Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex doesn’t strike me as the sort who spends a lot of his time reading Oscar Wilde but maybe now’s the time to start.
There is a certain kindred spirit thing going on for starters, the legendary author being a man who had no compunction about provoking the upper crust and refused to cow in the face of prejudice.
And for another thing, one of Wilde’s most famous witticisms – that “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about” – might be something for Harry to find solace in after news of the royal’s latest TV outing broke on Wednesday.
Not that the duke and wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, mind you are, have signed on for I’m A Celebrity or will host the MTV Awards or will be joining Simon Cowell to listen to caterwauling wannabes but that an upcoming episode of South Park would seem to be wet to truly taking the mickey out of them.
In a teaser for an upcoming episode, entitled “A Dumb Prince and His Stupid Wife”, of the long-running show, Kyle says “It is seriously driving me crazy. I’m sick of hearing about them but I can’t get away from them. They’re everywhere, in my (beep) face.”
Stan responds with, “Look Kyle, we just don’t care about some dumb prince and his stupid wife.”
Mark your diaries, note down the date, jot this in the history books: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have literally become a laughing stock.
It is not even the first instance of late that they have been the butt of very high profile jokes.
Last week during the Grammy’s host Trevor Noah said that James Corden was “living proof that a man can move from London to LA and not tell everyone about his frostbitten penis.”
Prior to that, Chelsea Handler deadpanned during the Critics’ Choice Awards: “Dahmer became the third highest viewed show on Netflix, with a combined watch time of 1 billion hours. Which, apparently, is the same amount of time we’re going to have to listen to Prince Harry talk about his frostbitten penis. It’s enough already.”
When Harry released his guided missile of a tell-all Spare in January, the Jimmy Kimmel show first did a sketch mocking the altercation between the duke and brother Prince William with two actors dressed up as the singer Prince.
In another episode, Kimmel told the audience that publishers were releasing a children’s book version of his memoir called “The Prince and the Penis” and then read from it. (”At the chilly North Pole, a silly young codger took a walk in the snow, and froze his wee todger,” it started.)
This would all be a bit of a giggle – the foibles, scandals and extramarital shenanigans of the royal family having long been juicy fodder for comedians and sketch writers – if it wasn’t for the fact that the Sussexes’ are starting to look less like power-players and much more like a punchline.
For one thing, the US does not seem to like them all that much. Polling done after the release of Spare and Harry’s myriad TV appearances found that more Americans have an unfavourable view of the two of them than favourable. (And nearly half thought they should lose their titles. Ouch.)
What is so surprising is that while they might be the most famous people in the world not on TikTok (or occupying the White House) that fame has not translated into effortless professional success, untold riches and swanning about with society darlings.
We are a long way from the days of July 2019 when Harry was invited to address a who’s who of CEOs, billionaires and those who buy private planes in bulk at Google Camp. There, the sort of people who have Warren Buffett’s private fax number or who can get at least one Obama on the phone faster than they could wilfully tank the Nasdaq listened to Harry, reportedly barefoot, to talk about climate change.
These are far from the calibre of shoulders that he and Meghan are rubbing these days.
Last week it was revealed that they were guests at the vow renewal of scandal-hit talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and wife Portia De Rossi, a ceremony presided over by none other than Kris Jenner, a woman whose astronomical wealth is built on her eagerness to hawk her family to the highest bidder.
Also on the guest list, Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom, Gwyneth Paltrow, Carol Burnett, Melissa Etheridge, and Brandi Carlile.
Davos, this was not.
Aside from Harry popping up at the United Nations General Assembly last July, during which he addressed a remarkable number of empty seats, the invitations to these sort of distinguished and high-profile events would seem to have dried up.
Nor has the couple ever been visibly welcomed into the orbit of any of America’s political or cultural heavy hitters such as Barack and Michelle. (Also strangely absent from their lives now they are no longer on the Buckingham Palace mailing list are George and Amal Clooney. When the Clooneys’ eponymous foundation was launched in New York last year with a soiree that was wall-to-wall A-listers, the Sussexes, for whatever reason, were not there.)
In Harry & Meghan, their never-ending Netflix doco, Meghan is seen receiving a text message of support from Beyoncé. Why, I wonder, are stars such as her not willing to align themselves with the duke and duchess publicly?
One way to look at this is to wonder if, as a consequence of their take-no-prisoners PR warfare of their Oprah interview, Netflix series and Spare, they have simply become too divisive and too polarising for celebs like the Lemonade singer who meticulously cultivate and husband their brands.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s woes extend to the robustness of their careers.
Sure, Harry is fresh off of making history having authored (or at least, co-authored with ghostwriter JR Moehringer) the fast-selling nonfiction book ever, proof that a B in Art and a D in Geography in his final exams and never having worked for anyone aside from his grandmother is no barrier to literary success.
However, while the duke might currently be riding high, the question is, what comes next for him and Meghan?
They both signed a deal with Spotify in late 2020 but more than two years on, he is yet to produce anything but a one-off episode. There has never been a skerrick of a suggestion that he might be quietly working on a podcast of his own.
Then there was Meghan’s Archetypes series, which made a big splash only for subsequent episodes to quietly slide down the platform’s most popular list, week after week, like Princess Margaret when she cracked open a second bottle of Famous Grouse. Again, there has not been a peep that Spotify are eager for a second series or any new offering.
And what of the Sussexes most significant deal -Netflix? Their six-parter of hurt feelings, iPhone photos and milking every last drop of TV out of their ‘journey’ was a clear ratings success for the streamer.
Here comes the ‘but’ – but the only other show that it is confirmed they have in the works is the documentary about the Invictus Games, the sporting event for wounded and serving veterans, that Harry launched back when he was still a dutiful HRH. No other shows or docos or chances for Harry to put on his barely-used ‘producer’ cap have been announced.
Are the couple, right this second, busy beavering away on a host of exciting new projects for their various corporate paymasters? They may well be, powered by the righteous zeal of having entirely bought into their self-mythologising and the urgency that comes with a whopping bodyguard bill to pay.
If this is the case though, it is being very tightly kept under wraps indeed.
Meanwhile, their philanthropic endeavours would seem to have hit a bit of a snag. Recently the Archewell Foundation released their first impact report, which detailed the organisation’s global outreach and far more impressive work than had been known. Someone get out the gold stars.
However, those dogged reporter types over at the Daily Mail recently then reported that of the $18.6 million ($USD13 million) raised by the foundation, $14.3 million ($USD10 million) had come from one wealthy individual which would point to them having yet to attract a wide donor base.
Here’s another interesting detail. This week California Senator Dianne Feinstein announced she would retire at the end of her term, the very seat that it has previously been reported that Meghan might want to make a tilt at some day. Yet, it’s been years since there was any talk of the former actress having a crack at political office and today the idea of the duchess tootling off to Washington verges on the comical.
So where the hell do Harry and Meghan go next? Because really, who today takes them that seriously?
They have made themselves objects of permanent fascination but simultaneously of mockery thanks to their regular bouts of on-camera spleen-venting and attacks on his family.
Today, they seem to exist on the periphery of the big leagues, sharing mimosas with people who have probably spent more time having their teeth capped than pondering the state of capitalism, the Sussexes yet to be welcomed into the political, philanthropic or business elites.
At least Harry and Meghan are connected to Kris Jenner and who knows what exciting new opportunities they might come up with over a mimosa business brunch? The Bilderburg Group might be yet to call the duke and duchess but The Official Harry Lip Kit? TBC.
Daniela Elser is a writer and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.
Story Credit: news.com.au