Friday, September 23, 2022

Royal Flop

 From The Spectator:

Every streaming-service deal has invited quiet sniggers, every ill-judged interview and profile-raising event now brings with it a mixture of pity and irritation. These corporations are learning that they are getting little bang for their buck. Over the last few months there have been whispers of Spotify growing more frustrated with Duchess Dolittle after the $25 million deal that went public in December 2020 only yielded one thirty-three-minute Christmas episode. It seems like a stern word may have worked, as we recently saw the much-awaited launch of Meghan’s new podcast Archetypes. Meghan calls the podcast a place “where we investigate, dissect and subvert the labels that try to hold women back”; her first special guest was the notably downtrodden Serena Williams. Listeners were offered little more than the Meghan show, with the Duchess managing to talk for eleven minutes straight before her guest got a word in edgeways.

Next we were delivered a 6,500-word interview in New York magazine, which covers the Duchess’s views on the monarchy, the British press and racism, in case — somehow — you didn’t know them already. In the article, Meghan claimed she is still viewed as a “real-life princess” and told assorted lies about the British press. Those were quickly debunked: when Meghan claimed that in the UK Archie would be subjected to “a press pen of forty people snapping pictures” on the school run, royal reporters quickly called her claim complete tosh, adding that her sister-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, has happily been doing the school run for years without any problem. She also added that she and Harry were like “salt and pepper,” saying “you never move one without the other.” Blink twice if you need help, Harry. The interview didn’t seem to get the reception they presumably hoped for, with even staunch Sussex fans put off by it.

When the Duke and Duchess failed this year to snag an invite to the Oscars or the Beckham wedding, it was clear that they are slowly being frozen out of Hollywood, one red-carpet event at a time. Last year, the couple didn’t make the cut for Barack Obama’s 60th birthday celebration, attended by Tom Hanks, Beyoncé and Jay-Z and the Clooneys. Angela Levin, Prince Harry’s biographer, suspects that the Obamas are wary of Meghan’s supposed desire to run for the presidency and worried about upsetting the British royals.

One LA source told me that “the main reason for them being excluded is that organizers know that all media attention would be on them and take away from the event or people there to celebrate.” They also claimed that one A-lister, known for lavish parties, left the pair off a guestlist because of their “capacity to share,” adding that celebs never know where details of their private lives might end up. This is quite the irony, given Harry and Meghan’s self-professed obsession with privacy. It’s also a far cry from the open-arms welcome that they presumably expected would await them in Los Angeles after turning their backs on royal duties in 2020.

Many of the worst aspects of the couple’s priorities were apparent during their 2018 wedding. It was a lavish affair that came with a $37 million price tag, a diamond tiara, a $471,000 electric Jaguar, a Givenchy wedding gown and a bridesmaids’ fitting that may or may not have seen the Duchess of Cambridge reduced to tears. Meghan described the day as a “spectacle for the world,” as though she had no choice in the matter. Never mind that Harry’s cousin, Princess Beatrice, quietly wed her husband in a private service in Windsor two years later; so privately in fact that they had to announce to the world that it had even happened.

In hindsight it is now clear that the Sussexes’ wedding was part of Meghan’s plan to make it in Hollywood. Stars such as Elton John, the Beckhams, Serena Williams, George Clooney, Idris Elba, Priyanka Chopra and, of course, Oprah Winfrey lined the pews. A gathering of the closest friends of the bride and groom? Well, not quite. One guest that attended the ceremony told me that nobody there knew each other. “It was a show: part of me thinks she Googled who would make her look popular and shipped them over for the day.”

The British journalist Rachel Johnson (sister of Boris) tells a story that was doing the rounds in the weeks after the wedding. While Carolyn Bartholomew, Diana’s former roommate, was waiting for the wedding service to start, she turned to the couple alongside her and asked how they knew Harry or Meghan. “We don’t,” replied the Clooneys. Perhaps it’s a cruel rumor, but it illustrates a feature of their attempt at stardom: they can command the attendance of global VIPs but they can’t command their friendship.

Just two years after the wedding, the Sussexes stepped down as working royals, citing their need to “take a step forward into…a more peaceful life.” After the decision was finalized, it was widely believed that Meghan had won. She would reap the rewards of her blue-blooded marriage — but would no longer be tied down by the archaic rituals of British royalty and could instead begin a Hollywood dynasty of her own founded on a quest for social justice. But with every step she takes, Meghan’s ascent looks less and less certain. If recent months have shown us anything, it’s that she hasn’t won anything at all. And that she vastly underestimated how fickle Hollywood is, mistaking five minutes of fame for lifelong relevance. You can’t just take a mid-budget TV actress and a mid-ranking royal and use their considerable bank balance to buy Hollywood status. (Read more.)

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