Going by responses already I suspect I am going to regret writing this. Some Christians in particular have been visceral in their response. Apparently I have committed blasphemy! It appears that touching people’s idols and questioning cultural shibboleths is not permitted in some circles. Too late. Here is this weeks Christian Today article. As Oprah would say ‘its my truth’ so don’t condemn!
Harry, Meghan and Oprah: An interview fit for a kingless society
It’s a good rule not to get involved in other people’s family squabbles. It’s another not to listen to gossip and to remember the proverb “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17).
That thought came to mind as – much against my desire – I watched the Oprah interview with Meghan and Harry. There were many things that one could sympathise and empathise with – indeed you would have to have a heart of stone not to do so. But I did not watch it for the gossip, nor the personal story. I really am not a fan of celebrity culture, whether royal or not.
I watched the interview because I felt it would give us a good indication of where much of our society is headed – and it did.
1. Celebrity counts – and sells. I also realise that it catches most of us and that even my writing this contributes to the chatter.
2. The private becomes public and the public becomes therapeutic. The public interview is used as a form of therapy for the celebrity. It’s one thing to have a private conversation with Oprah about your personal struggles with your family – it’s quite another to have it knowing that billions will watch, and that you and the people you have a quarrel with will see that played out for weeks, months and years afterwards.
If you complain that all you want is privacy for your family, then seek publicity through Oprah at the same time, this is the prime example of having your cake and eating it! There is undoubtedly a problem with tabloids and others seeking to publicise celebrities’ personal lives, but the bigger problem is when the celebrities want to tell us intimate and personal details of their own private lives.
3. We are obsessed with skin colour. Martin Luther King’s dream that we would be judged by our character and not the colour of our skin now seems a distant dream. Skin colour in the world of identity politics and celebrity victimhood is constantly weaponised. Meghan said Harry had had a conversation with a member of the royal family who asked what colour the baby would be. This unsubstantiated report of a conversation she did not hear has already been taken as Gospel – and the worst possible interpretation has already been made. Clearly this was explicit racism of the deepest sort. Or maybe it was an innocent comment? It sounded like the kind of clumsy remark that the Duke of Edinburgh is infamous for – but despite not saying who it was, Oprah was wheeled out on morning TV in the US today to say it was not Prince Philip or the Queen. Which just leaves the rest of Royal Family to play the ‘pin the tale on the racist’ game. Meghan spoke of how she thought African girls would be glad to have someone who looks like them. Apart from the inconvenient fact that she doesn’t – why the obsession with judging people by their skin colour?
4. Truth is whatever you want it to be. It’s your truth. When Oprah asked Meghan to tell her truth, I was reminded of the Manic Street Preachers album title, ‘This is my truth, tell me yours’. The trouble is, when it’s ‘your truth’ it can’t be questioned. Let’s take two examples – the idea that Archie was not given the title of prince because of racism, or a family squabble. Meghan told us: “it’s not their right to take it away.” But nothing was taken away. Under a 100-year-old convention, it is only the children of those who are in the direct line of succession who are called Prince or Princess (in this case William and Kate’s children). I was also struck by the dishonesty of saying “I don’t want to disparage them”, and then immediately disparaging them.
5. Personal experience trumps everything. My experience can never be questioned, or challenged. It was so sad to hear of Meghan speaking about how she felt suicidal. But that is not a unique experience – nor is it something that the rest of the world should automatically assume is the fault of the family. Many of us have felt suicidal. For some the reason appears obvious, but for others it is deeply complex and complexly deep. Suicide and suicidal feelings are to be taken seriously. They are not to be mocked or dismissed. Nor are they to be weaponised or used to manipulate. I’m not sure that parading them on TV for all the world to see and scrutinise is conducive to good mental health.
6. Marriage and weddings have been cheapened and devalued. If Meghan’s claim that they actually got married three days before the wedding were true it would be shocking. It would make the wedding a lie and the Archbishop of Canterbury a participator in a fraud. But it’s not true. The legal wedding and vows were on 19 May 2018, not three days before.
7. Our society does do forgiveness. It just doesn’t do it well. Nor does it do justice. Can you imagine if Prince Philip had dressed up in a Nazi uniform – how it would be endlessly retweeted and numerous opinion columnists would pontificate about the institutional racism within the Royal family? But it wasn’t Prince Philip, it was the 20-year-old Prince Harry – and his family stood by him. Now that same Harry is complaining about an unnamed other in the family asking about the potential colour of his babies’ skin – and allowing his whole family to be trashed because of it.
8. We live in a world where even the most privileged can claim victimhood. Privilege comes in many shapes and sizes. I would suggest that living next to Oprah, touring Los Angeles in an open top bus with talk show host James Corden, and wearing a $4,500 dress to an interview does not really entitle you to claim to be a member of the oppressed classes. Harry complained about being cut off financially, yet he inherited £14m from his mother, and the Queen Mother gave him over £10m – more than William precisely because he was not to be king. They also have multi-million-pound deals with Netflix, Spotify and Disney. This is hardly the poorhouse or indeed any kind of deprivation. But there is a wider implication here. The new elites claim victimhood in order to justify their elitism.
9. We are prepared to trash our most precious institutions in the name of ‘authenticity’ and individualism. In terms of the Royal Family, it was the cult of Diana that deeply wounded and almost destroyed them. Who knows the damage that the revenge of Meghan will reap? Anti-monarchists can hardly contain their joy! I confess I am not a monarchist (although I do admire the Queen) and I would be happy to see the monarchy gone if it were not for one thing – what would replace them? Give me the Queen and Prince Philip any day – at least compared with the woke Californian celebrities and multi-billionaire technocrats. I find more reality in the privacy and aloofness of the Queen than in a couple of millionaire celebrities claiming that keeping chickens and baring all on the Oprah show makes them ‘authentic’.
10. Our society is inconsistent and confused. There was so much evidence of this in the interview. At times I wondered if the fairy-tale Princess and Prince Charming who just want to be ‘ordinary people’ but with Royal incomes, privileges and celebrity get confused between real life and fantasy. I wouldn’t blame them if they do – many of us struggle with that. It’s just we don’t have a fantasy that is so close to the reality.
Aside from all that, there were so many contradictions. Harry complained about colonialism, while accepting all the privileges of belonging to a monarchy which has benefited from it the most – and while serving as a soldier in Afghanistan, a former colony of the Crown. Both demand privacy and then cut deals with media companies to take away that privacy.
This interview in so many ways reflects the shallowness and confusion of the celebrity culture which our society is dominated by. On subjects from climate change to covid, we need celebrities to tell us what to think, do and feel. And therein lies the rub: this interview was a Godless interview – there is no room (or felt need) for God in the lives of many of our rulers. And this interview was a good signpost on the road Western culture is headed down. It does not point to a good destination. Rather, we need to turn!
I wish Harry and Meghan well. I pray that their personal issues with both their families will be sorted out (preferably in private), that they will know peace and above all that they will come to know the King of kings.