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The backlash to Meghan Markle’s podcast only serves to exemplify her point


By Sarah Gill
25th Aug 2022
The backlash to Meghan Markle’s podcast only serves to exemplify her point

Oh, the irony.

It’s official: Meghan Markle can do nothing right.

That is, of course, according to the corner of the internet dedicated to airing a newfound grievance with the Duchess daily. Naturally, when the first episode of her long-awaited podcast Archetypes was finally released on Tuesday, 23 August, tabloids, timelines and TikTok comment sections quickly became saturated with vitriol aimed at Meghan Markle.

From criticism that the episode lacked nuance, was an exercise in navel-gazing and a self-congratulatory 57-minute audio experience to less specific complaints that the podcast platformed Markle’s trashing of the royal family, victim playing, and outright lying, the content of the actual episode was largely ignored in pursuit of pitchfork yielding.

The intention of Archetypes as a whole is to “investigate, dissect, and subvert the labels that try to hold women back” through “intimate and candid conversations with guests from around the world” in a quest to discover how these archetypes impact our everyday lives in ways big and small.

The series intends to strike a balance between the informational and inspirational, and in a teaser trailer released back in March, Markle describes Archetypes as a conversation about how “we talk about women: the words that raise our girls, and how the media reflects women back to us”.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle signed a deal with Spotify in early 2020, but it’s been pretty much radio silence from the Duke and Duchess since their 2021 Oprah interview, and Prince Harry’s brief appearance on Dax Shepherd podcast in the same year.

The first guest on Archetypes is Markle’s “dear, dear friend, the greatest of all time” Serena Williams. The hour-long roving discussion moves from body image while expecting and Williams’ decision to retire, right through to double standards, motherhood, and the overarching theme of the episode, the misconception of ambition.

Speaking on the double standards surrounding the concept of ambition, Markle says: “I don’t remember ever personally feeling the negative connotation behind the word ‘ambitious’ until I started dating my now husband. Apparently, ambition is a terrible, terrible thing for a woman that is – according to some.

“So, since I’ve felt the negativity behind it, it’s really hard to un-feel it. I can’t unsee it, either, in the millions of girls and women who make themselves smaller – so much smaller – on a regular basis.”

Williams speaks candidly about her experience as a woman in sport since having had her daughter, Olympia, and the subtle differences in the line of questioning received by her and her husband. “People always ask me, how do you do the mom/work balance?” Williams says. “Even my husband, he talks about this all the time. He’s like, ‘They never ask me that.”

The women then went on to exchange traumatic stories of rage and frustration as work commitments stood in the way of their compulsion to be there when their children were in need. For Williams, it was when her daughter fell and broke her wrist the day before the French Open.

“I was just basically devastated,” Williams recalls. “I literally couldn’t think. I felt so guilty … I remember holding her the whole night and rocking her to sleep. I just didn’t let her out of my sight at that point … I think I got like 30 minutes of sleep and then I had to go play this match. I somehow managed to win, but I was so emotionally spent.”

“I would drop anything at any time to do whatever I had to do for Olympia,” she added. “Middle of a Grand Slam final – I would leave if I had to.”

To this, Meghan Markle shared her own story from a time when she and Harry were still members of the British Royal family. On a tour in South Africa in 2019, the nursery their son Archie was supposed to be sleeping at had caught fire, and the couple were not told until they had returned from their official engagement.

“And what do we have to do? Go out and do another official engagement? I said: ‘This doesn’t make any sense, can you just tell people what happened?’,” Markle recalls. Speaking on the optics, she continues: “The focus ends up being on how it looks instead of how it feels.”

If we needed any further clarity on the Duke and Duchess’s decision to bow out of their Royal roles, this story provides exactly that. Perfectly exemplifying the dysfunctionality of this lifestyle, this is just one story on the Archetypes podcast that allows for further rumination.

Next week’s guest is legendary singer and cultural icon Mariah Carey, with actresses Mindy Kaling and Margaret Cho also slated to appear as guests in future episodes of Meghan Markle’s podcast, Archetypes.

The conversation has also been criticised for espousing ‘baseline feminism.’ Do any of the themes or topics brushed upon reinvent the wheel? No, but these are real and lived experiences by two hugely influential and empowering women using their platforms to inspire and inform through the facilitation of important conversations. But as usual, in the case of Meghan Markle, she can’t win.