Photo and Oprah date clash with privacy aims

Picture of love: Shot in California by a photographer in London using an iPad. © Misan Harriman

Can celebrities have both publicity and privacy? Harry and Meghan release an intimate portrait and agree to an interview with Oprah Winfrey but demand that the press leave them alone.

As a picture of romantic love, the photograph is hard to beat. The smiling couple gaze into each other’s eyes as they relax on the grass – he, barefoot and cradling her head in his lap, she, resting her hand on the bump which shows that she is pregnant.

No little Archie is there to distract attention. Who could possibly object to such a joyful image being released to celebrate Valentine’s Day?

As it turns out, quite a lot of people – particularly journalists who have found the Duke and Duchess of Sussex antagonistic towards them. Last year the couple announced that they would no longer have any dealings with four British tabloids whose reporting they considered “distorted, false, or invasive beyond reason”.

Former editor of the Daily Mirror, Piers Morgan, accused the couple of hypocrisy yesterday, tweeting sarcastically that they had “released this cheesy photo of themselves to ensure the media gives the story about their private life more prominence – in their latest courageous effort to stop the same media focusing on their private life.”

The row has been given an extra edge by the fact that only two weeks ago Meghan won a court case against the Mail on Sunday. The judge ruled that the paper had invaded her privacy and breached her copyright by publishing a private letter she had written to her father.

And by the fact that they have agreed to film “Oprah with Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special” described as an “intimate conversation” to be aired on 7 March.

Among the general public, there was support as well as criticism for the couple’s Valentine’s Day announcement. “If they hadn't said anything, the same people would be moaning about them not telling people,” observed one Daily Mail reader. “It's no wonder they left all this bile and sniping behind them for a different life.”

Those who see the couple as hypocrites point to the £112m deal they made with Netflix after moving to the US – ostensibly in search of greater privacy. As well as producing a series of films and TV shows, they will feature in a fly-on-the-wall documentary, with cameras following them around for three months.

Harry and Meghan are not the only members of the royal family accused of double standards. When Princess Eugenie gave birth to a baby boy last week, she and her husband Jack Brooksbank signalled their desire to keep him out of the limelight by only releasing a photograph of his hand.

Yet the couple’s wedding in 2018 was calculated to attract maximum public attention, with a carriage ride through the streets of Windsor and a guest list that included stars such as Robbie Williams, Stephen Fry, Kate Moss and James Blunt. And only minutes after their son’s birth, the company that employs Brooksbank asked that any press reports should mention his “official title” of “European brand director of Casamigos Tequila”.

Can celebrities have publicity and privacy at the same time?

Ferocious focus

Some say, yes: there is a clear line between the public and the private. If someone just appears in public because they are required to do so as part of their job, they have every right to be left alone when they are not working. Only if they try to make money from revealing their private lives, as Harry and Meghan are doing, should they forfeit that right.

Others argue that it is impossible to have any real privacy in a world where you can be snapped by someone’s phone every time you walk down the street. Celebrities with any sense accept that this is the price they must pay for having a high profile. Harry and Meghan should stop complaining and recognise that they need to take the rough with the smooth.

You Decide

  1. Were Harry and Meghan right to make a deal with Netflix?
  2. Should invasion of privacy be a crime punishable by prison?

Activities

  1. Imagine that you have been made head pupil at your school. Ask someone in your household to take a cheesy photograph of you to mark the occasion. Then write a press release explaining why you are a brilliant choice and should be addressed by your official title.
  2. Write a story about a journalist who discovers a secret about the royal family that nobody else knows.

Some People Say...

“Every child… has a right to privacy as to its own doings and its own affairs as much as if it were its own father.”

George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950), Irish playwright

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
It is generally agreed that Harry and Meghan are highly calculating in their approach to social media. A Vogue photographer, Misan Harriman, was commissioned to take the portrait, and in releasing the news on Valentine’s Day they were following the example of Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, when she became pregnant with him. But sometimes they misjudge the situation: official photographs of them visiting a cemetery on Remembrance Day were widely condemned as a publicity stunt.
What do we not know?
One main area of debate is around whether Harry is heading down the same fatal path as Princess Diana by trying to have things both ways. She had a reputation for complaining about journalists invading her privacy, but at the same time courting their attention by tipping them off about her movements. Matters came to a tragic conclusion when she was killed in a car crash while being pursued by photographers. Prince William, by contrast, has been extremely careful in his dealings with the media.

Word Watch

Antagonistic
Hostile. It derives from a Greek word for a struggle.
Tabloids
Popular newspapers which traditionally had a smaller page size than more serious ones. Originally the name of a medicine sold in tablet form, the name came to mean anything in a compressed form.
Copyright
A legal concept which protects something somebody has created from being copied by others.
Bile
Anger or bad temper. In biology it is the name of a bitter liquid which aids digestion.
Hypocrites
People who demand standards of others which they do not stick to themselves.
Ostensibly
Supposedly. It comes from a Latin verb meaning to show someone something.
Fly-on-the-wall documentary
A film in which people are seen behaving in real situation as if they did not know the camera was there.
Limelight
Public attention. In old theatres, heating a cylinder of lime in an oxy-hydrogen flame was a way of producing an intense white light.

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