BBC Under Fire for 'Racist' & 'Disrespectful' Cartoon of Meghan Markle

Louisa Ballhaus

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When it comes to Meghan Markle, it seems the media just can’t help themselves from making a bad situation worse. A new BBC comedy segment titled “Meghan Markle’s Royal Sparkle,” which features a cartoon Duchess of Sussex, is now being criticized for its “racist” cartoon version of Meghan Markle. The segment’s most hotly-debated moment comes when cartoon Meghan threatens to “cut” sister-in-law Kate Middleton, which viewers felt invoked unfair racial stereotypes and served to stoke existing racial animus already directed toward the duchess.

According to The Telegraph’s Anita Singh, the BBC segment “portrays the Duchess of Sussex as a “‘trailer trash’ American,” a claim she once again supports with the description of the clash between cartoon Meghan and Kate. In the show, Kate asks if she can borrow Meghan’s hairbrush; Meghan declines. Meghan sees that Kate has used her hairbrush anyway (“because it’s covered in skanky hair that’s going grey”), and responds with the following: “I say, ‘Stay the f—k out of my trailer or I’ll cut you, Kate.'”

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Fans of the Duchess are having none of it on Twitter, calling for viewers to let BBC know that this portrayal is unacceptable. “Instead of sharing the disgusting image of that caricature, [launch] a complaint to the BBC!” one user wrote “The vile and racist abuse Meghan receives on a daily basis by the press and the UK is disgusting and something really needs to be done!”



In addition to the harmful suggestion that Meghan is violent, unstable or somehow has it out for Kate, the BBC has also been accused of darkening her skin tone in their cartoon portrayal. “Going from veiled racism to open racism: Did the BBC really darken Meghan Markle’s skin for a cartoon where she speaks caricatured language and threatens to knife Kate Middleton?” a tweet read. “Somebody tell me this is fake news.”



Both the BBC and the writer behind this segment have stood by the portrayal, with the network calling it “highly satirical.” The writer, Gbemisola Ikunelo, claims that she was “interested in finding the humor in the ridiculous” by showing such an “over-the-top, shouty” version of Meghan’s “incredibly agreeable and friendly” demeanor. Further, she refuses to censor “legit choices and feelings because someone might misinterpret [her] as an angry black woman.” According to Ikunelo, “that trope belong to the media, not to black women” — and she has just as much a right to show anger as anyone else.

Ikunelo makes a fair point: But given the overall lukewarm reception to Meghan, the first nonwhite member of the royal family, perhaps this wasn’t the best forum to showcase that particular argument. It’s true that Meghan has gone out of her way to present an agreeable demeanor. To see this extreme depiction in the opposite direction feels exhausting: As though the Duchess of Sussex will never outrun the worst expectations of her, no matter how much effort she puts in.

 

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