Last Sunday, Oprah Winfrey’s highly anticipated interview with ex-Royals, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry sent shock waves through the hearts of Britain and across the pond. The conversation illuminated several urgent issues faced by the couple over the course of their relationship, including press harassment, smear campaigns and suffering mental health. Eerily echoing the words of Princess Diana in her bombshell 1995 interview.
Despite the couple’s account of affliction and concerning allegations of racism inside Buckingham Palace, public opinion on the interview remains extremely polarised. All things considered, 36% of viewers sympathised with the Royal Family, in the belief that the couple communicated tarnishing inaccuracies, while 22% sympathised with Harry and Meghan. Escalation of conflicting attitudes has even seen TV presenters locking horns, with journalist Piers Morgan storming off set and quitting Good Morning Britain after his attacks on Meghan were rejected by colleagues.
Whether you agree with the pair’s interview approach or not, the discussion marks history in raising awareness of the Royal Family’s toxic relationship with British tabloid newspapers. Both Diana and Meghan expose mirroring harsh realities living in the glare of the spotlight. For Meghan, relentless criticising articles have been at the centre of this, often revealing an unjust bias against her as opposed to Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, who would receive contradictory praise for the same things. During 2019 alone, 21,000 articles were written discussing Meghan, with 72% of these being negative. Much like Diana, this whirlwind of public attention drove Meghan to feel isolated, with desperate contemplation of suicide.
What made matters worse is that the family were too ‘scared’ to stand up for her in the fear of cruel backlash. Once Harry chimed in with the interview, he implied that the dread of a damaged reputation controls the Royal Family, so behind closed doors wining, and dining reporters is a good way to sustain positive press. This corrupt ‘invisible contract’ with tabloids is said to have existed for generations, trapping the couple in a distressing situation, and forcing them to leave the Royal Family.
This damaging account of British tabloids reflects not only Diana’s sufferance but acts as an important reminder of others who have struggled in the limelight. Recent documentary Framing Britney Spears outlined the hypercritical tabloid fixation upon the pop-icon’s mothering, mental health and sexuality during her mid-20s. And unforgettably, just last year, TV presenter Caroline Flack took her own life, haunted by the harassment of newspapers and online trolls publicising her trauma.
In reflection of these dangerous patterns, many have taken action. In Britain, thousands are fighting for ‘Caroline’s Law’, demanding public figure protection from media misinformation, privacy invasions and the sharing of information detrimental to mental health. As of now, little progress has been made, but mass-attention from Oprah’s interview could positively propel things forward. Harry and Meghan’s story provides a stark message that press coverage today is not only inaccurate but unfair. Looking for the silver lining, one may ask, could this be the gateway to change?