The ties don’t have it

But is water now thicker than blood? With Harry & Meghan out on Netflix that debate has intensified.

Published: 08th January 2023 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th January 2023 02:47 PM   |  A+A-

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan. (Photo | Netflix screengrab)

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan. (Photo | Netflix screengrab)

In every era, the concept and practice of ‘family’ undergo a change. The four stick figures that kids used to draw are now a distant memory; the tall dad, the shorter adult with long hair (the mom), a little boy, 
and a little girl.

Even government notifications and internet doodles have stopped using this stock image. The TV sitcom Friends in the 90s did its bit to contribute to the feeling that while families can be heavy-handed and cult-ish, a circle of companions is light and the right context to find oneself as a young adult. ‘Family’ started to mean who you wanted it to mean.

From joint to the nuclear model, therapy sessions on childhood trauma, speaking out about abuse by relatives, single-parent units, gay couples, and trans rights… traditional definitions had to give way. The primal urge, however, to find a set of people you need and who need you in return remains. The man forever is tossed between two lonelinesses: for that special someone and a social circle. A Harvard study on happiness did discover that relationships are kind of everything.

But is water now thicker than blood? With Harry & Meghan out on Netflix that debate has intensified. The British royal family is cast as villains by spare to the heir Prince Harry and his former actor-wife Meghan Markle. The backlash to this documentary perhaps circles back to that debate—the importance of birth family. Is it viable to make domestic rows public, forever burning bridges with kith and kin? If the accord is a possibility, shouldn’t differences be settled in private? And why should we, with absolutely no stake in the discord except vacuous curiosity, be taken into confidence?

One thing is clear: the documentary goes with great gusto after Harry’s family members, including his sister-in-law Kate Middleton, implying Prince William married Kate because she was suitable, but Meghan’s own family is left completely alone. This cannot be by accident, because her missteps with her side of the family are well-documented. Her estranged father has been telling the media he would like to see his grandkids, and her half-siblings have been telling their truth.

There is obviously bad blood there—but none of that comes into the picture when they choose to tell their story, which is sexist in a way. Even her being a victim of racialisation, which she says started after her current marriage, hints at a pre-narrative where the white side of her family did the right thing by her while she was growing up biracial.

More disturbing is her ready identification with her late mother-in-law Diana, though no one but Harry sees any resemblance. While their self-inflicted fairy tale flogs its dragons with no apparent consequence, the couple’s collusion in misusing Diana’s memory could backfire.

Shinie Antony 



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