The Oprah interview revealed an abysmal double standard, writes Diana Wichtel. 'In the parallel universe occupied by royalty, Prince Andrew's association with Jeffrey Epstein - and the grotesque interview he did about it - draws less fire than Meghan gets for allegedly bullying staff or even eating an avocado.'
Despite all that the world has on its plate right now – or because of it – there's always room for sitting in judgment from the comfort of your sofa on the latest celebrity divorce. This time it's the Sussexes in exile ("Megxile") vs the House of Windsor, as played out in Harry and Meghan's take-no-prisoners interview with American royalty: Oprah.
So now everyone is an expert (Megxpert?) on whether Meghan made Kate cry or vice versa. Even civilians who turn their noses up at this imperial carnival of discontent felt the need to post their status regarding it - "Who cares? I'm not watching" - on social media.
You don't get an interview with Oprah without bringing the goods. Cue a discussion that canvassed the Firm's record on handling the tabloids (pathetic), Palace workplace health and safety (you're on your own) and racism (oh, dear lord). Meghan revealed a conversation Harry reported, where the skin colour of their future child was raised as an issue by someone in the family. To which a gobsmacked Oprah replied, "What?!" The other question – who?! – was left hanging. Oprah later revealed what Harry told her afterwards: it wasn't the Queen or Prince Philip. Even at this tragic stage, he obviously felt some damage control was in order.
It all seemed carefully curated and yet bizarre. Meghan and Oprah sat regally at the estate of a friend. Cut to Meghan, Harry and Oprah, dressed to impersonate normal people, crammed into Harry and Meghan's chicken coop. Perhaps it was a visual metaphor. Harry spoke about feeling trapped by life in the Firm, an institution that was revealed to have a vicious pecking order and has certainly seen its share of headless chookery.
What became clear is an abysmal double standard. In the parallel universe occupied by royalty, Prince Andrew's association with Jeffrey Epstein - and the grotesque interview he did about it - draws less fire than Meghan gets for allegedly bullying staff or even eating an avocado. She said to Oprah, "It was all happening because I was breathing." After the interview, Mike Hosking called her a "shallow, self-absorbed, attention-seeking, woke, bandwagon-riding hussy." Hussy. He – and, in the UK, Piers Morgan – seemed set on making the point.
Why does this matter? It's happening at a time when there's a focus on what women have to put up with. The murder in Kent of Sarah Everard – a London police officer has been charged – is highlighting the accommodations women have to make every day to try to stay alive.
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Then there's the fretting, mostly by men of a certain age, over the future of democracy because Jacinda Ardern cancelled her weekly slot – not all interviews – with Hosking. The implication is that she can't take the heat. Have they seen her recent interview with The Hui's Mihingarangi Forbes? Tough as guts, conducted like adults. Others - mostly women who hear differently the name-calling male politicians seldom seem to attract – "Queen Cindy", etc – have stood up for a woman's right to say, "No, thanks." Hosking has continued to rage weirdly about Ardern, so democracy seems safe.
Will the interview change anything? It has already produced one extraordinary scene. Prince William, leaving an engagement, looking, behind his mask, to be steadily fuming, took a question from the press. "Can you just tell me," piped a reporter, with the archaic courtesy the monarchy can still command, "is the royal family a racist family, Sir?" Blimey. "No, we are very much not a racist family," William said. He knew this was a question that now needed to be addressed, however inadequately. That's something.
Post-Oprah, some commentators accused Meghan of acting. Unlike, presumably, the rest of the royal family. The British monarchy Meghan is now a part of, with its pomp and theatricality, some of it unchanged for 1200 years, is the longest-running period pageant on Earth. The royals exist to play their role. As heir to Princess Diana, who edited the script a bit when she promised during her own "bombshell" interview, "She won't go quietly," Harry and his wife are playing theirs.