I didn’t plan to watch it. I just happened to switch on my TV as it was starting. And the channel my TV was already tuned to just happened to be the one that bought the Australian rights to it. If there’d been anything important happening on another channel (MasterChef, Anh’s Brush with Fame, Married at First Sight) I would have scrolled away immediately. But I’d seen the trailers, and while I doubted this nothing’s-off-limits exclusive would tell me anything I didn’t already know, the prospect of seeing the whole sad saga revisited by the young woman at its centre had a powerful tabloid allure.
And I was immediately hooked. Not just because she is, by any measure, a beautiful young woman (although those sloe-dark eyes, silky raven hair, flawless complexion and perfect ski-jump nose are what the high-def close-up was invented for). But because her truth-telling was even more disarming. Her dispassionate descriptions of the degrading treatment she’d been subjected to. The embarrassed self-deprecation in her acknowledgement that there were times when she’d felt suicidal. Yes, you could say she played the victim card. But she made it clear she was the victim of a system, not an individual; her reluctance to name names implying that even now she doesn’t feel entirely safe. And while her interlocutor never asked questions to which we didn’t already know the answers, those answers never sounded rehearsed. At no point did I feel that this articulate, intelligent young woman was bidding for our sympathy. Indeed at times she looked as if she regretted even agreeing to be interviewed. Bottom line is that when I picked up the remote that evening I knew no more about what goes on inside an Iranian women’s prison than I know about what goes on inside a Mongolian yurt. But I do not doubt the veracity of a single word that came out of Dr Kylie Moore Gilbert’s mouth in the course of that excellent Sky News special.
I still haven’t seen Channel 10’s much higher rating Harry and Meghan Oprah interview, but I’m told that at one point the not-so-royal ranga said his biggest fear is history repeating itself. From which we can infer either that his wife is in the earliest – and ergo photographically unverifiable – stages of an eating disorder, or that he is worried the chauffeur who takes them to meetings with network heads will turn up for work arseholed one day and drive them off a Malibu cliff. Tragic though that would be, it would at least allow their exile to be accessorised with what will extend the shelf life of any international news story; a decent conspiracy theory. And it would be hard to top the one spawned by the death of Harry’s mum which fingered senior members of the Tory establishment determined to prevent an heir to the throne having a Muslim stepfather. Fortunately, there is a rationale for the current royal rupture which depends on the continued health and prosperity of all involved and is predicated on two very credible premises. One, that European royalty has seen off more foreigner threats with weddings than with warfare. And two, that ever since the PR crisis caused by their reaction to Diana’s demise, everything done by every member of ‘the Firm’ has been part of a survival stratagem. Once you accept this, everything makes sense. Far from being an unwelcome bolt out of the blue, for example, Harry’s decision to marry an American of colour was in fact pre-planned by Buckingham Palace, which, should Meghan have turned him down, also had a list of alternative candidates which included Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Queen Latifa and both the Williams sisters. Similarly, far from ‘doing a Yoko’ by alienating them from the British public, the decision of the Sussexes to relocate to the US has allowed them to establish a US bridgehead which will help to shore up a Special Relationship that was sorely tested by an icily indifferent Barack Obama and the toe-curling vulgarity of his successor. And as for the deals Harry and Meghan are alleged to have struck with those networks, far from being a betrayal of the tradition of dignified silence which endeared his grandmother to millions of Brits, such arrangements will in time extend the franchise to a great many more millions of Americans, and in doing so generate an income which will absolve the British taxpayer of the need to support them. The only arrangement which might have produced a more financially and televisually satisfying result would have been an alliance between the House of Windsor and the Crib of Kardashian.
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