Joyce Fegan: Harry and Meghan blow the family whistle

Joyce Fegan: Harry and Meghan blow the family whistle

Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Courtesy of Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Harry & Meghan netflix documentary meghan markle prince harry

If God loves a trier, then the status quo hates a whistleblower.

In any establishment’s antipathy of someone blowing the whistle, there is also the active condemnation of that person.

Enter Harry and Meghan, formerly of the British monarchy, whose new Netflix six-part docuseries launched yesterday.

What revelations are made or not made in this documentary feels neither here nor there, it’s the fact that they dare to speak at all that seems to matter.

The new Netflix docuseries was not released to any press in advance of its launch yesterday so all commentators, media and the public had to go on was about 60 seconds of a trailer.

And the baying mob was out in force picking apart every utterance and even condemning the stock footage used in the trailer as “misleading”.

It all felt a bit like grappling at straws.

Harry said things like: “There’s a hierarchy of the family, you know, there’s leaking, but there’s also planting of stories. It’s a dirty game.”

That’s an interesting trailhead a viewer can look forward to exploring.

Another comment he made was: “The pain and suffering of women marrying into this institution, this feeding frenzy, I was terrified. I didn’t want history to repeat itself. No one knows the full truth. We know the full truth.”

The baying mob was unhappy with his reference to Diana, as if the public or the professional critic had a greater right to his mother than he did

Then in New York on Wednesday night, on the eve of the Netflix release, reporters shouted the following at him “are you harming your family, Harry?” and “are you putting money before family?”

“So many questions,” replied the regulated royal, rejecting the role of reckless scapegoat that’s seemingly being forced upon him.

Harry and Meghan in a scene from the new documentary on Netflix.
Harry and Meghan in a scene from the new documentary on Netflix.

The status quo places the family unit at the centre of society, the core building block that underpins all other blocks. Privacy and discretion areparamount. Anyone who breaks that unspoken moral code is the doer of bad deeds, not the actual bad actors.

In all other areas of society we demand transparency, but when it comes to the family unit, open criticism is a crime.

Professor of English Vivian Valvano Lynch, in her academic writing about the acclaimed Irish author Claire Keegan’s body of work, addressed this very point about family, specifically in Irish society.

Éamon de Valera’s 1937 Constitution named women’s role as mother and wife as “fundamental to the family’s and state’s wellbeing”.

“It has become obvious that Ireland ‘as it was’ never came close to the ideal that de Valera inscribed in that document,” wrote Prof Valvano. “Indeed, the received version of the family has often had a baleful experience.” The title of her paper is: “Families Can Be Awful Places”.

The message from the status quo, though, is: “don’t say a word”. And when a word is said, the speaker, and in this case, Harry and Meghan, come in for condemnation.

In the emotionally reactive response to the Netflix documentary in Britain, it’s hard to separate out what part is British fragility (“how dare you be critical of our crown?”) and what part is that primal urge to protect the family unit at all costs.

The fact that it is not your actual family unit is utterly irrelevant. It’s about protecting institutions, the royal one and the very institution of family.

Some of the reaction includes the use of words like “travesty” and “tantrum” and infers that Harry is the person who is least attuned to his late mother’s values and legacy.

“Harry forgets that his mother had two sons who both adored her,” reads one critic’s stance. “A devout monarchist, Diana would be appalled at the damage her younger boy is doing to his big brother, her darling ‘Wills’, via the institution he will one day lead. If, that is, there is a monarchy left when Harry has finished his tantrum.”

Harry is not only painted as recklessly ignorant of his late mother’s wishes, but he’s also the villain-in-chief.

The criticism by royal editors, royal reporters and royal correspondents is resoundingly similar.

Harry is the bold boy for speaking out.

These are the same critics who have reported on every royal scandal, and every royal cover-up, for decades.

The illusion of a perfect family, a perfect institution next door, never existed, but when someone from inside its ranks says as much there is uproar.

And this is what the reaction to the brand new documentary encapsulates.

There were no screeners, no previews, no premiers, so no one in the media got to have a look at this
docuseries before it went live.

All they had to go on was 60 seconds of a trailer — not nearly enough footage to form a balanced view.

And yet one headline read: “Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s highly anticipated Netflix docuseries has been condemned by British royal reporters even before its release.”

So if it’s not the content that’s the matter, because they hadn’t seen it, then it seems that’s the problem is simply the whistleblowing from within the sacred unit of a family.

You might not be a royal, you might not be British, but there’s few who
cannot relate to the wrath one draws for challenging any form of status quo, in the workplace, in the family or in a school.

In the British media, there are few dissenting voices examining why two people would go to lengths such as Oprah interviews, podcast series, tell-all memoirs and a Netflix show to tell their side of a long and complex story.

The lazy accusation is money, that they’re just “whining millennial windbags with a victim complex”.

Such an assessment certainly plays nicely into the status quo, leaving the actions of an institution, and everyone in it, totally unexamined. No story is that straight.

With three episodes out in the world now and another three to come on December 15, the reaction so far points to the already forgone conclusion that Harry and Meghan, or whoever else dares to challenge a status quo, will probably never be allowed to own their own story.

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