The megabucks California royals are reportedly packing in the fly-on-the-wall Netflix documentaries and sit-down Oprah scoops indefinitely. “That period of their life is over – as there is nothing left to say”, an insider told The Sun. Given the wealth of material they’ve had to work with – and the wealth they’ve been able to extract from said material – that is an interesting choice of words
Nothing left to say? Many will cheer the news. Even Harry and Meghan may find that silence is golden. They need a break – and so do we.
It is not that no one is interested in Harry and Megan; far from it. It is just that they are now magnets for the wrong kind of attention – a lifestyle in which they mine their every move for content. Who among us has not found themselves addicted to the attention – to oversharing, to letting it all hang out?
Their conundrum – that they have nothing left to say and yet cannot stop themselves saying things – reminds me of an argument the author Mark Haddon put forward in the FT magazine some years ago. Haddon joined Twitter to connect with people better: “I wanted, more than anything, to communicate directly with readers,” he said.
But spending too much time at either end of the attention market ended up “detrimentally affecting the way I both looked at and thought about the world around me”, a pervasive, dissociative phenomenon.
“I would concoct a mildly clever bon mot, hang on to a thought that would hitherto have blown away like chaff, or notice something so mildly amusing that it was hardly worth sharing with my own family – an unintentionally ribald place-name, a house that looked like Hitler — and tuck it away to share with the world ... the automatic mechanism that gathered and shaped them was nevertheless ticking constantly away.”
I think the spin Haz and Megz would like to give their actions is that they too wanted “to connect with people better”. Living in America has been all about touching hands. Reaching out. Touching me. Touching you. Sweet Caroleans.
But that’s hardly how it’s worked out. The great irony is that their great journey towards finding privacy and purpose has seen them slowly morph into a bonafide reality brand. Maybe they think they’re controlling their message. Is that why there’s nothing left to say? The story doesn’t feel real anymore? Did it ever?
Inevitably, if you are going to set yourself up as new Hollywood royalty, that means being pigeonholed as something akin to the Kardashians by a business that weighs and measures talent ruthlessly. This is how Americans understand celebrity. You cannot pull the wool over the eyes of razor-sharp Hollywood industrial complex: the Sussexes are not artists – their cultural capital comes from a rarefied existence that they are willing to put out there. Or so we thought.
But the California royals seem a lot more sensitive to the slings and arrows of their Faustian bargain with showbiz than the reality TV stars who live around every corner, less anaesthetised to the lives and pratfalls they have set themselves up for. The more they get the wrong kind of attention — the more people call them “Hazbeen” and “Megraine” on the Facebook forums — the more they try to set the record straight; to show they’re of the people, for the people. Until, apparently, they‘re not. They also have a small family now. Perhaps they’re growing up.
What’s next? Surely the stable door is open and the royal horses have all bolted by now.The Sun talks of the Sussexes leaving their “era of visibility” for a “year of reconciliation”. Expect career pivots. We know that Harry comes across a lot better when he lets other people do his talking for him — whether it’s his ghostwriters or his lawyers. Perhaps Meghan will learn to code.
Yet it is an existential abyss we all find ourselves clawing at in an “era” in which most children want to grow up to be a YouTuber and the easiest currency is pawning off bits of you for likes. What exactly do people who make a “living” from finding something to talk about, do when there is “nothing left to say”? Hmm. Don’t answer that.