Vanity Fair had a great profile of Liz Garbus, the woman who directed Netflix’s Harry and Meghan. Garbus was a well-known documentary filmmaker and producer before she met the Sussexes, and her projects were usually about feminism, surviving abuse, civil rights, women’s rights and social issues. It seemed like Garbus was somewhat surprised to see those subjects come up with an attractive royal couple, although Garbus always made it clear to the Sussexes that she wanted to bring in the larger social issues to the Netflix series of their “love story.” You can read the full piece here. Some highlights:
The Sussexes’ love story: “They certainly did see this documentary, and do see it, as very much their love story. Their interest was very much in telling their love story from their point of view, as opposed to the love story as told by others, and to share their personal archive in order to have that look behind the curtain.”
The social issues: “For me, what was really important was to connect the dots to these larger historical issues,” says Garbus, referencing the story lines about racism, colonialism, and how important white supremacy has been to the British Empire monarchy. Speaking about Harry and Meghan, Garbus says, “They were, to their credit, very open and willing to journey down some of the paths that they might not have originally considered. [The love story] is the spine, but, for me, it was always necessary to…connect the dots to the personal story and the larger historical context.”
The British crown is not exempt from investigation. “I don’t feel that [questioning] the monarchy is sacrilege, in the way that I don’t feel [questioning] the American government is sacrilege. It’s our role as storytellers and critical thinkers to raise these questions.”
Garbus knew the Netflix series would probably be her most-watched project: “Obviously, I knew walking in there was going to be extraordinary interest. Just being aware of the microscope of the film was a challenge.” When it was released on December 8, Harry & Meghan proved such a media event that it broke Netflix’s viewership record for unscripted content with 81.55 million hours watched in the first week. The second week, viewing time climbed to 97.7 million hours. “It was exciting that people stuck with it, even with the sort of critical perspective I tried to bring to the story,” says Garbus.
The response to all of the bad reviews of the series: “People are very happy to read everything about Harry and Meghan when it’s somebody else writing about them. But when Harry and Meghan want to tell their story in their own words, it suddenly becomes an issue. People are not forced to watch a documentary. It’s not going to be required in school. It is your choice what you binge and what you don’t binge. There have been more documentaries and books written about Harry and Meghan than Harry and Meghan have produced themselves. So I think it’s an interesting kind of pearl-clutching that doesn’t quite add up with the public’s appetite for reading stuff about them from other people.”
It was a surreal immersion into the palace mind games: “For instance, Buckingham Palace said that we didn’t reach out for comment [on the docuseries] when we did. They did that to discredit us…and by discrediting us, they can discredit the content of the show.… We lived through some of those moments that were a little bit like Alice Through the Looking Glass.” Another moment came when British TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson published a hate-fueled column for The Sun shortly after the release of the second half of the series—which highlights the negative and unfair press coverage of Meghan. Clarkson described “dreaming of the day when [Meghan] is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while the crowds chant ‘Shame!’ and throw lumps of excrement at her.” Says Garbus, “That was an extreme example of the kind of coverage they’ve been getting. I certainly lived through it a bit.”
Garbus’s point about “when Harry and Meghan want to tell their story in their own words, it suddenly becomes an issue.” If anything, the Netflix series made me mad because I wish it had come out months earlier, maybe even a year earlier. It effectively adjusted the narrative around the Sussexes’ story in a way which should have been done a long time ago, before three years of Sussexit narratives from the peanut gallery in the British media. Garbus should have also mentioned all of the backtracking Kensington Palace and Buckingham Palace had to do after they lied repeatedly about not being contacted. And it’s not “sacrilegious” to question, examine and speak truth to power.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Cover Images, Netflix.
I saw a clip of Katie Nicholl on GB News being peeved at Liz Garbus’ comments about the Palace’s behaviour. She tried to play it off as a mix-up but if anything the Palace’s official response to the docuseries exposed them as amateurish and manipulative.
It also exposed them as liars.
Omg, Katie Nicholls that was not a mix-up! That was standard operating procedure for the palace! Stop lying, Ms Nicholls. Jeez, the amount of water she holds for the monarchy. Liz Garbus said what she said.
Seeing Netflix completely own the palaces on that lie is a blissful moment of schadenfreude that will live rent-free in my head forever.
Definitely amateurish and manipulative and just plain liars.
I think the issue with Netflix (and Spare) is that it shows how sycophantic the british press is. The palace says X in a statement, therefore X is true. Sometimes the press knows thats a lie (for example, when BP said that the family was saddened to hear how challenging her time in the UK had been for Meghan or whatever the wording was – but we know that RRs knew she was suicidal, so clearly the palace knew, so that was just BS about how they had “just learned” or whatever) and sometimes the press just happily accepts the palace narrative bc it makes the Sussexes look bad.
It makes all of the british press look so so bad.
Exactly, the Palace lie through their collective teeth. Their different responses to whether they had received emails from Netflix proved it, no we didn’t, yes we did, no we didn’t yes we did, and even st. Willy boys private office was just as bad, this has proved Harry’s narrative in spare that NONE of them can be trusted and its a dog eat dog atmosphere, no wonder they got as far away as they did.
The rota are simply court stenographers and not actual journalists. If the UK wants a more transparent media ecosystem they need to address these false labels and identify people who provide uncritical propaganda and pass it off as news.
The other British journalists should be pushing back way more because they look like state media most of the time when it comes to that family. Few British journalists actually provide a balanced view. Instead they cover for the establishment.
I agree the BM is a joke. But even in America we see how Omid Scobie is punished bc he doesn’t join the wolves that tear H+M apart. Because he’s not horrible to them, he is called Meghan’s spokesman or friend of the Sussexes. It’s such a tribal mentality.
Liz Garbus did an amazing job with the doc-series Harry and Meghan. Watching the Sussexes’ tell their own love story was refreshing and heart-warming. I’m glad Liz tied the “greater social issues” into the doc-series, for we all know it was because of those issues Meghan was not welcome in the BRF and why Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan left the UK.
I am in agreement. I believe that Liz Garbus executed an exceptional docu-series and allowed the platform of Harry and Meghan to tell their story, as they should.
Ms. Garbus is eloquent, talented as well as well versed with regards to documentaries and has the niche of bringing forth the opportunity to expose and explore the depths of her subject/s.
Though I do wish that Netflix, along with Ms. Garbus, had come out at the time of release that the BRF had “declined to comment” as blatant lies that they were. I thoroughly enjoyed her interview here and look forward to all of her upcoming projects.
After having read the VF article in its entirety, I am looking forward to more of her work. Ms. Garbus is a woman we should champion behind and support her work.
I have so much respect for Liz Garbus’ work now. She had the skills and met the moment. It felt like a documentary more than a romance, with a steep mountain to climb of preconceived ideas about recognizeable people. Really glad to see Garbus covered, she did a great job.
Notice how those who are defending H&M are the more intelligent, articulate people, while the monarchists are writing unhinged screeds.
Yup, and it’s been that way since the very beginning, when Meghan arrived on the scene in 2016
Her comments are spot on. The royal family and royal rats (oh meant rota) exposed themselves totally in their reaction. I swear I could be a better PR advisor for them.
I’m glad Garbus brought in the larger social/historical issues to provide context for their love story. It also explains the tension holding the docu series together: the critique of the monarchy’s direct ties to slavery and the neocolonial ‘commonwealth’ vs H&M’s belief in the monarchy and that Meghan could have helped ‘diversify’ and ‘modernize’ it.
I’m also happy when they brought up historical context and commentary from historians and commentators like Afua Hirsh and Safiya Noble. It put a lot of things in context and showed that this was about more than just privileged family conflict. I was never a royal watcher but concerned in 2016 about the political backlash to Obama. Once Brexit passed, I knew Trump wasn’t to be easily dismissed. I always thought the treatment Meghan received was related to the broader negative attitudes around Brexit. Never understood how corrupt the press was there and the twisted relationship with the palaces before Meghan, but once the Sussexes left, I thought what they are going through should be taught in journalism schools. I’m glad Garbus gave a larger context and this was what made the documentary so good. I loved the love story and those details and was good to see them intimately and learn new things about them, while also seeing the broader significance. I’m glad they did this project.
Her inclusion of the history of racism and colonialism linked to the royal family was brilliant and made for a better film.
I think it would have been enlightening for a lot of Americans and British people to see or hear some of the racist remarks made by prince Philip! In the British rags, when he used to make such a comment it was “oh that’s just Phillips way, he didn’t mean it”, yes he bloomin well did mean it and those things should never have been said, please excuse what I write next, as it’s important that people see just how DEEP in the Royal family it exists, quote one, “can you see properly with those slanty eyes”, quote two, “what toothpaste gives those coloured children those water melon smiles”, quote three, “good god, please don’t tell me we will have to have curry tonight because THEY are here”, and those are just a few of the things he said in public!
I remember when Phillip retired from public appearances and all that some of the news article did do a collection of all of the fucked up things he’s been heard saying over the years. Definitely wtf as far as some of the stuff he has said in the past. Not sure if those have been scrubbed from the internet now but I’m sure if anyone googled it could be found.
Tying their love story and what they’ve been through / are going through to greater historical and societal issues was what really made this docuseries worth watching. I learned more than I expected, having followed H&M closely for years.
I was hoping to hear from Liz Garbus and this interview did not disappoint. She is so clear and correct in how she explained the absurdity of the hater reactions.
Except I’d love to hear more behind the scenes making of the doc info. Ooh, maybe they should edit a behind the scenes making of blooper type follow-up. Lol, I’m being greedy for more here.
It’s especially important for them to put their own story out when they are being treated like runaway slaves. The way the British media and public seem to think they “own” members of the royal family has been very troubling to me. The idea that any human being, anywhere, is not entitled to tell their own story, is an anathema. It goes to show the extent to which Harry and Meghan have been dehumanized. None of the people particpating in the hate campaign against them would stand to see either themselves, or their loved ones, subject to the abuse that Meghan and Harry have faced. It’s worth a recoking in British culture–why does the public think they are entitled to tell members of the royal family how to live? Is it the same pathology of the insane parent who thinks, “I pay for my child’s college education, I get to say what her major will be!”? But even so, does the price of a pint of beer allow a person to tell another person how to live? Was Meghan punished for “having the nerve to think she could be a member of the royal family?” Say it loud and proud. What about Harry choosing her? is Harry not allowed to choose a wife for himself? Is it important that the royal family stay white? What’s at stake here? It’s worth a deep dive by a British scholar, or any academic scholar, actually.
Lanne, I have never heard the treatment of Harry and Meghan compared to runaway slaves before. Not sure it’s a good analogy due to the cruel treatment slaves were subjected to and the privilege Harry and Meghan have, but I get your drift. The royals and the British media certainly act as though they own the Sussexes. And it is gross if not exactly 💯 slavery.
Maybe closer to indentured servitude?
Although their “contract” was never to end.
OT (sort of): There are some interesting definitions of modern day slavery online…
I should have clarified what I said–thanks for pointing that out. I should have said that the rhetoric and vitriol coming from the British media was akin to the rhetoric associated with runaway slaves via the Fugitive Slave Act–not that harry and Meghan were treated like slaves, which is, rightly insinuated to be both disrespectful and absurd. The British media seemed to think they had the power to drag the Sussexes back to the UK for public condemnation. Add to that the stochastic terrorism of inciting violence against Meghan in particular, as if violence was something she “deserved.” Their language was the source of the comparison-I saw it on a tweet that asked, “why do the British media talk as if Harry and Meghan are runaway slaves?”
Sorry I wasn’t more clear.
I agree with most of what you said here, but not necessarily the part about parents and their kids’ educations.
If you’ve spent years saving and setting aside money for your child to be able to pursue an education, you probably know how hard it can be to do just that. So you do want your child to use their college years wisely. That doesn’t have to mean majoring in Finance or Computer Engineering or something along those lines. But there are some degrees and majors that just don’t help a college graduate entering the job market very much. There are plenty of people with college degrees working retail and other jobs that someone with only a high school degree could do just as easily.
I don’t think it’s insane for a parent to want their kids to be aware of what their choices will mean for their future. Teaching kids about the value of money, and the value of a degree, undergraduate or graduate level, is part of parenting, IMO. The schools are not going to teach them. Most of them are run like businesses and will gladly take the money, no questions asked.
I think there is discussing something with your child and making sure they are aware of their options and potential career paths and then there is mandating what your child will study.
My parents said we had to study something “practical.” So for me, political science was acceptable bc they saw a career path there in the government or lobbying or law school. History was not acceptable (which is what I really wanted to major in.) And at the end of the day, I think most majors are fine for getting a job post college depending on what you want to do. History vs poli sci would have made zero difference to my life plans and career trajectory.
sigh. I really did love poli sci and it was fine but I do wish I had a history degree.
I’m really not on the ball to day when it comes to precision. I wasn’t talking about the parents making an investment in their childrne’s education and wanting to see a “return” on that investment in the form of a well-educated child who’s prepared to enter the workforce. I was talking about the parents who bombard college professors, financial aid offices, and college administrators demanding to change their kids’ academic classes “because I’m paying for this,” or demanding to change kids grades because “I’m paying for this.” There are parents who believe they have complete ownership over their children and their children’s future (I work in education so I’ve seen this a lot). There are parents who truly believe that they can control every aspect of their now-adult children’s lives, and make demands from other people/institutions to ensure their wishes are granted.
A parent calling a college professor and demanding their child be dropped from a class because it doesn’t fit the major they chose (believe me, it happens!) is rightly called insane. Just like the British media and royal family trying to demand that everyone on planet earth hate Harry and Meghan as much as they do. The analogy works–I just didn’t do a good job of articulating it. I’m 0/2 today, apparently!
The rota does treat H & M as a commodity that they own 24/7. Doesn’t matter that they are half way around the world and don’t work for the BRF anymore. They peddle lies, for coin. It’s abuse, period.
Thank goodness they chose Garbus. If the doc had just been their love story, that would have not played well.
How do you know?
Good point 🙂
It’s just my personal opinion but I think if they had only told their love story and showed pretty pictures, in the face of everything they’ve been put through, it would have come off rather shallow and missing an opportunity
That said, it’s their story and can be told however they choose.
I watched it after trying to empty my mind of anything I thought I knew about them as a couple, it was a wonderful experience.
It was well paced, and she tried to give an overall picture of the couple.
The images and music were dynamic.
It was good to hear Harry and Meghan in their own words.
Ms. Garbus did excellent work in the story telling, I saw her previous work on the Nina Simone documentary.
Congrats for a successful docu-series and overall career.
The royals were slapped soundly when trying to get an advanced copy of the book, when they wanted advance screening of Harry’s interviews with 60 Minutes, Strahan, and Colbert. Probably the same with Spotify. The royal fool’s lies just keep on coming. Even if the brits are blind to it the world sees it.
I think the royals and their adjacent courtiers et al over estimate the power they have over non-British outlets. I was happy to see that they were not given advanced copies and screenings of the book and interviews. As Americans, we don’t show deference to them simply for being “royal” and I really think their heads are so far up their behinds that they forget we fought an entire war to not have to answer to them.
I LOVED the series! My friend (who didn’t like H&M before this) had her mind changed because of this series too. Everything was so well done, the inside look/access, tying together all the photos and videos from the last 2-3 years, the music, the joy of it all! It really felt like a reset button. I agree the historical context is important and carries the weight, but the love story is really what makes us all love them more.
This Documentary change a lot of people minds especially the ones who didn’t follow the abuse that Meghan and Harry continue to go through . This was a perfect reintroduce for a wider Audience that’s what scary the Royal family and the haters and the British media because for so long they got to told their unhinged racist evil narratives. What Liz is saying is completely on the market this Karen’s who complains endless of Meghan and Harry telling their story. Tell on themselves they rather have the lies the hate the misinformation they the actually truth from the two people who lived this experience . Because they like the hate speech they like trashing Meghan and Harry endless .
I believe a central conflict that has come up though is how much Harry and Megan actually love the monarchy and how much they would have actually stayed within the monarchy if they had been treated well. I’ve seen a lot of people of be incredibly disappointed that Harry’s take is still that he loves the monarchy and thinks it’s important. people are wondering if Tyler Perry and Oprah are disappointed that Harry and Megan still love the monarchy. Tyler Perry in the documentary clearly recounted how much abuse the royal family threw at them. It will be very sad to watch them go to the coronation, be stuck in the back, and somehow take it. I get the sense that Liz, Tyler and other people like that who actually seen the abuse in real life don’t really understand what the sussexes ultimately want.
Agree that I think people were disappointed about his support for
My take on that is
1. He’s grown up in that cult and agrees in ‘Spare’ that his feelings on the subject are complicated. Especially about his grandma who is inextricably linked with the monarchy all his life.
2. They already have many credible threats about their safety. He has already been branded a traitor/treasonous person by some unhinged people. The last thing he probably wants is mobilise more threats against his family’s safety and is refusing to start that battle on an already exhausting frontline.
Similarly with his slightly messy claims about unconscious bias and racism.
As a POC, I find people shut down immediately if accused of racism.
In my experience, there are some who are deliberately racist in their words and actions with malicious intent.
There are several who are not deliberately malicious, but still cause hurt by their words and actions ( usually living in a bubble where this is accepted) but are open to being educated about their bias and to mitigate the hurt their actions might have caused.
The former group is generally a lost cause. I think Harry is probably trying to reach out to the second group including those in this family by using toned down words/phrases.
Sarah Nguyen, when did either Harry or Meghan say that they loved the monarchy? I watched the docuseries and read the book (and now I’m listening to it), but neither of them said that. When asked in an interview, Harry said he believed in the monarchy. He was born into it and was educated from his first breath that the monarchy was all important. I don’t know how you completely rid yourself of that type of taught belief. I also think that he was being kind to his family–not that they deserve it.
If the monarchy ends it will not be Harry who lit the fire. They brf are doing that all on their own.
There was a part towards the end of spare where Harry essentially calls himself a monarchist. He also discusses the colonialism of where the monarchy got its money in those same pages. It was a little messy for me seeing as how I just can’t see the good in the monarchy or a purpose for it. Call me out if I’m not remembering this correctly bc I stayed up late reading and it all mixes together. That said, he strait up told michael strahan that the monarchy should not exist as it is now. He is saying it needs to be reformed. I’m obviously skeptical that it can be reformed. Honestly, the RF comes across as a mafia and a cult. And there is no way of knowing how Oprah and Perry feel about Harry except in the fact that thus far they have been supportive.
@Jais I agree with your take on it and with what @Sheyr said above. The monarchy is very much part of Harry’s identity and existence. And for his life minus the last 4 months, “the monarchy” has been his grandmother, who he loved very much. So its going to be complicated for him. I think even the fact that he said to Strahan that the monarchy needs to be reformed and can’t exist as it is now was a really strong statement from him.
I also agree that if he were to say “down with the monarchy” it would ignite an even more intense wave of hate and threats against him and his family and he may not want to do that yet.
I’m sure their friends like Tyler Perry and Oprah see the struggle and are probably waiting for Harry to catch up to them, but seem to be okay with where he is now.
This whole comment is massive projection with little basis in reality. I am sure Tyler Perry and Oprah can have their own opinions and still be friends with them. And Harry himself said he had a list of conditions that needed to be made before he’d go to the coronation, so your assumption they will suck it up and “take it” makes no sense. And by the way, a lot of “people” thought that Tyler Perry had had a falling out with them and that turned out to be nonsense.
Neither Harry nor Meghan ever said anything about abolishing the monarchy. You can disagree with that but it still has never been a talking point of theirs and it doesn’t mean they’ve been inconsistent.
@C……….totally agree with you.
Theres so much projection going on by so many folks; even some of those who say they support H&M. Reading is fundamental and its true, most folks can utter the words they see on a page. But comprehension is a bitch that has to be taken in small bites. Its not for the simple-minded.
100% this point. Some of the so-called supporters have their own agendas.
Didn’t Harry say in the book that he won’t go on about keeping or abolishing the monarchy and he’d leave that to the experts because no one wants to hear that from a prince (I’m paraphrasing here). British people can be very nationalistic and the RF is a major part of brand Britain. Harry calling for an end to the monarchy would be seen as calling for an end to Britain and would endanger himself and his family (Meghan, Archie and Lili) even more.
I wouldn’t say H&M love the monarchy. The RF is an institution and a business but it’s also Harry’s “family”. It’s going to be difficult to separate the two when you’re raised in that system (also they’re a cult and he’s still deprogramming so cut him some slack). Whatever you think of those group of inbreds, they have a massive platform which even though unearned can be used to do good (e.g the community based work Meghan did, the invictus games, etc) which was Harry’s point. Meghan is American, I don’t think she cares for the monarchy but she’s going to support Harry in everything that he does, including working for them. After all, they’d have criticized her if she chose not to work for the monarchy (till this day they still claim she married Harry to boost her acting career even though she hasn’t been in an acting role since she left Suits).
Engjoyed the Garbus interview and she puts out a few necessary points. I don’t see how Harry and Meghan’s story could have been told without the context of the rabid state of the British tabloid and far right wing press culture in the first place. That brings in the racism, colonialism, and everything else. Hope she gets some industry recognition for the series.
Was a good article and glad Garbus called out the palace trying to discredit her and the project. She’s right, everyone wants Sussex content and the talking heads earn their living off them, but once they actually speak, there’s Sussex fatigue and it’s TMI. Sure, don’t think so. Like Garbus said, so many things converged that proved the Sussexes right, like that disgusting Clarkson article and the attempts to defend it, taking comments from Mandela’s granddaughter or Harry’s flight instructor and completely distorting what they say, to tabloids building whole articles off fan tweets. Garbus made some really good points in the article.
I liked the series overall and found it enjoyable to watch from start to finish. As someone who’s followed their story from the beginning though, there were some chunks missing. Over 6 hours, they could have managed to finesse the storytelling a little bit more. But it was never boring.
I’m thoroughly enjoying the slo-mo freakout happening in Isla de sal as BM, RF, vipers, etc finally finally FINALLY realize they can’t control US media, social media, or H&M anymore. In this second goddamn millennium, they still had a colonialist mentality like they owned the English language, controlled the narrative, set the rules of engagement.
I can’t wait until they realize that black billionaires exist and H&M are not only protected, those who’ve profited off racist hate will be cut off. Jeremy Clarkson is hopefully just the beginning.
Off topic minor sidenote: Meghan’s makeup in the documentary. I thought it looked odd but I sometimes question her style only to realize the genius later. This time though… She’s so beautiful and looks flawless with nothing on. In the lavender room (idk it all looks pale creamy lavender?) her makeup looks so thick, eyebrows janky, not flattering. I can’t figure it out. Why didn’t anyone fix it? Is it just me?
Glad someone is not afraid to push back on the palace narrative. I hope Liz gets an award for this doc too.
It’s the same shit I remember growing up. Don’t ask. No questions please. Just do this. Say this. Have faith. Pull yourself together. Why are you making waves? And on and on and on. It’s quite repulsive.
I agree with everything Liz Garbus has said. The interesting take away for me here is that no one, not ONE.SINGLE. SOUL from the press, the family or their “sources: has said they are lying with the proof to back it up. William is a jealous rageaholic, Kate is a snippy mean girl, Camilla is a lying backstabber and Charles is a sniveling coward under his wife’s spell and afraid of his oldest child,
Liz Garbus is great and her dress has pockets! I love a dress with real pockets.
Vanity Fair has been anti-Sussex so this is a revelation. The NYT finally had a story about how Harry is believable and what he’s saying about the royals/press is appalling.