A Royal Mess: An American’s Thoughts on Meghan, Harry, Oprah, and the Queen, Part 1

This is Part 1of a series of posts on Harry and Meghan. Here’s Part 2 and Part 3 and Part 4 and  Part 5.

A few years ago, I developed a problem with insomnia. I would go for days with just a couple of hours of sleep in my tank. It’s getting better now that certain life transitions have finished, but I still do wake up at 2am from time to time. My classic way of handling sleepless nights is to get some water, open the window a crack, and start reading the gossip blogs on my phone — much better than opening my email and dealing with editor requests.

These gossip blogs aren’t the usual mainstream Hollywood websites and news sources, like People or ET. Most of the stuff there is just rewritten press releases from a celebrity’s communications professionals. I typically start at the blind gossip websites, where they have a disclaimer at the bottom saying that they are “entertainment,” which saves them from lawsuits. The game is that they leave out the names of the item of gossip, commenters have to guess who it is, and then a few months later they might reveal who the celebrity actually is.

Now, you might scoff and say that websites with no editors or accountability are a highly questionable source of information. Yes, they are. And one should be fairly skeptical about their posts, but at the same time, they were onto Harvey Weinstein long, long before the New York Times and other MSM articles. The blogger at Crazy Days and Nights, an entertainment lawyer (here’s his twitter address), has exposed Weinstein, Spacey, and a whole bunch of other Hollywood sleeze bags – many of whom are still under the radar of the press and law enforcement. Sometimes things get a sloppy at that website though, so then I turn to Blind Gossip, which is less prolific, but has fewer spelling errors.

Those websites and Netflix’s The Crown got me hooked on royal family gossip. Those two blind gossip websites have nothing good to say about Meghan since her engagement to Harry. Typically, if I’m still awake, I follow up with Lainey’s gossip to get Meghan’s side and The Daily Mail to get the crazy side (more on this in a minute).

DISCLAIMER: Before I get accused of being a Karen for picking on poor Meghan, let me just say that I’m not on Team Sussex or Team Queen. Honestly, I don’t care about any of them, other than for the pure gossip of it all. I was never the girl who had the shoebox of pictures of Princess Di (a friend of mine showed up to college with that). I do have a problem that we have two of them here in our country, who still insist on calling themselves Duke and Duchess. But beyond that, I’m here purely for the “OMG, rich people destroying themselves” drama. And also as someone who used to teach Media Politics. If I was still teaching that class, there would be a section on Harry and Meghan.

Before we start dishing the actual dirt on H and M, let’s talk about the peculiar relationship between the Queen and the public in England. In our country, our president is both the head of state ( the living symbol of the country, like the eagle or a flag) and the head of government (the head of executive branch, who actually does shit). In England, that job is divided up between the Queen (head of state) and the Prime Minister (head of government). As head of state, the Queen’s job is to be an apolitical figurehead who is trotted out for various functions in return for a generous subsidy from taxpayers, some extremely nice castles, and obsequious bowing and saluting. Most importantly, she gets to keep centuries of ill gotten gains from her ancestors.

Another part of this Faustian bargain is that people and their press own her. The Queen and her whole family belong to the people, and the English people get to salute her or spit on her, whenever the mood hits them. Now, I am not entirely sure that I would be happy to deal with that level of scrutiny, but I might in exchange for some fancy castles and clothes. Shrug. It beats working for a living, I suppose. (I’ve blogged about this before.)

Last year, a Buzzfeed article said that the British press was racist, because it picked on Meghan and loved Kate. Yeah, no. I might agree with the claim that women in the Royal family get more scrutiny – both positive and negative – and so it’s rather sexist, but the press has certainly put Kate Middleton and Camilla Parker-Bowles through the wringer as well.

This is a very, very small sample of negative and/or outrageous coverage of Kate and Camilla: they posted pictures of Kate’s boobs. Camilla fights with the Queen. Kate wears too much black eyeliner. Kate spends too much money on clothes. Kate’s fingers aren’t the same length. Something is wrong with her toes, too. Sometimes, they pick on the dudes, too. William is a day drinker (good man). And a lot of the coverage of Meghan was boiler-plate, tabloid gushing about her looks and clothes. (I’ll add more links later.)

There’s no doubt that Meghan received a lot of press – both positive and negative – because of this weird relationship that the royals have with the people and the press. She may have been unprepared for that and annoyed that she didn’t have enough control over her own narrative. She said that’s why she wanted to leave. If that’s true, then leave she must. Nobody on the English side has a problem with someone saying that they can’t deal with the press, so they are stepping away from the Head of State jobs.

Yet, it’s hard to truly believe that Harry and Meghan were really that bothered with the press, since they are doing a lot of press now. They employed a Hollywood-based PR company to make sure that everyday there’s something in the news about them. They’re doing Oprah and gushing about how good it is to talk to her. In fact, she seems to think that the problem in England is that she couldn’t talk to the press. So, I’m confused.

But what really caused the problem with the Queen is that Meghan wanted the “goodies” of being Head of State, or at least a lesser branch of the Head of State — the titles, castles, vacations, crowns, tv shows, carriages, designer dresses, servants, staff — without the unwritten exchange between royals and the people. Again, the unwritten contract is in exchange for the pomp and money, a royal person must deal with press scrutiny, can’t accept gifts or independently earn a living, can’t turn their office into a brand, and must cut a lot of ribbons outside supermarkets in Wales. According to the gossip blogs, Meghan didn’t want the press coverage or the ribbon cutting. She wanted the brand and free designer dresses. She wanted to be Michelle Obama. And that’s where things went south.

(more later.)

8 thoughts on “A Royal Mess: An American’s Thoughts on Meghan, Harry, Oprah, and the Queen, Part 1

  1. Any cases where the blind gossip was simply wrong? Or does one never find that out? It is after all, kind of hard to prove something untrue.

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    1. Good question. Mainly, the non-proven stuff gets forgotten. There are some who keep track of it, but mostly, the focus is on the fun of guessing.

      But, two things.

      First, I have been following the entertainment gossip for a long time, as far back as alt.tv.gossip (RIP Steve Gilliard). I don’t know if people know this, but Matt Drudge started on alt.tv.gossip. He would post about how much he loved the movie Babe, and Steve would mock him. (Seriously, the one thing Drudge and I have in common is that we love Babe.) Of course, he also posted celebrity gossip. He’s also known for scoop on Clinton-Lewinsky, and I’ve always wondered he was being fed stories by conservatives. When Enty (Crazy Days and Nights) came on the scene, he became popular quickly. He had a few obvious grudges (*cough*JLo*) but he seemed to have scoops. But now it’s believed that his popularity led to him farming out some/most of the gossip. You can see that sometimes the blind items are written effectively and/or grammatically, and some aren’t. It’s obviously different people, and the blind items often seem to align with the Daily Mail’s celebrity news page.

      Enty did have the scoop on Weinstein, Spacey, Ratner, Singer, and Dan Schneider of Nickolodeon. He also had blind items about “difficult” actresses. I seem to remember that some of those “difficult” actresses are now known as Weinstein accusers. Was Weinstein using gossip to tank the careers of women who rebuffed him? Whatever the case, it does seem clear that the more a gossip site becomes popular, the more it will be used by people for political purposes and personal grudges. Ever since the Weinstein stuff, I have been second-guessing every bit of gossip about difficult actresses.

      That leads me to…

      Second, A few years ago, CDAN started posting a LOT of blinds about pedophilia in Hollywood. A LOT. Mainly about groups of men getting together to drool over prepubescent girls “auditioning.” It was horrifying. Commenters used to wonder why Enty wasn’t reporting this level of criminality to law enforcement instead of making it fodder for entertainment.

      And then came QAnon. And it all made sense. Was this part of a strategy to prepare people to be open to the idea of massive pedophilia rings associated with Hollywood and thus also to Democratic politicians? You really have to wonder.

      My current status right now is that I enjoy CDAN but I always take everything with a grain of salt, especially if it’s gossip that makes people disgusted or angry. The Meghan stuff? I just don’t know. Right now I prefer to think of her marriage to a British royal as a positive development in society.

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      1. “Ever since the Weinstein stuff, I have been second-guessing every bit of gossip about difficult actresses.”

        Oooooh!

        I was totally willing to be happy for H&M. She’s so pretty! She’s kinda black! She’s American! Oprah went to her wedding! It could have been such a good thing for US/British relations, but it somehow all that goodwill and those positive feelings got frittered away.

        When Meghan started having tabloid trouble, I was initially willing to attribute it to the Brits being mean to a foreigner, but as the evidence has accumulated, it has looked more and more like H & M want to take take take as opposed to serving, and they want to have their cake and eat it with a lot of stuff. They want to be private and in the public eye, they want to avoid the press but also be in the press, they want to be royalty but without having to do the grinding day job stuff that entails. At some point, I want to say GROW UP. She’s 39 and he’s 36 and they have a kid–it’s time to understand that adulthood involves making choices and paying for the price for your choices. Also, she was a grown career woman when she got into this. On the one hand, it means that she’s enjoyed a lot of adult freedoms already, which can be hard to give up, but on the other hand, it’s not like she was a 20-year-old bride like Princess Di.

        By the way, here’s how I think they should have played this. I understand finding UK society incredibly stuffy, but couldn’t they have done pretty well as roving goodwill ambassadors to the British Commonwealth, the US and maybe even the British military? They could have been basically on vacation all the time on the national dime (safaris! kangaroos! winters in the Caribbean!) and enjoyed a lot of freedom overseas, while producing a lot of goodwill and positive vibes for the UK via meet-and-greets and (well-photographed!) public service. I feel that there was a missed opportunity.

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      2. I think the media/influencer deal is going to work out just fine for them. I don’t know how 112 million dollar deals work, in how much of that money actually comes to them, but I hope they can live on that kind of money.

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      3. ” At some point, I want to say GROW UP. She’s 39 and he’s 36 and they have a kid–it’s time to understand that adulthood involves making choices and paying for the price for your choices”

        Seems like exactly what they are doing, except that not everyone likes some of their choices. Paying for your choices doesn’t mean you can’t complain about how your treated if people want to listen to you.

        I think, potentially, the brand might be damaged by an actual video of meghan screaming at a less powerful underling, but otherwise, I think there are people who want to see pictures of the two of them and their family and hear about them.

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  2. And what’s the deal with Peirs Morgan?

    I like british royalty for the clothes (including the Queen. I think I might choose to dress like her, if I had to choose one royal to imitate).

    I also (though I know only at a novel level), like the stories of the british home front: “The children will not leave unless I do. I shall not leave unless their father does, and the King will not leave the country in any circumstances whatever,” the Queen’s mother. I think, without any rigor, that the war might have gone differently if the Brits had surrendered like the French and I admire them for their earnest defense of their island nation (even while I deplore the colonialism).

    I’m not a fan of the darker side of these stories, though, because ultimately, I see them as people with problems (Kate’s hyperemesis, for example, while she’s tasked with bearing the heirs to the throne, Meghan’s miscarriage, 14 year old Harry’s devastation at the loss of his mother, and to switch to others, the Kanye/Kim drama is, ultimately, very very sad, the Bezos break up, the Wiener/Akil break up, Spitzer/wife, Kellyanne and her daughter).

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  3. This is all why it’s much better to be obsessed with television. No real people with real problems behind the gossip.

    My favorite escape thing used to be to watch Buffy or Gilmore Girls or West Wing or Everwood or whatever, and then go to televisionwithoutpity (which turned into mightybigtv, or vice versa) and read the recappers and commenters’ takes on what was going on in the fictional world. It was especially good if you didn’t know anyone who watched your show and wanted to meditate on the virtues of Toby Ziegler or the latest dumb choice of (the writers for) Lorelai, or curse Greg Berlanti for making you cry again. In fact, there were some shows I followed by recap alone, just because they were so entertaining. Now, there are fewer weekly shows like that, at least that I want to watch, and though some of the recaps are good, it’s not the same community thing. I’ve never found any internet escapism to replace it.

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  4. I had to take my mom and dad out for a walk. I’m back now. Let me do another blog post before I wade into comments.

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