The new Netflix series Harry & Meghan has divided audiences and critics.
While some have pegged the series as woke whining, others have enjoyed the documentary as a touching portrait of a young couple trying to make love work in the midst of a media firestorm.
One of the main focuses of the series is the role of the mainstream and tabloid media in fueling drama and hounding celebrities and the royal family.
Harry, in particular, eventually decides to split off from his royal role in 2020 because he simply will not tolerate the media’s negative and sensational obsession with his wife.
Here’s why Harry will do anything to protect Meghan from the media.
Harry has seen the media at its worst
Growing up as the younger son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Harry saw the media at its worst.
He remembers being hounded by the press everywhere he went with his family, and watching his mother go into deep depression and isolation as a result of being followed by a relentless and heartless press.
Watching Diana telling the press to get away from her young kids brings back memories to Harry, as he recalls also being told by his dad that fighting the media is hopeless.
He was told growing up that the press was just a part of being a well-known public figure.
The way to deal with the tabloids and reporters was to say nothing and have as little expression on your face as possible.
Eventually, the story of Harry’s mother Diana ended very tragically. Followed relentlessly after her divorce from Charles, Diana eventually perished in Paris being chased by paparazzi.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Harry regards the media gossip-mongers as murderers, and his anger at the media and their desire to sensationalize everything is palpable throughout the Harry & Meghan documentary.
Harry is especially angry at the royal rota system, where a series of papers and tabloids are given special access to the royal family.
In his mind, the royal family is basically the props of the media to play around with and follow at all times. Harry’s clashes with the media as a teen and his eventual departure to Lesotho and to focus on the military mostly away from reporters and tabloid paparazzi was, at least in part, fueled by a desire to live his own life and not just be a dancing monkey for the rumor mill.
Meghan’s media-fueled meltdown
American actress and activist Meghan Markle saw the media at its worst as well.
Despite enjoying a successful career as a TV star on Suits, Markle soon came to be the obsessive focus of the British and US tabloid market.
Any potential, no matter how small, for a rift between her and the royal family, was exploited to full effect.
Her relative Samantha Markle was tapped as a bitter family member in order to fuel inaccurate and hurtful rumors about Meghan being a fake and vindictive person who didn’t appreciate her family.
Meghan’s own father Thomas Markle accepted payouts from the media to publicly humiliate her and come across as a clueless dolt from a family of idiots.
Meghan’s biracial background as an African American was also touched on in clearly racial ways by much of the media, including lies that she came from the gang-ridden neighborhood of Compton.
Constant, vicious racist language about her “diluting” the royal blood or somehow sullying the royal tradition were bandied about from coast to coast.
This kind of sick and relentless hounding took its toll.
Following the birth of young Archie, Meghan was even attacked for not having given birth to him at the traditional hospital in Lindo where most royals pose for the photograph after with the newborn.
Doing things differently and not being able to pose at that hospital due to the difficulty of setting up a security perimeter, subjected Meghan to yet more media abuse.
She and Harry were then relentlessly criticized for not immediately showing off Archie to the press and were treated as some kind of house pets whose job was to immediately open their private life and first moments as a young family to the public eye.
Meghan was struggling. She was struggling deeply with depression and the pressure of the media.
Despite having done her best to fit into the royal family, respect their traditions and be a faithful media figure as expected, she seemed to have fallen short in every regard.
Meghan reaches the breaking point…
Meghan’s depression became more and more serious as she dealt with media pressure and the seemingly endless negative obsession with her every move.
She eventually opened up to Harry that she was contemplating suicide. As Meghan’s mom notes, when Meghan told her this it was extremely painful to hear, as it would be for any parent.
Meghan says that she was not allowed to access mental health services and counseling because the royal family was afraid it would leak and make them look bad.
She suffered in silence, getting worse and worse and feeling locked in a prison, alone.
Hearing Meghan’s story is truly disturbing, and although some dismiss her as a spoiled brat, there is nothing funny or trivial about suicidal depression and reaching the point of truly wondering whether not being alive may be the solution to your problems.
The media’s indisputable role in bringing Meghan to that point is extremely disturbing to contemplate.
Harry’s heartbroken response
One of those who was considering the media’s role was, of course, Harry.
In Harry & Meghan, the former duke admits that he did not deal with her depression well.
He was trying to navigate his royal role and his husband’s role and he admits that he allowed her worsening depression to be pushed to the side.
Looking back, he said he deeply regrets this refusal to completely engage with the crisis and love his wife first and before everything else.
Harry was never very comfortable with the media and watched the paparazzi chase his mother to death. He fought with them as a teen, as mentioned.
Yet he also remained devoted to his royal role and was a loyal British soldier who’d taken an oath to the crown.
Being raised in a certain environment and being asked to stand up to it in some sense for the good of your spouse is no easy matter. Prince Charles himself failed to do so.
Harry failed to do so as well. At first. But then he came around and felt compelled to face the problem head-on and save his wife’s life.
Picking up the pieces
The decision to split from their royal duties came as a dramatic and tragic choice for Harry and Meghan.
But as he says repeatedly in the documentary, Meghan and he made the decision to part ways with royalty because that was what was necessary to protect their family.
As we see Meghan acquainting young Archie with a photo of auntie Diana on the wall, the circle is completed.
This young family wants to avoid the tragedy that befell Diana.
They want to raise Archie in peace, prompting the move to California and the tell-all series on Netflix.
Harry and Meghan have made it clear that their own family unit means more to them than sacrificing Meghan’s mental health the media.
You can also see their concern in protecting young Archie and making sure he doesn’t become a media fixation as well.
Harry will do anything to protect Meghan from the media for a very simple reason:
He believes the media destroyed his mom’s mental health and ultimately killed her. He also believes the media contributed to the collapse of his parents’ marriage.
Although Harry clearly doesn’t believe all journalists are bad or that all media coverage is suspect, he is a private guy.
He doesn’t like or want media coverage of everything in his private life.
By opening up he and Meghan’s life to a certain extent in the documentary, he’s offering a view that is designed to satisfy audiences and ultimately say: can we please get some peace.
Although others have pointed to the series as hypocrisy (if he wants to be left alone why shoot a series?) the logic is clear…
By telling he and Meghan’s side and opening up to the media on he and Meghan’s terms, Harry hopes to close this chapter of hyper-focus on his public image and be able to focus on being a dad and looking after his wife and kid.
Refusing to play the royal role
Refusing to play the royal role can’t be easy for Harry. He doesn’t consider it a joking matter, nor has it helped him become more famous or rich.
Harry and Meghan were already famous. They were already rich. They were already subject to media attention.
By cutting themselves out of the royal role, however, the duo hope to avoid the worst of the rumor mill and escape the fate that befell his mom.
Part of this is escaping the royal rota, or press with inner access to the royals. These have been a plague on Harry’s life since a young age.
The royal rota press pool is chosen from the wider media and is given inner access to the royals, often getting to follow them and shadow them as they go about their lives, even on vacation.
Other unauthorized paparazzi’s or “paps” as Harry calls them, often show up too, jumping out of bushes and ambushing the most intimate family moments.
As Harry notes, from the youngest age the press lied to him.
One of their most common lies to he and his family was that if he just let some photos be taken they would go away and leave them in peace.
However when Harry or his family agreed to this “deal” inevitably some of the press members would renege on the deal, continuing to shadow them and hoping to get even more candid or potentially embarrassing or scandalous shots when the Windsors and royals weren’t expecting it.
This kind of sickening attitude is what turned Harry against most of the press and what he saw happening to he and Meghan.
Harry’s advice he received from his dad that you have to tolerate the media and can’t really fight them is something he’s choosing to challenge.
As a soldier and a strong-willed man, Harry is absolutely committed to doing everything he can to give his wife and kid space to grow and develop outside the angry lens of the paparazzi.
Can anyone blame him for that?
There’s plenty of criticism to go around, which Harry clearly acknowledges. But as he says, this isn’t about what you or I think of him: this is about what he feels he must do to have a happy and healthy family.
Ultimately this is a strong sign of leadership and masculinity from Harry. He’s putting the good of his loved ones ahead of the role that the public and media expects of him.
Mission: Protect Meghan at all costs
None of us can protect our loved ones from everything that comes their way.
There are plenty of tragedies, struggles and health problems that happen to each of us and nobody else can prevent them.
But we do have the power to do what’s in our control to stop certain threats and harms from occurring to those we love.
That’s what Harry is doing in this case and frankly it’s admirable.
Say what you will, he is putting his foot down and stopping a vulturous and greedy tabloid press from feeding off what was almost the carcass of his beautiful young wife.
He doesn’t want to see his family play a royal role or live up to tradition at the expense of their own physical and mental health.
Moving to California and living their own lives is Harry and Meghan’s way of putting themselves first and being empowered.
The fact that they are doing so as a family just makes it all the more powerful.