus on the Commonwealth’s origins and the UK’s historic involvement in colonialism and the slave trade, the couple focused mostly on the royal family’s treatment of themselves. Most notable was a past interview with Oprah Winfrey, where Meghan revealed royal discussions about the color of her baby’s skin tone and underlying judgements about her biracial identity. In “Spare,” Harry notes internal strife between family members, especially Prince William, and his relationship with the family since their parting. 

With various opinions rampant all over the media, the frenzy surrounding Harry and Meghan is a testament to a change in the relationship between royalty and the public eye in the age of tabloids and Oprah.