‘Harry and Meghan’ Review: Netflix Documentary Is Not a Doc at All

Harry and Meghan’ Review

The six-hour Netflix vanity project, starring and produced by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, is only effective at evoking sympathy for the central couple.

Early in the first hour of Netflix’s two-part, six-episode series “Harry & Meghan,” Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, asks a simple question that kicks off the chronological retelling of her history and romance with Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex.

“For the past six years of my life, books are written about our story by people who I don’t know,” she says. “Doesn’t it make more sense to hear our story from us?”

On the one hand, she has a point: The sensationalized, typically untrue coverage of Markle’s day-to-day activities by the British tabloids has created a false narrative around the former “Suits” star and her Royal husband. Stupefying statements online, in print, and on TV contribute to a “toxic” culture (as one of the series’ talking heads rightly calls it), and the couple feels trapped by each salacious headline. Being under such unscrupulous scrutiny would make anyone want to grab back the megaphone and out-shout the loudmouths making money off your lives, which is essentially what “Harry & Megan” does.

On the other hand, I can only imagine series director Liz Garbus — a two-time Oscar nominee who recently helmed another documentary series titled “The Fourth Estate” — had to bite her tongue after hearing Meghan’s rhetorical question. Here, sitting in front of her, is an actor, and an actor’s job is to tell other people’s stories, whether they’re fictional characters, inspired by real people, or based on historical figures. Shouldn’t an actor, then, be able to recognize the value of additional perspectives? Shouldn’t they look at a script, find the motivation for their character, and wonder why this person is doing what they’re doing? Isn’t this how we come to better understand people? To empathize with them? To wrestle with life’s complexity?

Certainly a documentarian can see the value in these questions. Setting aside the genre’s recent moral quandaries, as well as the inherent subjectivity in all attempts to report the truth, there’s still an established process in doing just that — and it does not typically involve the subjects of your documentary hiring you to tell their version of the story. Nor does it require rooting the narrative in a singular perspective that plays like an airing of grievances. No matter how many friends and family members agree to be interviewed — nodding along with the Duke and Duchess’ understandable complaints — and regardless of how infuriating each complaint proves to be, what you’re watching isn’t a documentary. It’s a diary entry. Diary entries can be helpful when they provide untold insights into their subjects, but “Harry & Meghan” is merely a long, redundant recap of two very public lives. And absent any challenging questions from outside the couple’s tidy little love bubble, it’s a dull one at that.

As an innocuous endeavor, at least “Harry & Meghan” reveals itself quickly, stating in the initial title cards that “this is a first-hand account of Harry & Meghan’s story,” before bouncing between recent interviews, news footage, and “never-before-seen personal archives” to recount their lives. And yes, the series does go all the way back to their childhoods. A good 15-20 minutes of the premiere is devoted to Princess Diana, Harry’s mother, with an emphasis on her frustrations with the press. There’s footage of the Princess of Wales sternly yet respectfully asking a photographer to give her family a bit of privacy, which serves as contrast to the subhuman attacks on Harry and Meghan’s personal life decades later (like when tabloids paid neighbors to put cameras in their backyards). It’s no surprise that Harry says, “It’s my job to uncover the exploitation and bribery within our media.”

Setting aside the nagging conflation of lumping British tabloids in with actual journalists (Episode 2 does lay out the differences), coverage of Meghan’s adolescence and upbringing circles around school photos, early ambitions, and her forays into advocacy, before zipping through her acting career. The first on-camera interviews with her mother, Doria, are as loving and protective of her daughter as one would hope. Her father does not take part, for reasons that become obvious in Episode 3 — and are already known to anyone who has kept up with the couple for years.

“Harry & Meghan” isn’t made with die-hard fans in mind. Few fresh revelations are given (at least, through the three episodes that Netflix dropped Thursday), and even fewer established opinions are challenged. When Meghan discusses meeting Harry over Instagram, she claims to have made her decision to date him based on the photos in his feed. “When people say, ‘Did you Google him?’” she says, “No! But that’s your homework: Let me see what they’re about in their feed — not what someone else says about them, but what they are putting out about themselves.”

Not only does this fit the series’ ethos overall a little too snugly — that other people are not to be trusted and the only way to know the truth is to hear it directly from the source — but it’s, quite frankly, unbelievable. Earlier, in a web interview taking place nearly a year before she meets Harry, Meghan is bluntly asked, “Prince William or Harry?” She doesn’t know the difference, and picks Harry off the top of her head. The couple later has a laugh over it, but is the audience really supposed to believe when a literal prince asked her on a date, she didn’t check anything other than his Instagram feed?

Such restraint would be superhuman, so even if it’s true, Meghan needs to be challenged in that moment. The interviewer (presumably Garbus) needs to push back and dig into what it feels like in that instant, when you’re holding your phone, believing the Duke of Sussex is on the other end, and he wants to take you to dinner. How else are we going to believe her? How else are we supposed to fully understand what it feels like for that to happen? It’s a fairy tale moment, but “Harry & Meghan” has no time for fairy tales. It’s on a mission to paint its pair as just another normal couple in love; as people you can relate to; as two humans who deserve to be treated humanely.

That they absolutely deserve such treatment isn’t in question, even before the series devotes nearly every minute to eviscerating the tabloids for their lack of decorum. But “Harry & Meghan” is too polished, too familiar, and, at its core, too unprincipled to be taken as anything more than a carefully calculated public relations piece. The six-part series only came about after the couple signed a multiyear deal with Netflix, and their production company, Archewell Productions, is one of three companies attached to “Harry & Meghan.” Much like recent vanity sports documentaries where the athlete under the spotlight can control what’s said about him, “Harry & Meghan” presents itself like any other authoritative documentary out to set the record straight. Only, it does not abide by what Ken Burns calls “good history.”

“If you are there influencing the very fact of it getting made, it means that certain aspects that you don’t necessarily want in aren’t going to be in, period,” Burns said about Michael Jordan’s “The Last Dance” docuseries when it was released in 2020. “That’s not the way you do good journalism […] and it’s certainly not the way you do good history, [which is] my business.”

More and more people are turning to streaming “documentaries” to better understand trending topics or past events. From true crime to sports to life stories, these shows and movies are shaping how people see the world, and if viewers continue to commingle hagiographies with biographies and documentaries with diary entries, the truth is going to be lost somewhere in between. After all, if these well-watched vanity projects continue to proliferate, their one-sided views could become our popular historical documents. One would think that a couple who’s been so wronged by reporting done in its own self-interest wouldn’t want to contribute to its escalation, but we may have already entered an era where no one can tell the difference.

Meghan’s brother reacts to Harry’s ‘no father’ Netflix doc remark

Meghan Markle’s half-brother Thomas Markle Jr has reacted to Prince Harry saying that she ‘doesn’t have a father’, describing the remark as ‘horrible’.

This week, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex released the first volume of their bombshell Netflix documentary, revealing on the series the first messages they exchanged when they started dating and opening up on the ‘racism’ Meghan suffered from the press.

At one point, Harry, 38, spoke about the breakdown of the relationship between Meghan, 41, and her father Thomas Markle Sr, 78, with the pair now being estranged.

‘Of course, it’s incredibly sad what happened,’ Harry said to the camera. ‘She had a father before this, and now she doesn’t have a father.’

The duke continued: ‘And I shouldered that. If Meg wasn’t with me, then her dad would still be her dad.’

It previously emerged that Markle Sr, who used to work as a lighting director, accepted payments from the paparazzi to stage photos before the royal wedding in 2018.

During an appearance on Piers Morgan Uncensored, Markle Jr, 56, expressed his opinion on Harry’s statement about Meghan ‘not having a father’.

‘I think it’s horrible. The documentary is so far off on so many different levels. So many, it’s just, it’s really a little bit disturbing,’ he said to Piers Morgan, who’s a vocal critic of Meghan and Harry.

‘Saying that, you know, she doesn’t have a family and she doesn’t have a father and then Harry saying that, you know, she has no father now – that’s just ridiculous.’

When the reports first came out of Markle Sr staging paparazzi pictures, Meghan said that her father initially denied doing so when she asked him about it on the phone.

Meghan said that she didn’t believe her father, and claimed that she only found out he wouldn’t be attending her wedding through a report..

A message apparently sent by Meghan to her father read: ‘Please can I ask that you stop talking to any press… you haven’t returned any of our 20+ calls since we all spoke on Saturday morning; which only adds to the hurt you’ve been causing. We aren’t angry but we do really need to speak to u. Love M and H.’

Speaking on the documentary, Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland said: ‘I was absolutely stunned that Tom would become part of this circus.

‘I felt sad that the media would run with this. That he would capitalise. Certainly as a parent, that’s not what you do. That’s not parenting.’

Prince Harry On Why He Feels Guilty About Meghan Markle’s Relationship With Her Dad

Prince Harry shared why he “shouldered” the blame for Meghan Markle’s estranged relationship with her father, Thomas Markle, in the third episode of their new Netflix series, “Harry & Meghan,” which premiered on Thursday.

“It’s incredibly sad what happened; she had a father before this and now she doesn’t have a father,” the Duke of Sussex said. “And I shouldered that because if Meg wasn’t with me, then her dad would still be her dad.”

Harry and Meghan discussed her rocky relationship with her father — and the drama leading up to her wedding day with Harry in 2018 — in the episode.

Thomas Markle, who said he had a heart attack days before the wedding, did not actually attend the ceremony. He has since given several interviews about Harry and Meghan to the press.

During the episode, Meghan also said that she and Harry had called her father before their wedding to ask him if he was staging photos for the press and that he had denied it.

Meghan said that she told Harry after they got off the phone with her father that she didn’t believe him.

“And I’m finding out that you’re not coming to our wedding, through a tabloid!” she said later in the episode after sharing that she had repeatedly called her father, to no avail.

Duke of Sussex fears he blocked out memories of Princess Diana

The Duke of Sussex fears he has blocked out memories of his mum.

Prince Harry, 38, said on his new Netflix show that even though he recalls his childhood being “filled with laughter, filled with happiness and filled with adventure”, he has hardly any early recollections of Princess Diana.

He said: “I don’t have many early memories of my mum. It was almost like internally I’ve blocked them out. But I always remember her laugh, her cheeky laugh.

“And she always said to me, ‘If you get into trouble just don’t get caught.’ And I’ll always be that cheeky person inside.”

Harry frequently refers to Diana, killed aged 36 in a 1997 Paris car crash, in the first three episodes of his Netflix show, released at 8am on Thursday. (08.11.22)

He added on the series the late royal is “so similar” to his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, 41.

Harry said: “So much of who Meghan is, is so similar to my mum.

“She has the same compassion, empathy and confidence – she has this warmth about her.”

He also spoke of his private grief for his mum, saying he mourned Diana’s passing on his own and was forced to be “stoic” in public after her death when he was aged 12.

The ‘Harry and Meghan’ show also features the Sussexes’ son Archie, three, cooing over a photo of his late grandmother Diana.

A scene shown in the opening episode of the series also shows the youngster’s mum pointing to a picture of Diana on the wall of their mansion in California and telling him: “That’s grandma Diana.”

The Duke added he was left fearing history would repeat itself with his wife as he was “scared of Meghan getting driven away by the press”.

“Harry & Meghan” Part 1 premiered Thursday, December 8 on Netflix. Part 2 will premiere December 15.

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Mark Boardman
Mark Boardman
Mark Boardman is an established showbiz journalist and freelance copywriter whose work has been published in Business Insider, Daily Mail, Bloomberg, MTV, Buzzfeed and The New York Post amongst other press. Often spotted on the red carpet at celebrity events and film screenings, Mark is a regular guest on BBC Radio London and in-demand for his opinions for media outlets including Newsweek. His TV credits include This Morning, The One Show and T4. Email Mark@MarkMeets.com

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