Harry & Meghan

December 31, 2022 - The Duke and Duchess of Sussex dish about relationships and royals in Harry & Meghan, a documentary produced for and released on Netflix in December 2022. The documentary dropped in two volumes, each consisting of three hour-long episodes. I watched the first three-hour volume in one sitting. The second three-hour volume dropped the next day. I was on staycation, so I watched that in one sitting, too.

The first episode tells us that all interviews took place by August 2022, so before the death of Queen Elizabeth. In addition to Harry and Meghan, we hear from several of their friends, Meghan's mother, Meghan's adult niece, some experts on British media, and actor Tyler Perry. The Royal Family has said nothing.

The documentary takes us from Harry and Meghan's courtship and marriage to their struggles with "The Firm" (as the Royal Family institution is sometimes called) and, ultimately, to their new life in California. All things considered, there's not a lot of new information here. Most of it showed up at some point in the news and/or on social media around the time any given event took place.

So, what did we learn? Well, we learned that Harry and Meghan refer to each other by their initials, H and M. We learned that Harry has learned to drive on the right side of the road. And, on a much more serious note, we learned why Harry and Meghan felt that stepping back from their royal roles was their only option.

I'll spare you a blow-by-blow recap of each episode. What I will do is add my take to the pile of takes that are already out there. You should know that I'm a longstanding Anglophile. I spent my junior year of college at the University of Leeds and spent a good bit of my down time reading the tabloids that were delivered daily to the residence hall. When I headed home, my British friends sent me off with a Royal Family souvenir book.

Having said that, six straight hours of Harry and Meghan is a lot. Mostly, the documentary held my interest, but by the sixth hour, it felt like there wasn't much left to say. Maybe that's why that final hour featured a lot of video of Harry, Meghan, their kids, and their friends accompanied by soothing music. The Sussexes want you to know that they are determined to live happily ever after.

I think that Harry and Meghan are deeply in love, and I think that they value each other and their relationship more than they value "The Firm." I also think that Harry is haunted by memories of his mother and by how she was hounded by the paparazzi. Rather than face the same fate she did, the couple decided to create and control their own message rather than have it created for them.

I think that a principal factor in making that decision is/was the couple's place in life. And by that I mean that, by the time they met, Harry and Meghan were already fully-formed adults with their own lives. Harry spent, he said, 10 years in the British military. He served two tours in Afghanistan. He spends a lot of time in Africa. All of which he could do because he’s not near the throne in the line of succession.

As for Meghan, the California-born actress did well in school and took steps toward being an activist early on. After graduating from college, she began an acting career and also had an online presence as a social influencer. By the time she met Harry, she was on a hit TV show, had been married and divorced, and had recently ended a long-term relationship. In short, like Harry, Meghan had lived a life and it was a life that she controlled.

Moving two people used to a certain amount of freedom into the controlling environs of "The Firm" did not go well. Meghan, especially, had trouble coping with the loss of independence. They also faced fire from the tabloids, much of it racially charged and directed at Meghan. In the doc, the Sussexes put the blame for much of the negative press on other family members who saw the couple's popularity as a threat.

Overall review: *** I think Harry and Meghan come off pretty well. But, you have to remember that this is THEM telling THEIR story in a documentary that THEY produced. Which isn't to say that they're lying. It's just saying that they're putting out their glossy version of what happened. The Royal Family has, to this point, said nothing to counter it, although some of the tabloids have been blunt with their criticism. One thing, though, that I think is clear is that the Royal Family had an opportunity with Meghan and Harry. And, by putting Family before family, they blew it.