It has been a week of bad news for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex as the deteriorating economic climate puts them in the line of fire.
This weekend, Americans will engage in bouts of flag-waving, grilling and beer drinking as they celebrate the 4th of July weekend. On that day in 1776, the country rejected the rule of the British monarchy and declared that they wanted to go it alone, by ratifying the Declaration of Independence. (Thanks Thomas Jefferson and your way with a quill pen.)
A few centuries later, two more people – Harry and Meghan, Duke and Duchess of Sussex – followed almost the same path, without muskets, announcing that they too had had enough of living under the thumb of the monarchy.
Harry and Meghan awaited in 2020, just like in the 1770s, the New World, brimming with promises and other clichés.
But for the couple, like the republic, what began with so much promise and optimism is beginning to burst at the seams.
In fact, the events of the past week paint a bleak picture of the United States of Sussex.
The crux of the matter is their failure to win over the Americans.
The most recent poll at the end of May showed that 48 percent of people have an overall positive view of Harry, up from 54 percent in March last year. Meanwhile, currently 30 percent of respondents reported a negative image of him, up from 26 percent in 2021.
There is not a single home field advantage for Meghan, whose overall favour, 45 percent, is unchanged from last year. Meanwhile, the number of people with a negative image of hair has risen from 33 percent in 2021 to 36 percent now.
Perhaps one way of understanding this sad state of affairs is to ask; what have they actually done to earn the support or endorsement of the US?
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex may have shed the supposedly restrictive yoke of the monarchy and spoken the truth to power in prime time, but more than two years into their California lives, they are standing for nothing.
In regular interviews, they’ve taken it upon themselves to make statements about things like the US’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and vaccine equality, but as leaders, they’ve proven themselves to be the celebrity equivalent of cardboard straws — a good idea in theory and which in reality is just all a bit soggy and useless.
On Wednesday, Vogue USA published a conversation between Meghan, Gloria Steinem and journalist Jessic Yellin about the recent horrific reversal of Roe vs Wade by the Supreme Court. It should have been a real hit – the articulate and educated young lawyer (the Duchess) and the battle-tested icon (who are friends) speaking candidly.
(Full, vociferous credit here to Meghan for not keeping quiet in this terrifying moment in the US for women.)
24 hours after the piece appeared online, the New York Times† the Washington Post† Forbes and Timeall of whom have previously covered the Sussexes reported on what would have once been a news-making conversation.
Ask yourself what, aside from titles, actually sets them apart from the other celebrities with causes (Kim Kardashain and criminal justice reform; Leonardo DiCaprio and the environment); the other celebrities with charitable foundations (Jennifer Lopez, Miley Cryus and countless other stars) or the other celebrities who probably have Oprah’s personal cell numbers (Kim, Barack Obama and Rihanna again)?
Essentially, after living and working in the United States for nearly 850 days, Harry and Meghan have yet to make any real political, cultural or social impact, as their precious momentum sputters meanwhile.
Overall, it was a case of Yankee Doodle Don’t.
Part of this can be attributed to the fact that their careers as content producers have been unsuccessful thus far. (Work with me on this one – eagles, get it?) They may have landed enough big name deals to keep Variety in the headlines, but until now their output could be noted on a beer mat.
The recent trials of the US stock market should make them nervous. (Stay here with me.) Netflix wiped out $290 billion of its value in two months, which has translated into some high-profile bloodshed. A number of upcoming shows from a number of producers, including the children’s cartoon the Duchess had been working on, have been canceled.
In April, Netflix announced it was on track to lose two million subscribers this quarter, prompting the stock market to panic and lose nearly 70 percent of the company’s value.
In this climate, Harry and Meghan will have to earn a living, which perhaps explains a bit for the reality-esque series they’re rumored to be working on for the streamer.
(Will we see the Duke and Duchess bicker over who drank the last matcha or watch their son Archie pull out a $1700 Kelly Wearsteler lamp while he practices with his little polo hammer? Such voyeuristic entry would go a long way to the right side of Netflix bosses for sure.)
Meanwhile, things at Spotify don’t bode much better for the Sussexes. Earlier this week, it was announced that the streaming platform had said goodbye to some of their other A++ list contributors, former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama.
There’s no sign of Meghan’s debut podcast named yet archetypesa series she’s promised will “explore and undermine the labels that try to hold back women,” and set to launch sometime this northern summer.
Meanwhile, Harry has not yet announced his own audio project.
Spotify has gotten very, very little bang for all that money so far.
The bigger picture here is that being a Duke and Duchess means they are immune to the chilly economic winds sweeping the US and Australia. A lot has changed for Netflix and Spotify since they released their checkbooks in 2020, and with recession talk and a sweeping cost of living crisis, big budgets like the Sussexes could face a frosty future.
Or, as Scott Galloway, a professor at New York University’s Stern Business School, said very bluntly about the pair on a recent episode of his influential media and technology Hinge podcast: “What the hell have they done? A lot of nothing… You’re just going to see a lot [companies deciding] give up these high-profile celebrity feel good partnerships, because suddenly it has become real in the market.”
It’s not just the huge, huge piles of money at stake here, but the huge success of the gamble they took when they ran away from royal life. Are Harry and Meghan about to become respected producers or about to become a cautionary tale? Are they about to live their own American dream, or an American nightmare of their own making?
Daniela Elser is a royal expert and writer with over 15 years experience working with some of the leading Australian media titles