Why the US media has a very different take on Meghan and Harry's interview with Oprah Winfrey

Monday, 8th March 2021, 5:12 pm
Updated Monday, 8th March 2021, 5:13 pm
The interview has been highly anticipated (Photo: Harpo Productions/Joe Pugliese via Getty Images)

Dr Christine Harlen, lecturer in US Politics and International Political Economy at the University of Leeds, writes on the American view of the Meghan and Harry interview

The US media have been quite favourable towards Oprah Winfrey’s interview with the Sussexes, even criticising the British media for being hostile towards it.

Why are Americans viewing the story differently?

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First of all, in the US the interview is being treated as an entertainment news story: Americans are judging the royal family more as a famous family than as a national institution.

Meghan Markle was, of course, an actress before her marriage, but the marriages of American women to aristocrats have long been a feature of gossip columns.

In the decades before World War I, American women from extremely wealthy families married struggling aristocrats, just like the fictional Lady Cora on Downton Abbey. The most famous American princess before Meghan Markle was also an actress: Grace Kelly, the princess of Monaco.

Second, Americans are more forgiving of an American struggling to adjust to royal life, since it is a very different culture. When marrying aristocrats was fashionable, the US press emphasised that American women struggled with the greater formality of European high society.

In more recent decades, movies such as King Ralph and the Princess Diaries have depicted Americans struggling with the formality and heavily scrutinised the nature of being a royal. King Ralph fails, but finds happiness when he leaves the monarchy.

Staying forever in an unsuitable situation does not fit into US culture. The US head of state is the president and even the most discontented first lady only has to endure eight years.

The Oprah interview has undoubtedly damaged the image of the monarchy in the US.

Oprah Winfrey is not only a friend of Meghan, but also one of the most influential women in the US. Markle’s description of post-partum depression and the allegations that she raised about racism are particularly likely to hit a nerve with Oprah’s audience.