“Serena, Se-renn-a, my little mermaid, ironically who can’t bear being in the dark open waters of the sea, or who also shared she has a fear of heights. But the truth is, I’m afraid of heights too, and maybe that’s the point. That the perception and the reality— they’re just never really the same thing. So while Serena is soon closing her chapter of playing professional tennis, she’s not shutting the door on her ambition.” -Archetypes with Meghan, episode 1
I owe Meghan Markle an apology. For a year, I’ve been peddling a narrative for selfish means that the former senior member of the royal family was never going to finish her $20 million podcast. I was wrong. Archetypes with Meghan, a Spotify exclusive, premiered today with an episode about “ambition,” featuring Markle twin bestie Serena Williams.
My direct apologia to the Duchess: I am sorry, Meghan, for punishing you for being ambitious via blog post. (In actuality, it was more like I was criticizing you for not fulfilling a public promise for over a year moreso than criticizing you for overachieving, but I don’t want us to get bogged down in the specifics. I am sorry.) Maybe I was jealous. I was certainly wrong. To use a turn of phrase: I will eat crow, freshly shot to death by Princess Anne at Balmoral and served with Créme Anglais, To make up for it, I will listen to your podcast every week until I die from being too ambitious..
The whole thesis of the show seems just a touch Intro to Women’s Studies: women are punished for being ambitious, whereas men are applauded for it. Meghan is quite concerned with gender inequity, which is something us feminists are guilty of not fixing and guilty of moving on from in the cultural conversation. We’re non-binary now, baby. Also, this is obviously the theme song.
The pod starts with a clip of a young Meghan Markle in 1993 speaking out against a sexist dish soap commercial on Nick News with Linda Ellerbee. She’d started a letter writing campaign to get Procter & Gamble to change the wording of a commercial from “women” to “people” fighting grime at the kitchen sink. The clip is quite cute, and it illustrates a few things about Meghan’s personality: she might have always been just a little bit annoying even if her intentions are good, and it also shows that she hasn’t grown much since this formative, televised experience.
Meghan, ever the diligent student, keeps bringing the conversation back to the word “archetype” to stay on theme Meghan defined “archetypes” as “the labels and tropes that hold women back.” It also might be a play on her son Archie’s name, who is also holding Meghan back (jk!). All women are archetyped and “put into boxes like diva, crazy, the b word, slut.” But there’s so much more to women: for example, once on an official royal engagement, Meghan had to keep her composure and give a speech on a stump while baby Archie’s nursery was on fire (he’s okay!). That dissonance really fucked her up on a human level. “There’s something in being archetyped that happens that’s really dehumanizing,” Meghan says.
To illustrate her point about double standards, she plays some clips of Never Have I Ever narrator John McEnroe flipping the fuck out for GOAT Serena Williams’s benefit, who has often faced racist and sexist criticism for her “aggression” on the court. This comparison’s been made a million times before, and I can’t imagine that Serena doesn’t find it a little reductive. Besides, the girlboss era has already crested. Like Meghan Markle and Serena Williams, I’ve been called “hysterical” (the good way), I do not have any personal experience with “ambitious” being a dirty word. Social climbing, as Meghan’s been accused of, is frowned upon, but getting hate for dating a prince is really not the same as being called out for being a working mother/podcaster. I’m not sure I’d call that ambition.
It’s undeniable Meghan has charisma, and throughout the podcast, she employs a tactic that her own late mother-in-law Princess Di would often use to welcome strangers into conversation. Even though she’s talking to her friend, she’s really talking to an audience, and she strategically slips personal details into the conversation to make us feel closer to her. Meghan tells Serena that while she was off winning the U.S. Open the week of her high school graduation, she herself was driving a Nissan with a license plate holder that said CLASSY GIRL. That’s more than we can say for Kate Middleton’s teenaged lorry (license plate: HERE 4 WILL).
Serena wants us to know she’s so much more than tennis and business. She’s afraid of heights and the ocean. Whoah. And with that, Serena takes her final twirl off the podcast and Meghan takes us on home to Montecito, where a symbolically loaded wildcat is still at large, threatening to eat Rob Lowe, Tyler Perry, and other denizens of the quiet mountain town. Talk about defying archetypes.
Til next week! Or whenever Meghan gets around to it.