Netflix deal makes Harry a Hollywood icon
Are they hypocrites? The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are set to become TV stars after signing a multi-year Netflix deal, six months after saying they wanted to stay out of the spotlight.
“My friends warned me: the British tabloids will destroy your life.”
These were the words of Meghan Markle last year. Speaking to a television crew under the soft light of a fading African sun, she seemed to be holding back tears.
The emotional interview, broadcast in October 2019, foreshadowed a stunning chain of events.
In January, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced they were stepping down as “senior” members of the Royal Family. Then they boarded a plane and headed straight to a distant Canadian island far away from the prying eyes of the world’s press. The move — dubbed Megxit by the media —was so sudden it shocked even the Queen.
Now, just over six months later, their plan seems to be falling apart. The couple has moved from relative anonymity in Canada to California, home of the paparazzi.
And on Wednesday, they were back in the public eye once more when they announced a multi-year deal with Netflix to create dozens of new documentaries, feature films, scripted shows and even children’s television.
In a statement, the Duke and Duchess said: “Our focus will be on creating content that informs but also gives hope. Our lives, both independent of each other, and as a couple, have allowed us to understand the power of the human spirit: of courage, resilience, and the need for connection.”
For avid Royal watchers, this latest announcement is unlikely to be a surprise. Harry has already appeared in Rising Phoenix, a Netflix documentary about the Paralympic Games, while Meghan narrated a film about elephants for rival Disney.
The pair are just the latest in a string of celebrity couples to jump on the Netflix bandwagon. In 2018, Barack and Michelle Obama signed an almost identical deal with Netflix. The contract was seen as a big win for the streaming giant: the Obamas’ first film, American Factory, went on to win an Oscar.
The Sussexes are even signed up to the same agency as the Obamas to give speeches for up to $1 million each on topics such as mental health and grieving.
But there are some key differences between the two couples. Obama, as a politician, has always welcomed media attention. The Sussexes, however, have shunned it.
The pair have long had a tumultuous relationship with the press: they are suing newspapers for invading their privacy both in the UK and the USA.
For the couple, the advantages of the deal are obvious. Neither Harry, a former British Army captain, nor Meghan, an actress, have any production experience. Yet as documentary makers, they will finally have the chance to tell — rather than to be — the story.
Now some critics are outraged by the Duke and Duchess’s decision to sign a multimillion-dollar deal with media giant Netflix while simultaneously pursuing legal action against newspapers and photographers.
So, are they hypocrites?
King and Queen (of Hollywood)?
Definitely, say some. The Sussexes should not be able to criticise the media one day, then collaborate with it on the next. The couple chose to leave England — and the Royal Family — to escape their celebrity status. If they are as committed to privacy as they say, it simply does not make sense for them to enter the world of Hollywood show business.
Of course not, say others. Both Harry and Meghan have long been committed campaigners, and making documentaries is just another form of activism. The couple is criticised relentlessly — and unfairly — for every decision each of them makes. Now they are no longer senior royals, they should be free to pursue their careers and make their own fortune.
- Would you be more likely to watch a TV show if you knew it was made by a celebrity?
- Are Harry and Meghan still relevant now they have left the Royal Family?
- Imagine you have signed a deal with Netflix. Create a list, with explanations, of five issues that you would like to make a documentary about.
- Imagine that the media have been writing stories about your every move for your entire life. Write an open letter explaining how this constant attention makes you feel.
Some People Say...
“It’s not enough to just survive. That’s not the point of life. You’ve got to thrive.”Meghan Markle, American actress and Duchess of Sussex
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- It is generally agreed that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex like to be in control of how they are portrayed in the media. Earlier this year, the couple announced that their communication team was cutting ties with four British tabloid papers they accused of “clickbait and distortion”. Instead, they would collaborate with “grassroots media, regional and local media, and young, up-and-coming journalists, to spotlight issues and causes that so desperately need acknowledging”.
- What do we not know?
- One main area of debate surrounds how the media should interact with Harry and Meghan as they seek to become private citizens. For both the couple and the media alike, their move to California is uncharted territory. In July, they filed a lawsuit against LA paparazzi for photographs taken of their son Archie playing in their garden. Now that the Duke and Duchess are entering the world of Hollywood, it is unclear how their relationship with the press may shift once again.
- Warned about or signalled a future event. Their interview with ITV broadcaster Tom Bradby, during their tour of Africa, was one of the first times the couple opened up about their struggles.
- Harry and Meghan took the unusual step of announcing their exit from Royal life via Instagram, rather than by a statement to the media. They later agreed to stop using their HRH titles and give up the “Sussex Royal” brand in their quest to be financially independent.
- An activity or cause that is becoming increasingly popular. A growing list of celebrities have signed up to work with Netflix, from directors such as Martin Scorsese to comedians such as Amy Schumer.
- American Factory
- The film, which tells the story of a Chinese-funded factory in the US state of Ohio, won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2020.
- Persistently avoided or ignored. Prince Harry has long blamed the paparazzi for the death of his mother, Princess Diana, in a car crash.
- Difficult and constantly changing. The couple are currently in a legal battle with the publishers of The Mail on Sunday after the newspaper published a letter the Duchess wrote to her father.