Before I read it, Prince Harry’s book Spare received a lot of coverage. (A search for the terms “Back-up Prince Harry” yields 135 million hits.) The scope of this book teaches a lot about the concept of ideology, or conventional and natural ways of seeing. The way people view this telling book reflects different ideological perspectives shaped by social context.
I watched Anderson Cooper’s interview about Prince 60 minutesas well as Stephen Colbert Late show interview, both offered sympathetic accounts of the trauma of losing his mother when he was twelve. Both interviewees shared their own struggles with grief after losing their father as children, so perhaps this attention was not surprising.
This narrative probably resonates with many American viewers who have been accustomed to confessional-style television since the 1970s, when daytime talk shows such as The Phil Donahue Show (1970-1996) and later The Oprah Winfrey Show (1986–2011) regularly featured guests speaking about previously non-public issues such as childhood trauma and other personal issues. The debut of “reality” shows like MTV The real world in 1992 there were also private “confessions” where contestants share things with the audience that they presumably don’t share with other contestants on the show. Today, people constantly share their personal lives on social media, sometimes as a full-time job.
So American audiences are ready to see Prince Harry’s story from this confessional perspective, looking at private information as a healing process that has been part of American television for half a century. His story also offers an insider’s perspective on life that most of us will never get close to. The princes of the United States are part of fairy tales, not everyday life, so sharing your story gives you a unique opportunity to understandMax Weber’s concept of understanding experiences other than our own.
Growing up in this cultural environment, it may seem normal and natural for someone to share their personal story, as celebrities regularly do on famous book tours.
In contrast, British coverage revealed a very different take on the book. The royal family may not be popular with everyone in the UK, but in 2022 a survey conducted showed that 62 percent of the public support the monarchy. With monarchy comes traditions and practices, including dress codes, rules for interacting with members of the royal family, and rules for how to behave at official events. These traditions can contribute to a sense of national pride for some, and criticizing them or the royals in this cultural context can feel particularly offensive. In some countries, to this day, criticizing monarchs is considered a crime; Even when these rules change, people may feel it is culturally wrong to do so.
So while TV InsiderAmerican website, described “Prince Harry’s interesting interview with Stephen Colbert”, while Deadline.com noted that “Prince Harry attracts the biggest audience”The Late Show with Stephen ColbertOver 2 years,” British publications were much more specific in the description of the interview. USA today “Prince Harry never intended to harm my family with ‘Backup Memoirs: More TV Interview Revelations.’ Other American sources have reported “revelations” in the book, teasing the book’s supposedly most surprising findings.
The British press described the appearance very negatively. “Prince Harry makes the family laughing,” said the UK Daily mail. ExpressAnother UK publication reported that “The Queen has been drawn into the row as Harry allows mockery of royals while drinking tequila in interviews”. The sun, another British publication, reported that the Late Show’s Stephen Colbert was ripped off in an interview with ‘Attention-seeking’ Prince Harry, and fans are demanding the host do better. “Prince Harry downs shots of tequila on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” the report said Metroalso a British publication.
These captions do not tell us how readers make sense of Prince Harry’s book and its content, but they are a small window into different ways of seeing the same content. Even the BBC, the British government-funded news source, acknowledged these differences in an article titled “Why Americans seem more favorable to Harry than the British”:
Harry and Meghan have detractors in America, but they are far fewer and far less vitriolic than in the UK. In the US, their story of how they were mistreated by the British press and Harry’s immediate family is met with much more sympathy…
This makes no sense to Americans, for whom the value of meritocracy is deeply rooted. And who were blown away by the star power the couple exuded in the first months after their fairytale wedding…
Finally, the Americans are flattered that the Sussexes have decided to make their new home in America in pursuit of freedom. Land of the free. Americans like to believe in a place where everyone can create their own opportunities in a society free of the class structures that still exist in Britain.
The author also notes that Americans are not so steeped in the traditions of the British monarchy to really understand how unusual this book is in the context of the royal family. I would add that Americans are also very comfortable with the idea of reinventing after a struggle and moving to “start over”. We also value what might be considered authenticity or revealing the “true” self as part of this “new beginning.” How many of our family origin stories begin with arriving where we are now to start over?
Ideology does not mean that all Americans or all Britons will view the prince in the same way. Although opinions may differ within any given group, ideology creates the cultural context through which these opinions emerge.
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