Prince Harry needs to ‘break from parody’ says commentator
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The Sussexes signed a lucrative deal with the streaming service last year to produce content for its platforms. They have, so far, announced two projects: a documentary on Harry’s Invictus Games, and an animated family series called Pearl. Alongside this, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex also signed a deal with Spotify to produce podcasts for Daniel Ek’s company.
Harry, however, faces a battle to succeed after his Apple TV+ series ‘The Me You Can’t See’, led by him and Oprah Winfrey, was panned in reviews upon its release in May.
The Guardian TV critic Lucy Mangan said at the time: “I have been knocking back the anti-emetic medicine since the trailer dropped, and the series itself is as cloying as expected.”
The Duke recounts his mother’s funeral, and celebrities including Lady Gaga discuss their own personal trauma, which the Poker Face singer describes as her way of recognising privilege and “giving back”.
Ms Mangan said there are “rare moments of authenticity” within the series that pierces “the smooth surface of the rest”.
Much of this authenticity surrounds Harry discussing his childhood.
The Duke revealed his principal memory of his mother is her driving him and brother William away from the paparazzi as fast as possible, despite “almost being blinded by tears”.
Harry’s clear feelings of helplessness towards his mother are clear throughout.
“And that happened every day until the day she died,” he said.
Recalling Princess Diana’s funeral, Harry’s main memory is the vivid sound of horses’ hooves “on the red road” and the thousands of people who had lined the route of the procession.
He remembers greeting these people while “showing one tenth of the emotion they were… She was my mum! You never even met her!”
Dotted between Harry’s interview are accounts from other celebrities detailing their experiences with depression, anxiety, OCD and other mental health problems.
Ms Mangan noted, however, a “two-tiered system” within the series.
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She said: “Only Harry gets Oprah.
“Celebrity chef Rashad Armstead, champion flyweight boxer Ginny Fuchs, Lady Gaga (though she had her turn last year when she kicked off Oprah’s 2020 Vision tour) tell their stories to some nobody and the camera.
“The two-tier system makes the creeping distrust of the enterprise harder to ignore.”
She added: “However real and affecting their experiences and difficulties are (and all those in Say It Out Loud are genuine, passionately articulated and frequently deeply moving), celebrity offerings valorise simply “telling your story”, not judging yourself and others, refusing to accept stigma and so on.
Ms Mangan said that this does not help in the slightest to address how “ordinary people” can do this with waiting lists stretching “to infinity”.
More than twice as many young people were referred to mental health services in England last year, as cases hit record highs.
The series, Ms Mangan said, also fails to “acknowledge any deeper, more intractable forms of mental illness that need even more urgent attention, and to which all ancient stigma still attaches.”
While it is clear, Ms Mangan stressed, that the contributions of everyone involved with The Me You Can’t See are pure, she questioned: “one might ask whether sharing stories always means giving back – or whether it can sometimes mean taking away.”
Harry and Meghan’s Netflix deal came as a clear indication that they wish to lead an independent life, making their own money in the process.
Following the announcement of the pact, the Sussexes released a statement, saying they planned to make “powerful” family content.
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