Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Meghan Markle's Miscarriage

Truth be told, no one really cares about Meghan Markle. A no-account talentless actress who married an idiot prince-- what about that story would concern anyone at all?

And yet, now Markle is a major international celebrity. She and her husband are going to become this century’s Duke and Duchess of Windsor. They are going to profit handsomely over his title and her celebrity. Why anyone would admire the Duke of Windsor for having abdicated the British throne in the midst of a major European crisis-- and to have done for true love-- is beyond anyone's rational faculties.

It is embarrassing and sad. But, such is the state of our culture.

It is worth noting that the hapless Duke of Sussex, as he is now entitled, descended from our first celebrity princess, his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales. Naturally, the world idolizes the unfortunate princess, but not, as the feminists would put it, for her mind.

After all, Lady Diana managed, against all the odds, in failing all of her O level exams. Such exams, offered before secondary school education are used to decide whether a student would go on to a good education or suffer a minimal education, the kind you would need to become a housekeeper-- one of Diana’s early jobs, no kidding-- or a celebrity princess, a model of indiscretion.

As you know, Diana has recently been the subject of a new season of a television show called The Crown. To say that the show is better than The Undoing is not saying much. With the exception of a couple of empty episodes it is not bad at all. 

And yet, somehow, in all of the nonstop Diana idolatry, the show forgot that the unfortunate princess threw herself down a flight of stairs while pregnant with her first son, Prince William. Apparently, she was furious that her husband Prince Charles was late returning from a hunt, or some such.

Anyway, like her unfortunate would-have-been mother-in-law, Meghan Markle has decided to open up. She has decided to expose intimate details about her private life to public scrutiny.

She wrote in The New York Times that she had recently suffered a miscarriage. At the least, she is all-in for celebrity. I will note that I have not read the article. I do not subscribe to the New York Times. A newspaper that allowed its staff to persecute Bari Weiss because she is Jewish and that forced her to resign her position is unworthy of any subscription. 

But, Brendan O’Neill did take the measure of Markle's lust for self-exposure. I suspect that O’Neill, as the editor of Spiked, felt a professional duty to read the Markle essay. For my part I derive a professional pleasure in reading Spiked.

O’Neill questions the celebrity compulsion to exhibit one’s private experiences in public. Did we really need to know that Markle suffered a miscarriage?

It is very sad that Meghan Markle suffered a miscarriage. It is always sad when a happily expectant mother loses her baby. It is also strange, however, that Markle has chosen to write about the miscarriage in such emotionally revealing detail in the pages of the New York Times. I thought Markle, and Prince Harry, wanted privacy? To be left alone by the voyeuristic media? And yet here is Markle inviting not only New York Times readers but also people across the world to observe one of the most intimate moments of her life. She’s inviting us right into her hospital room, in fact, where, she tells us, there were ‘cold white walls’ and Harry’s hand was ‘clammy’ as they both wept for their loss. I have never felt more like an intruder into Harry and Meghan’s life than I did reading Meghan’s piece.

Behind this lies a paradox. The Sussexes have roundly criticized the media for invading their privacy. Princess Diana did the same, before she exposed her privacy in a BBC interview with Martin Bashir. For the record, Diana used to tip off the paparazzi, the better to assure that her antics would receive proper media exposure. How did that one work out?

When a tabloid newspaper publishes a surreptitiously taken photo of Meghan and her son taking a walk, that’s an intolerable invasion of the duchess’s privacy. When the Mail on Sunday publishes a letter that Meghan wrote to her father, and which her father freely gave to the Mail, that’s an act of grotesque voyeurism. ‘Why do a lowly rag and its lowly readers insist on peering into the intimacies of Meghan’s life?’, people ask. Yet when Markle herself opens the door to her innermost emotions and welcomes a vast global audience to observe her pain, that isn’t facilitating voyeurism, apparently. No, it’s brave; it’s ‘raising awareness’.

Ah yes, O’Neill gets it totally right. In our therapy addled culture, exposing intimate details of one’s life is considered to be therapeutic. We now believe that all of live should be therapeutic.

Markle’s very public confession of pain conforms, of course, to what is now considered to be a legitimate, respectable form of voyeurism: the display of one’s wounds and weaknesses to a willing, nosy audience under the banner of ‘raising awareness’. These acts of emotional exhibitionism, where celebrities reveal all about mental illnesses, private griefs, physical ailments and marital crises, are celebrated as empowering, as brave, as a means of prying open the eyes of a public hitherto ignorant (apparently) about these problems. That the end product – emotionally incontinent displays of one’s every trial and malady – is as intrusive, more intrusive in fact, as any sneaky tabloid exposé of a person’s private life is just brushed over. Apparently when the middle classes gawp at the intimacies of respectable famous people laid out in grim detail in the New York Times, that’s brave; yet when tabloid-readers pore over the private feelings of Thomas Markle, that’s scummy.

Dare we say that people who indulge this emotional incontinence are not respectable. By definition, they lack discretion and moral character. They are sacrificing their privacy in order to gin up business for therapists, or perhaps for pharmaceutical manufacturers:

In the 21st century it is celebs who hound us, cajoling us to read about their bipolar diagnosis, their nervous breakdown, their abusive childhood, their deep emotional agony. We need to reverse the Greta Garbo-style cry of leave me alone. Today it is surely the public, us news-reading citizens, who must cry ‘Leave us alone!’ to a celebrity set that never tires of emotional exhibitionism and whose personal troubles take up so much space in the media. Are we really invading Meghan Markle’s life, or is she invading ours?

A valuable point-- namely that these shameless celebrities are flashing the world, and thus, defiling the minds and the character of those who witness their moral dereliction. 

In some cases, not Markle’s, people expose their intimate secrets in order to attract adherents to a political cause. And to make themselves martyrs for said cause. Now, having a miscarriage does not qualify in this rubric. It certainly qualifies less than would, for example, being beaten up by a policeman. And yet, Markle wants to elevate her suffering, to make it into a cultural flashpoint:

She ties her ‘unbearable grief’ to the post-George Floyd moment, to the so-called ‘post-truth’ nature of our age, and to the sadness millions are currently feeling as a result of the Covid crisis. She centres her private grief in the very public world of politics. Her suffering becomes symbolic of the suffering of the world. It is a kind of neo-religious idea: this woman shouldering the hurt of us all. Here, private sorrow is not only revealed; it is also made political, seemingly in an effort to elevate Ms Markle into a towering cultural flashpoint in this oddest year of 2020. To me, that seems sad more than anything else.

She has politicized her personal life, her intimate experiences, for no real reason. As O’Neill points out, when you politicize your personal life, you longer have a private life. You have sacrificed your privacy on the bonfire of personal vanity. Then again, what else do Markle and her husband have to offer to justify the amount of money that is being thrown at them.

But we lose so much when we erase the line between private life and public life. When we advertise our private thoughts, emotions and experiences to a detached audience, our private life loses its meaning. It becomes performative, something we do to please others rather than to satisfy our own deeper needs. The private sphere is where we can be open, honest, frank, reflective. Raising the curtain on this world to outsiders will denude it of its sanctity and deprive us of a space in which we can truly be ourselves.


Sam L. said...

Ah, the NYT! Which I despise, detest, and totally distrust (it's little dog WaPoo, too!)

Markle...what a waste.

Prince Harry...I pity da fool. (Thank you Mr. T!)

Webutante said...

Great piece, Stuart! Couldn't agree more. This desperate for attention couple seem addicted to the public spotlight and will do whatever it takes to stay there. Even as the public's interest wanes into boredom.

And how can a man give up his identity and still remain a real man? Harry seems more tragic than the opportunistic Meghan who will eventually tire of her wilting fellow.