|Oedipus cursing his son, Polynices, by Henry Fuseli (National Gallery of Art)|
Families can be hard on newcomers. And the media is often unkind.
The British royal family brings an extra deep, particularly cold bath of frosty scorn and rejection. And the British media is a free-fire zone of compressed hysteria and anything-goes malice.
Is any of this news? A mystery? I didn't watch Oprah Winfrey's interview Sunday night with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle because, well, who cares? I mean, I know people care, deeply, desperately, pantingly. I guess what I mean is, "I don't care." They got married spectacularly, not even three years ago. I didn't watch that either. He seems a fine young man, who took pains to put himself in harm's way during his military service. She, a dynamic, talented woman—a fellow Northwestern alum, hail to purple, hail to white. Good luck on your life's journey.
The wheels of bliss came off quickly—turns out the Brits are racists, my God who could have imagined? The not-so-happy couple soon had buyer's remorse and, in the classic lovestruck royal move since 1936, abdicated and lit out for the territories. What could even a master locksmith like Oprah possibly pry out of them?
Then social media started swooning, rhapsodizing the program, how this was a death blow to the monarchy, and isn't Oprah a master of the form, as if getting these folks to open up had been a challenge. While the newly cast American couple ascends even further into the firmament. What could the interview be? We came upon it, sniffing around Netflix Monday for something to watch.
"Let's join the zeitgeist!" I said, genuinely curious as to what fascinating tidbits would be shared.
The institution of the monarchy are closet bigots who didn't accept Meghan because she's a person of color. Terrible, yes. But isn't that pretty much every family everywhere? And isn't the royal family just about where prejudice and imperialism come from? The motherlode of haughtiness and privilege? I'm not excusing them, but it can't exactly be a surprise. Meghan Markle started out explaining how she didn't do her due diligence and make any effort to find out what being a royal is like, which seems rather passive, if not lame; I mean, I wouldn't stay in a bed-and-breakfast for the weekend without reading the reviews. An overall strange selective passivity infused the whole thing—they took her car keys and passport and so she couldn't check herself into a hospital. But they could move to Canada.
The central theme was security—which is fitting for our age. The palace not protecting the baby, who I'd think pretty much goes where they go—though given their duties, and if the "The Crown" is any guide, maybe not. But they do live in a $15 million house. Pay for a few beefy ex-marines with earpieces and call it a day. Puff away the warm Santa Barbara mists, and you've got a pair of upper class young rich folks complaining about being denied their full measure of privilege.
I don't want to belabor the point. My wife is downstairs, watching the end of the show; I bailed out to write. And I'm not defending the monarchy—a miserable, sniveling, lot of self-absorbed prats with spit running through their veins if ever there were. Though it does keep Great Britain from being merely another once-mighty failed state that dropped out of the European Union because its people were terrified of a Turk moving in down the street. And griping about it on television seems perhaps the most royal thing the couple could do. I mean, if you're free, be free, and go about your business.
And our watching it—well, that's just the old peasant adoration of kings in a new box. Living in a sour age where negativity is the coin of all realms, we can't just pant after the details of what the duchess had for lunch and what kind of roses are in the garden and just what the Queen keeps in her purse, the way they did in 1910. So we spray a mist of general disapproval on the institution, like film-makers fogging a nighttime street, pull the morsels out of the mouths of supposed victims, the spokespeople of our age, then soak it all up in unblinking fascination. That's nothing new either.