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Netflix releases the long-awaited documentary series, 'Harry & Meghan'

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have produced a new Netflix documentary series about themselves. It's called "Harry & Meghan." And its first three episodes are streaming now, with three more episodes to come next week.

NPR pop culture correspondent Linda Holmes is here to talk about that series. Hey, Linda.

LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: Hey, thanks for having me.

CHANG: Thanks for being with us. OK. So it sounds like this is very much Harry and Meghan by Harry and Meghan, right? Like, this is not what we would think of as a traditional documentary, right?

HOLMES: That's right. This is from their production company, from their big deal with Netflix. Like a memoir, maybe, it's their point of view, and any viewing of it, you know, obviously should be informed by that understanding. So you do get a lot of their reflections on life inside the family. Here's Harry talking about how he thought he might never find someone to marry.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "HARRY AND MEGHAN")

PRINCE HARRY: I remember thinking, how can I ever find someone who is willing and capable to be able to withstand all the baggage that comes with being with me?

CHANG: Well, what about all the speculation about whether this series would show them condemning members of the royal family? Like, are these first three episodes kind of harsh on Harry's relatives?

HOLMES: Well, these first three, which tell the couple's story up to the wedding, say very little about anybody personally. You know, sometimes you can infer things. Harry says at one point that some of the men in his family have been tempted to choose wives who would be right for the role rather than people that they felt destined to be with.

CHANG: Ah, yeah.

HOLMES: Sorry, got to take a piece of plastic away from my dog.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: And, you know, the list of men he's likely to be talking about is not that long, but he doesn't speak ill of his grandmother or brother or father. We could come to all that, but so far, that's not what this is.

CHANG: Well, if this series is ultimately going to be six hours long and it's not going to go into a lot of that personal drama, what do you think it's trying to do?

HOLMES: Well, it's certainly their love story. But maybe even more than that, it's about the relationship between the royal family and the British press. You know, one of the parts I found most interesting was the discussion of this unofficial contract between the family and the press. And that contract is basically that the family gets to live this extravagant life, and in return, the press is entitled to hound them for information about every detail of their lives.

And one of the commentators, whose name is Afua Hirsch, poses a question that stuck with me, which is, can a child really be born into a contractual relationship with the British press? And that's maybe the challenge of Harry's life, is that both his family and the press considered him to be born into that contract.

CHANG: Yeah. OK. Well, if this is Harry and Meghan by Harry and Meghan, I'm guessing they come out looking pretty good here. Like, we're not talking about something hard hitting at all?

HOLMES: No, it's very flattering to them. There's a lot of - among other things, a lot of romantic atmosphere when they talk about their relationship.

CHANG: That's nice.

HOLMES: Here she's talking about being late for a date with him early on.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "HARRY AND MEGHAN")

MEGHAN MARKLE: Well, I had come back from Wimbledon, you know, when you get all dolled up. And I just wanted to go home and take a shower and then run over looking more like myself.

PRINCE HARRY: I was like, I didn't - you can be as late as you want because I ain't moving. I want to see you again.

CHANG: Aw.

HOLMES: So if you do watch this, you know, obviously remember that a documentarian, particularly an experienced one like Liz Garbus who directed this, has a lot of tools, from, you know, editing to camerawork to lighting and music. So, you know, it's worth asking yourself, who took this picture? Who chose this music? How did this come to be documented? Because it is a very, very managed presentation of them.

CHANG: Yeah. Yeah. Well, when Queen Elizabeth died, a lot of historians and commentators felt that Britain's history of imperialism was missing from lots of the discussions of her legacy. So I'm curious, when Harry and Meghan were talking about the royal family as an institution, does this series touch on that at all?

HOLMES: It does, and that surprised me a little bit. But in talking about the racism that Meghan experienced, there are experts who speak to race in Britain, particularly Black people in Britain, and the way that imperialism runs through daily life, its history. And, you know, does the show directly indict Elizabeth for not altering the course of that? It doesn't. But does it explain that she was queen for decades while these situations were developing? It does.

CHANG: That is NPR's Linda Holmes. Thank you, Linda.

HOLMES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Linda Holmes
Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.