The media should be ashamed of their treatment of Meghan Markle’s dad, says Stylist’s Alix Walker
Imagine if we were all judged on the families that made us. Imagine if, by some god-awful turn of events, millions and millions of people pulled out their mean little microscopes and put your family under their glare, then began to dissect them cell by cell. Imagine if, starting with your Uncle Terry, who you haven’t seen since your cousin’s birthday party in 2003, they pulled off each leaf of your family tree and began to write a story with them.
Imagine if they decided that your mum’s dreadlocks told a whole trilogy’s worth of tales about you, and her, and where she’s come from. As they moved on to her skin colour, her nose-ring and your ‘SHABBY’ childhood home, they began to weave a backstory where your childhood, perfectly happy to you, was painted as ‘broken’ and ‘poverty-stricken’. Imagine if they decided that the skin colour they saw under the microscope needed to be highlighted and underlined, again and again and again. Imagine if they felt the need to say ‘modern’ whenever they mentioned you, just in case someone had missed that you’re mixed race.
Imagine if your dad, who you understand the very bones of, because you know the things he’s been through and the unique, nuanced set of factors that make him, didn’t play the game exactly as they thought he should. Imagine if you had to watch, muzzled by responsibility to an institution much bigger than you, as he was feasted upon by hundreds of broadcasters and columnists and ‘journalists’. Imagine if, blinded by fear, your dad began to fight back, just as a child does when he is bullied in a playground, with knee jerk, clumsy attempts to regain control. Imagine how conflicted you’d feel, wanting to protect him but hurt that he couldn’t see it wasn’t you who was holding the microscope.
Imagine if the worlds media decided, after all this scrutiny, that your family was not the right fit, that they were a ‘car crash’, ‘trash’ and ‘unhinged’.
It’s unimaginable, isn’t it. Because no family deserves to go under somebody else’s microscope. Every family - yours, mine, Meghan’s, Harry’s - is complicated. Full of difficult truths and half-truths and unspoken truths. And creepy second uncles and great aunts that have to be handled with kid gloves and photo-albums that whisper secrets you choose not to ask about. The happiest of families, the saddest of families, no one is spared. Because where families are involved, births and deaths and divorces and miscarriages and infidelities and a thousand other dramas are involved. Whether that family is descended from ‘royalty’, or, as the press seem inclined to stress, ‘slaves’, it will always have its villains and its heroes and its jokers. But it doesn’t mean that family isn’t also full of love, and support and character and stupid in-jokes about that donkey ride in Scarborough in 1989.
And even if you had a bad dad, a dad who didn’t take you to dance class, a dad who drank too much, a dad who was mean. They’re your dad, not ours, and you know, not us, who they are.
Meghan Markle is a dignified, talented, smart woman who seems completely in love. Thanks to the bullying circus who have followed her dad, Thomas Markle, for the past six months she has been forced to release a statement saying her father won’t be coming to her wedding this weekend. Please, let’s just leave it at that, without the need to add the media’s own narrative to it. Because despite the headlines laced with mean assumptions, most of us are just looking forward to seeing two people in love get married. Because that, is a lovely thing.