Meghan’s critics and defenders are both wrong

6 March 2021

1:09 AM

6 March 2021

1:09 AM

When it comes to Harry and Meghan, is it time for everyone to take a collective deep breath? With the build-up to the ‘tell-all’ Oprah interview and the recent disclosure of bullying allegations, it feels like hysteria around the couple is at fever pitch. In the war of the Waleses, is there room for a middle ground?

The more vicious Meghan Markle’s critics are, the more her supporters portray her as an almost Christ-like figure. Her detractors then become irritated by the virtue-signalling, her defenders cite racism and sexism, and the vicious circle continues. Every action just seems to entrench each side’s position until there is no room for manoeuvre.

Meghan has been called ‘dictatorial’, a ‘halo-cracked hypocrite’ with a ‘poor me attitude and royal paranoia,’ a ‘boastful new mum,’ a ‘victim’ of racist attacks and ‘a calculated smear campaign’, ‘a scapegoat for misogyny’, a powerhouse who could have ‘modernised the monarchy’, and just about everything in between. She has become one of two equally unrealistic caricatures depending on which ‘side’ you are on. Perhaps she is just something in the middle.

Granted, it is hard to reconcile some of Meghan and Harry’s statements about climate change and their desire to lead a private life with some of their decisions. Their desire to control the narrative, or stop the ‘perpetuated falsehoods,’ often backfires. The Oprah interview may well be an opportunity for them to speak their ‘truth’, but it’s also a PR move that may well only add fuel to the idea they are ‘spoilt and self-centered’ or seeking the spotlight.

When discussing Meghan – or indeed anything at all – there needs to be room for duality, ambiguity and complexity. It is possible that Meghan was both badly treated and also treated people badly. It is possible that Meghan is not a ‘narcissistic showman’ nor a ‘perfect charmer’ but is, like most people, somewhere in the middle. It is possible that the whole situation has become so incredibly emotive, sensationalised and skewed that we are perhaps not even arguing about Meghan anymore.

In many ways, the discussion around Meghan is so binary because it incorporates lots of other polarised viewpoints and conflicts. When people talk about Meghan, they are also talking about other difficult, nuanced, and sadly, often divisive themes: racism, feminism, tradition versus modernity, duty versus individualism, royalism versus republicanism, motherhood, rights to privacy whilst being a public figure, mental health and much more.

When people give their opinions on Meghan, they are often really giving their opinions on all these other things. The sheer intensity of the obsession with either vilifying or valorising her suggests that we are not losing our minds about Meghan, but about something much, much deeper. Perhaps the reason why stories around Meghan are such guaranteed clickbait is because they are a battleground for so many other raging culture wars, so many other social disagreements which so easily provoke people into liking, commenting, sharing.

Yet if we take a moment to step back and try and distance ourselves from the media circus, then we might just be able to truly appreciate how deeply sad the situation actually is. Regardless of how one feels personally about Meghan, we have a pregnant woman who has recently suffered a miscarriage having all kinds of vitriol slung at her. We have an ostracised son who is clearly deeply affected by what happened to his mother. We have a grandfather ill in hospital days before a potentially explosive interview. And we have a potentially irreparable rift between two brothers. We can dissect the reasons how we got here, but this is the result: a broken family, and we have all been complicit in their demise.

Maybe one day we will reach saturation point, but I doubt the focus on Meghan is going to shift elsewhere anytime soon. In the meantime, we can only hope that the discussion about Megxit and the fallout calms down. Princess Diana once said ‘the greatest problem in the world today is intolerance. Everyone is so intolerant of each other’. How little has changed.

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