New Times,
New Thinking.

Meghan Markle’s Archetypes podcast is toe-curlingly cringey – but insightful, too

The jaunty pep-talk style may irritate Brits, but it will surely appeal to the duchess’s liberal American fans.

By Rachel Cunliffe

By this point Meghan Markle is basically Marmite. To the Duchess of Sussex’s fans she’s a fearless free spirit speaking her truth and striving to live her life on her own terms, freed from the shackles of princesshood. To her detractors, she’s a conniving narcissist who hoodwinked our prince into marrying her as a way to relaunch her career. Her new podcast, for which Spotify has apparently paid the Sussexes upwards of $18 million, will only serve to cement whichever opinion one happens to hold already.

Titled Archetypes (by which Markle really means “stereotypes”, but that wouldn’t serve as well as a pun on the name of her son Archie), this is apparently a show all about liberating women from the boxes men have placed them in for centuries, such as “diva”, “crazy”, “slut” and “bitch”. Episode one – on “ambition” – contains plenty of ammunition for her critics. Bland platitudes (“the future is something we get to write together”) are spoken softly over upbeat spa-reception music. It takes Meghan forever to introduce her guest, the tennis star Serena Williams, because she’s too busy reminiscing about her childhood feminist campaigning triumph and high-fiving some nuns who apparently empowered themselves at a Catholic school. The Meghan-just-cares-about-Meghan crowd no doubt think she has played straight into their hands.

And yet I suspect if you come to Archetypes from a pro-Meghan standpoint, you’ll find it uplifting – even insightful. For starters, it’s refreshing to hear two African-American women who have achieved great success talk so candidly about their experiences of prejudice on a podcast with such high production values. The jaunty pep-talk style that will feel toe-curlingly cringey to many Brits probably hits exactly the right balance of inspiration and authenticity for a liberal American audience, and the digs at the royal family are there to give Meghan’s US fanbase exactly what they came for. Hate her all you want, but she knew what she was doing with this.

[See also: Natalia Ginzburg’s small worlds]

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This article appears in the 31 Aug 2022 issue of the New Statesman, The Liz Truss Doctrine