HARRY & MEGHAN on Their Own Terms: Impressions After Watching the Powerful Netflix Documentary

Harry & Meghan is not just a spectacularly realized story about people who have experienced a complicated life.

Mary Kosiarz

14 December 2023

Altruists or egoists? Stars craving constant camera attention or a pair of modest individuals forced to live in the limelight? Outsiders fighting for the good of the crown or their own reputation? Since 2016, the moment Prince Harry’s relationship with Meghan Markle became public, tabloids worldwide have been exchanging increasingly sensational headlines and reports, nearly evenly dividing public opinion into staunch supporters and acerbic critics of the royal couple. Even in Poland, it seemed like we knew everything about them, yet living in a cultural and ideological space so significantly distant from the British Isles, only fragments of the fervent gossip boom surrounding the royal duo reached us, about one-third of the intensity it had for the British bread consumer.

The entrance of Harry and Meghan as a couple into the rigid and orderly world of the British monarchy caused a powerful upheaval in the contemporary image of the royal family, just like their departure after months of struggle, as depicted in their latest documentary dedicated to their journey toward what they now call peace. This is their story, told with taste and sensibility, exposing the prejudices prevailing in the royal family and casting a shadow on issues of racial intolerance, misogyny, and psychological abuse, which until now had been an untouchable taboo for this institution unlike any other. Harry and Meghan had no choice; they had to leave. And they speak about it frankly and without the characteristic embellishment of the monarchy in the documentary “Harry & Meghan.”

Hot Topic

The Harry & Meghan documentary, as announced by Netflix, is one of the most important premieres the platform has ever decided on. Shortly after premiere, it started breaking popularity records, and this was just the beginning of the media buzz it aims to generate. The premiere turned out to be one of the least expected – after the echo of the highly controversial and debated Oprah interview somewhat subsided, we thought that the conflict between the Sussexes and the rest of the royal family would remain their own business, which might resurface at the occasion of other important events for the Kingdom. Today, after the release of the sensation documentary, we know that their voice was incredibly important for public opinion. Whatever opinion we had about this couple so far, a viewing of this high-profile production featuring them on their terms will undoubtedly change our perception not only of them but also of the entire British monarchy system. Finally, we heard their truth, as Harry puts it.

Give them time; they will reveal much.

We start almost with sweetness itself – the element of infatuation that transforms into love, Meghan’s first steps as an aspiring member of the royal family, and the planning of the most beautiful wedding the world has seen. All this to, in the second part of the documentary, expose the greatest dirt, imperfections, pain, despair, and psychological agony caused by the actions of the press and members of the royal family that almost led Harry and Meghan to ruin. Over the course of six episodes, we witness not only the evolution of their love story but, above all, focus on the most important issues for the main characters of this story – issues that, as royals, they wanted to publicly highlight. For example, racial intolerance deeply rooted in the minds of the British people and intensified after the future duchess appeared on the front pages of newspapers. For those who felt a lack of these great controversies promised to us in the trailer after the first three episodes filled with the sugary love of the prince and princess from a fairy tale, the first part may seem overly talked-about, overhyped, and focused solely on profit, with the promised bombshells being mere fodder for the media and potential clicks. None of that, give them time – the bombs are just about to start.

All that glitters is not gold

The Harry & Meghan documentary is not just a story of love and strength in a relationship. I was quite surprised by the private tone of this work, largely based on family recordings and photos that close people to us, suffering and feeling just like everyone else behind the screens, created. However, do not be misled by these frames. This is an open declaration of war on Buckingham Palace and members of the royal family, especially William and Charles, whom the Duke and Duchess of Sussex accuse of leaking information to the press about their secret residences, racism, and deliberate exclusion of Meghan to mentally destroy and eliminate the threat she posed, among other things, to Diana’s elder son and his spouse. In this brilliantly executed documentary, as expected from Emmy-winning creators, Meghan and Harry’s closest family members come together, taking us from their childhoods, through memories of Diana’s death and the influence she had on the growing Harry, to Meghan Markle’s lonely childhood, and to the recent past when the young, beautiful, energetic, and inspirational woman became an undeniable competition for the dignified, stiff monarchy, which had no room for discussions about minority rights. Until the moment when the American actress, smiling and wanting to change the world, entered the stage. The causality of the narrative and the number of facts confirming Harry and Meghan’s version is shocking and rightly now, just hours after the final publication, it is stirring public opinion, which, who knows, might be sowing the seeds of long-awaited ideological changes at this very moment. Harry & Meghan examines the modern definition of racism that revived after the entry of a black woman into the ranks of British monarchs. Comments about the alleged selfishness and narcissism of the royal couple after the publication of the first part of the documentary can theatrically be discarded after what we saw in the last three episodes. We delve into the incredibly intimate, painful, and traumatic experiences of the couple – this miniseries, despite appearances, was not intended to tarnish the prince’s close relatives; moreover, after the viewing, recalling the famous Oprah interview, we realize how restrained and delicate the spouses were about their relationships within the monarchy at that time. Harry & Meghan was supposed to make us aware of the consequences of humiliation, hate, and baseless conclusions unsupported by anything more than tabloids thriving on someone else’s misfortune. It is disturbing to follow almost the same mechanism that led Princess Diana to her death and robbed Duchess Meghan not only of the chance to reform the royal family but, above all, triggered suicidal thoughts, caused a miscarriage, and months of fear for her own life. It’s a documentary about what a large part of global society does every day, using subconscious racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and homophobia. Through the example of Meghan and Harry, we learn what aggressive phobia and gradual degradation lead to. The documentary is powerful but not too powerful. Moving but not overly sentimental. Revealing much but not too much and not too brutally. Exactly the way it should work on our perception and some of us; encourage us to change.

What was the purpose of this?

Does the royal couple like being in the spotlight? There is no doubt about that; both of them are accustomed to it from an early age. However, are they not going too far and inadvertently portraying themselves as the greatest victims of a system that many probably secretly dream of? Even if they seem to give off such an impression, considering everything they have been through, I don’t blame them for presenting the matter this way. Similar emotions were felt during the Oprah interview, where the couple was incredibly tense, still bound by protocol and internal blocks – but this time

it’s a bit different, lighter, more genuine. Harry & Meghan gave them the space to reveal concerns and finally, the longed-for ability to be themselves. Approaching the first episodes, I didn’t feel confident about what I saw – was someone trying to convince us of an overly sweet, ultimately more forced than dramatic story again? Not this time. As we go deeper into the narrative, we explore issues of race, women’s rights, and the portrayal of a couple that had the chance to revolutionize the world, but from their short reign, only a bitter taste and family quarrels remain, which already at this moment are storming the world.

Harry & Meghan is not just a spectacularly realized story about people who have experienced a complicated life. It is primarily a stark study of mutual hatred that ultimately leads to tragically irreversible solutions. It is a documentary about ourselves, which in most cases will likely meet with resistance and rejection. However, it is the truth, brutal and unpleasant, but a truth that pushed someone who never deserved it to the edge.

Mary Kosiarz

Mary Kosiarz

Far from keeping her feet firmly on the ground, she has sold her artistic soul to books and cinematography. Fascinated by Meryl Streep and an avid fan of unconventional film endings. In her free time, she educates about mental health and recommends her favorite books and screens.

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