Ever since Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, and Prince Harry’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, the visceral hatred has risen like bile. When will this poor woman get a break from the never-ending slander from the press?
One of the latest critical perspectives comes from Ella Whelan whose article for the Telegraph made some particularly bold claims. Not only is it riddled with pejoratives but her comments surrounding children’s reading will definitely raise some eyebrows.
Meghan Markle is following the trend of a lot of celebrities, including the likes of Madonna, Frank Lampard, Idris Elba and the Duchess of York, in writing a children’s book. Scheduled for release in June 2021, Markle’s The Bench is an upcoming children’s picture book which will feature different fathers and sons sitting on a bench, told from a mother’s perspective.
Ostensibly, there may be some autobiographical elements, being “modelled” off Meghan, her husband Harry Windsor and their son Archie. In the press release from publisher Random House Children’s Books, Meghan commented on the book’s origins: “The Bench started as a poem I wrote for my husband on Father’s Day, the month after Archie was born…that poem became this story.”
She continues to state how she wishes to view the treasured bond between father and son through an “inclusive” lens: “My hope is that The Bench resonates with every family, no matter the makeup, as much as it does with mine.”
Despite Meghan’s wholehearted intentions, Whelan didn’t seem fooled. Alongside her book commentary, she inserted plenty of blatant personal jabs at Meghan throughout. Despite not really being relevant to the book, she went on to describe Harry and Meghan’s activism as politically superficial. Following this came a mocking use of the phrase “every good writer,” as if to indicate great inferiority on behalf of the Duchess. Yet her most outlandish statement came when she claimed Meghan’s book would “put an entire generation off reading.”
Such an exaggerated statement is just feeding into the extensive slander Meghan Markle is receiving nationwide. When Matt Hancock was found guilty of handing Covid contracts to friends, British Journalists seemed to ignore that completely. Whereas Meghan Markle can merely breathe and there’ll be a front page spread to fuel this vilification.
Aside from Whelan’s irreverent remarks, her claims are also hypocritical in nature. She condemned the overly sentimental elements to Meghan’s upcoming picture book: “Children don’t always take well to soupy stories about love and kindness…” In her opinion, children have a stronger preference for “scary books” as opposed to the schmaltziness of the former. Yet personally, at that age, I’d much rather take Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit or Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeline series. Both are known for their more soft-centred content as opposed to featuring Gruffalos or monsters. They also both cover important themes surrounding daily life appealing to children and adults alike. As such, it may just as well be possible Markle’s book will fall into the category of beloved saccharine children’s literature.
Schmaltziness still sells! The Tale of Peter Rabbit, for example, is a book practically enshrined amongst all young readers and literary fans, selling more than 45 million copies over the last century. With such an astounding lucrative feat, Whelan’s claims about so-called “soupy stories about love and kindness,” are quite unfounded.
Alongside this, Whelan’s piece is invariably imbued with inconsistencies. After criticising the corny elements to Markle’s upcoming book, she then describes the book as “fun-free.” According to Whelan, “[Children] certainly don’t like to be lectured – if there is a moral to the story, every good writer from Aesop to Roald Dahl knows you’ve got to disguise it with a bit of fun”
So is Markle writing a soppy story about love and kindness or a monotonous overly complex moralistic sermon? The most perplexing part of this came when Whelan proceeded to assert her preference for Andersen’s stories over Markle’s future work. However, if you’ve actually read some of Hans Christian Andersen’s short stories they can actually be quite disturbing.
The Little Mermaid maintains a pessimistic tone throughout; it is practically filled to the brim with graphic descriptions of suffering. Due to his religious agenda, he liked to write stories about suffering as he believed it was a pathway to salvation. As such, the pain our protagonist endures in order to be granted an immortal soul can almost emulate the sufferings of Jesus Christ. As far as I’m concerned, this moral isn’t exactly disguised with a bit of fun? Thus, it’s so immensely hypocritical to condemn the potentially laborious qualities of Markle’s work and then say you prefer Andersen’s model.
Regardless of Whelan’s contradictory opinions on Markle’s piece, that particular quote left me feeling quite irked. It seems to perpetuate this assumption that children should never be exposed to a story with dark or complex themes due to their tiny little minds not being able understand it. And that may as well be true. They might get upset, they might ask questions but that’s, in part, what strengthens the bond between parents and children. It bridges a communication gap where parents can educate their children on the topic of family relationships. This doesn’t mandate a lengthy discussion, but it allows youth to grow and become more well-rounded.
As a child, I read a lot of books that made me sit and ponder. The harrowing tales within Dustbin Baby by Jacqueline Wilson still affect me to this day. Yet, without reading that, I certainly wouldn’t have had such an acute awareness of contemporaneous issues. Those more distressing reads coupled with a few more whimsical novels are essential to hardening children up; it warns us that things could go wrong in life but there is equally so much joy to find in the world.
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