20 May 2021
By Lynda Goetz
Poor benighted Harry. I suppose he does give us something to talk about. In a weekly podcast aptly named ‘The Armchair Expert’ *, hosted by American actor, writer and director Dax Shepherd and his co-host Monica Padman, the former working royal (the ‘Dook of Sussex’, as Dax excitedly introduced him) was given the opportunity yet again to air his views on (his) mental health and how he is ’working on it’. Clearly, this ‘work’ to which he referred on several occasions is now an important part of his life. As a Brit, I have never been made so aware of what appears to be Californian therapy speak. The show further reinforced my ‘unconscious (or do I mean conscious?) bias’. Americans are definitely very different from the British and I’m afraid my bias and patriotism came to the fore.
The Dook’s obvious strengths appear to be his looks (although, as even he admits, his physique isn’t as impressive as it was when he was photographed naked in Las Vegas all those years ago, just before going to Afghanistan) and the fact that he has ‘the common touch’. Although Mr Shepherd declared him to be ‘smart’, what he doesn’t appear to have, in spite of his ubiquitous public musings and reflections, is any real intellectual understanding or knowledge. He appears to be totally incapable of seeing how his outpourings, which constantly, like those of his wife, refer to ‘compassion, love and empathy’ are in fact utterly selfish. He appears completely ignorant of the fact that whilst embracing these emotions for all those who are ‘suffering’, he is sticking daggers in the backs of those who love him (apart from his wife, that is).
Dax and Monica were clearly both smitten by Harry’s charm, and there is no doubt he can be charming. However, since seeing the light and going ‘into therapy’, after his now-wife saw ‘his pain’ when she first met him, he has become increasingly irritating and more than a little ‘alien’. He really is like a crusading evangelist or ‘born again’ Christian, so convinced is he that the only way is the way that he has found. Now that he has been saved, he is intent on using his platform to save others. The unfortunate thing is that under Meghan’s influence he has kicked away the platform he had, and appears blithely unaware that, having allowed her to trash his family in public (and get him to do the same) thereby upsetting patriotic Brits, he has now managed, through his lack of understanding of America, to upset patriotic Americans, which could, if he is not careful, put paid to the platform she is creating for him (and her, of course) over there.
Americans clearly, as we know, saw The Oprah Interview very differently from the way it was viewed over here (Poor Me). As Dax said in his cosy ‘behind-the-back chat’ with Monica once Harry had left the studio, ‘perhaps it was rather like one of the Obama girls marrying a Chinese and going to live in China, then broadcasting something which trashed the American Presidency’. Well, sort of. What the Americans really don’t ‘get’ is British royalty. They see it as a sort of cross between celebrity and politics and many, like Monica, an avid fan of The Crown, view the attention received by the royal family as basically ‘weird’. The interviewers on this occasion appear to have completely swallowed the Harry and Meghan view of the British press as totally toxic.
It is presumably this paranoid view of the tabloids which led Harry to make one of his many rather bizarre pronouncements; that the First Amendment is ‘bonkers’ and ‘baffling’. The First Amendment, for those readers who are not familiar with the American Constitution, prevents the government from making laws which regulate an establishment of religion, or that would prohibit the free exercise of religion, or abridge the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the freedom of assembly, or the right to petition the government for redress of grievances’. Harry and his wife, it seems, want the press to be allowed to write only those things about them which they have authorised; in the words of Oprah, ‘their truth’. For a couple, who since moving to the US have done all they can to stay in the limelight, Harry’s bafflement is itself baffling. The reaction to Harry’s ignorance in the States was swift and condemnatory. Like the British, they are patriotic. An attack on their constitution is an attack on their country – which is unacceptable; in the same way as an attack on our monarchy is not acceptable to the British. Meghan may have rued putting in the Dook to bat for her side.
The entirety of the interview/discussion was something of a mess of paradoxical and contradictory comments by the prince, who at one moment was telling us how dreadful the UK paparazzi were and how he felt much more free in America and the next commenting on how the First Amendment allowed a ‘feeding frenzy’ of press with drones and helicopters circling his new home. He generally seems to have rather conflicted views about a number of things, including his royal status, which it seems he and his wife would like to hang onto in spite of their derision and antipathy towards the Institution. During the course of the conversation Harry’s comments about how he had effectively escaped, led Dax to comment that he had ‘confronted an abuser’. No wonder the royal family are aghast at his betrayal. He talks about putting family and mental health first, but what about his wider family? They hardly deserve the thorough trashing they have been meted out by this pair. As for ‘awareness’, which the Dook claims on a couple of occasions, he clearly has none at all.
How can he not be aware that everything he does is fuelling the media frenzy to which he refers? How can he not understand that all his ‘work’ amounts to nothing if he cannot see the ironies of his situation and his total naivety when he makes comments like ‘From the moment you’re born into today’s world you experience trauma’! Whaaaat? (to use an Oprah-type exclamation). Poor boy, it was ever thus and worse! Today’s world is a far more benign place for most than it has been over almost the entirety of history. Yes, there are wars and famine and even (by historical standards) mild pandemics, but has he no idea how it was in the past? As Ross Clark points out in his article in The Telegraph a couple of days ago, ‘On just about any measure of human development you care to take – hunger, famine, war – there has been a marked improvement in living standards over the course of Prince Harry’s lifetime’.
In the final chat between the presenters, Monica opines that ‘There is no way to know that that life comes with such a sacrifice, a huge sacrifice’. Well, in the overall scheme of things I fear that Harry and Meghan have yet to learn that there are far bigger and far worse sacrifices made by people around the world every day. I am delighted for young Harry that ‘talking about it has helped him heal’ and that he now feels the need to help others. I would however be even more delighted if he would, as Celia Walden suggests, just Shush.
As for those titles, given the disparagement with which he views the Institution, perhaps it would be better after all if his grandmother relieved him of the burden of them; although I’m not sure that Me-gain (Celia Walden’s nomenclature) would be happy about that, in spite of all the venom she has directed at her husband’s family and the Institution we Brits call the Monarchy and, on the whole, are rather proud of.
* The show, currently available on various platforms, will from July be available exclusively on Spotify, that same Spotify with which the Dook and his Duchess have recently signed an exclusive multi-million pound deal.
Cover page image – DoD News Features (Creative Commons)