FRIDAY, MARCH 19, 2021
But that couldn't unseat Storyline: A nuanced thing happened last week to Our Town's favorite story.
Here's the way it went down:
As hate crimes against Asians and Asian-Americans increased, Oprah Winfrey was mainly concerned with the feelings and the experiences of a pair of multimillionaire royals.
At Slate, the children gathered around the campfire, eager to advance Our Town's one current preferred Storyline.
According to leading experts, this behavior is extremely human—is actually bred in the bone. Some scholars have even suggested that last week's stampede to Storyline was "human, all too human."
The Washington Post's media reporter announced herself to be "entertained" by what had occurred. As that reporter noted, hard-nosed professors praised Oprah for her singular focus on the feelings and experiences of a couple of mulitimillionaire royals.
And then, a nuanced thing happened! On the front page of the New York Times, a report appeared beneath this headline:
A Royal Interview With Echoes of Princess Diana
The report was written by Sarah Lyall. In the report's identity line, she was described as "a writer at large, working for a variety of desks including Sports, Culture, Media and International."
Let's start with high praise for Lyall! In an act of steely determination, she managed to write a full report without announcing that Oprah—the one who's focused on the interests of multimillionaire royals—is the world's greatest known interviewer/ journalist / humanitarian / down the street multimillionaire neighbor / former guest at the royal wedding / person and personal friend.
Lyall said goodbye to all that! Instead, she adumbrated a nuancing theme. Her nuanced report said this:
Way back when, the royal family had treated Princess Diana in much the same way they had now allegedly treated the Duchess of Sussex! According to Lyall, Diana and Meghan had been treated the same darn way:
LYALL (3/9/21): Meghan’s discussion in the interview of her mental health struggles as a royal wife, of loneliness and desolation and thoughts of suicide, was reminiscent of Diana’s account of the bulimia and depression that consumed her during her own marriage. Both women said they had desperately sought help from the family, only to be ignored and rebuffed.
“When I’m talking about history repeating itself, I’m talking about my mother,” Harry said. “When you can see something happening in the same kind of way, anybody would ask for help.”
But just as with his mother, when Meghan pleaded for help, he said, none was forthcoming. Instead, the family dismissed her concerns and told her, essentially, to keep her head down.
The couple was repeatedly told: “This is how it is. This is just how it is,” Harry said.
Say what? The royal family had treated the Duchess of Sussex in much the same way they had once treated the Princess of Wales? Is Lyall allowed to say that?
Apparently, the answer is yes! The nuancing comments continued:
LYALL (continuing directly): Like Diana, Meghan married into a family that did not understand her and believed she would conform, without complaint, to royal customs and protocol. As with Diana, when Meghan proved unable or unwilling to toe the family line, she said, the palace did nothing to dispel the emerging public narrative that she was demanding, petulant, entitled. And like Diana, Meghan found herself hounded by the tabloids, which accused her of constantly seeking attention while happily filling their pages with stories about her.
But there are differences, too, beyond the fact that Diana was white and Meghan is biracial, and the fact that Diana’s marriage fell apart, while Meghan has a strong marriage and a fierce champion in Harry.
In an additional act of rebellion, Lyall's account seemed to respect the fact that the Duchess of Sussex identifies as biracial, not as black.
(That same day, in a possibly somewhat comical act of Storyline maintenance, Salamishah Tillet described the Duchess as Prince Harry's "biracial Black wife." Tillet's CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK essay appeared on the front page of the Times' Arts section. Along the way, Professor Tillet admitted that she herself has "obsessively overachieve[d] in almost every aspect of my professional life." Major journalists are increasingly willing to open up in such ways.)
Let's return to Lyall's report, the one which appeared on page A1. After noting the fact that Diana had been treated in much the same way Meghan later allegedly was, Lyall said "there are differences, too"—as indeed there are.
That said, the differences Lyall went on to list—example: Meghan was substantially older than Diana—did nothing to affect the basic premise of her front-page report. That basic premise was this:
Whatever one may think of the (alleged) ways the royal family treated Meghan, they had treated Princess Diana pretty much the very same way!
To what extent is that statement accurate? Like you, we have no idea. We aren't experts on the way either of these women was treated.
Also, and also like you, we don't begin to understand the workings of the British royal family. We can't say that we understand the various ways this vestigial gang of millionaire royals interacts with the rest of British society, not excluding the tabloid press.
That said, Lyall's front-page report added an unpleasant strain of undesirable nuance to Our Town's long week's journey into Storyline. This is why we say that:
Professor Tillet's CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK essay appeared beneath a headline which advanced preferred Storyline. In print editions, that headline went like this:
Taking On Royal Life’s Racism
That headline is drawn directly from The One Story We Currently Love in Our Town. Having said that, hold on there!
According to Lyall, the multimillionaire British royals once treated Diana—Diana was "white"—the same way they've allegedly treated Meghan!
But if the treatment was the same, then in what way was the current treatment generated by the royal family's racism? Could the treatment simply reflect the way these multimillionaire royals behave as a general matter? Had nuance possibly entered the picture, undermining preferred Storyline?
A long list of credentialed experts have said the same thing about the role of Storyline in human life. It's a basic part of human wiring, these despondent scholars all insist:
Given the way our highly fallible brains are wired, nuance will never be allowed to disrupt Storyline.
We can't say that these scholars are right in this assessment. We can only say that they have routinely offered that judgment—and that, in this matter, Storyline did prevail.
Quickly, a small confession. Some of the "bombshells" elicited by Oprah's brilliance may well have seemed a bit light. Even for people as silly as we are, it may have seemed strange to spend all that time inquiring about which royal had made which royal cry about the bridesmaids' dresses back in 2018.
Even within Our Town, that explosive bombshell revelation may have seemed a bit light! In the end, though, preferred Storyline prevailed on the basis of the most explosive revelation of all:
We refer to the "revelation," such as it was, that someone in the royal family had (allegedly) said something, at some time, about the possible "skin tone" of future royal babies.
Plainly, this was the "revelation" which set Storyline afloat. Pundits rose in indignation to perform the sense of horror they felt about the way some unnamed person had made this unrecorded remark.
Here in Our Town, we started the week with fawning, ridiculous pundit claims about Oprah's journalistic brilliance. Concerning this number one bombshell, might we offer this?
The discussion of this revelation started with Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. That said, it's true that the Duchess hadn't heard the remark (or remarks) in question. She had been told about the remark (or remarks) by her husband, Prince Harry—the man who never briefed her about what life inside the Palace was possibly going to be like.
By the way, was it one remark, in one conversation, uttered by one person? Or had there been several remarks in several conversations, perhaps by several persons?
Meghan seemed to start her account in the plural, then seemed to switch to the singular. In fairness to Meghan, it seems fairly clear tat this was all secondhand content to her.
Harry, the one who didn't tell her that life in the Palace might be constrained, is the one who heard the alleged remark or remarks. When Oprah later questioned him, he plainly spoke in the singular, referring to one conversation with one person who went unnamed..
It was when we heard the audiotape of that one remark that we ourselves became upset. Oh wait! There is no tape or transcript of what was said, and Oprah didn't push real hard on that particular point.
Instead, the person who mainly cares about royals performed in the manner described below. This description appeared in the New York Times, but also everywhere else:
WEAVER (3/8/21): Oprah seemed genuinely shocked by the revelation: Meghan offering a secondhand account of conversations Harry had had with his family on the subject of their then-unborn first child’s skin tone.
As Meghan delivered a secondhand account of the conversations (plural), Oprah "seemed genuinely shocked" by the "revelation." Or so it said in the Times.
Oprah seemed genuinely shocked, Caitie Weaver wrote. This was a highly subjective assessment, one we don't necessarily share.
Watching the tape, we've found ourselves wondering if Oprah was simply performing. But deep inside the childish realm of the modern press corps, seeming has long been believing. Without any question, Oprah seemed to display a state of shock, and shock it would become.
At any rate, was there only one conversation, as Harry seemed to suggest? In the greatest interview of the past forty years, the planet's most brilliant interviewer didn't try to nail that point down!
Who exactly was this one person, and what exactly had he or she said? Little effort was expended on either of those fronts. Here within our failing culture, interactions like these now exist for one reason—as routes to preferred Storyline.
We the people were left to be horrified by the revelation in question—by the revelation that someone had, on one occasion, said something which fell in this general area. For ourselves, we're forced to make a confession:
If true, this doesn't seem massively surprising to us. That's especially so since we have no real idea about what was actually said.
Is it possible that Harry took offense at something which may not have been super-offensive?
Yes, that's actually possible. It's also possible that the one remark, if there was a remark, was gruesome right to the bone.
Was it Prince Charles who made this alleged remark? Was it perhaps Prince William?
At Slate, Hampton and Craven swapped guesses as they churned their various dogmas and let us enjoy their gossip. But, as experts routinely tell us, this is pretty much the world of our rapidly failing culture.
Children were drowning in the sea. Attacks against Asians were rising.
Low-income children can't go to school. But Oprah only cares about this.
Luckily, Harry had been given sufficient spare change that he could afford to buy that $15 million home. Do twenty percent of American households currently lack sufficient food?
We don't know if that claim is accurate. But Oprah was focused on only one thing—on a fuzzy story from inside a multimillionaire royal culture few of us understand..
Diana was treated in much the same way! But just as it ever will be, it all added up to racism.
It's the story we currently love to tell, here in the streets of Our failing Town. It's the only toy in our toy box. It's the one thing we know how to say.
It's our current preferred Storyline. As they've done in so many other areas, with so many deadly results, pundits eagerly jumped in line, awaiting their chance to perform it.
This is the way our brains are wired, top major experts have said. We will especially behave this way at times of tribal conflict.