Editor’s note: Louis Staples Culture writer and editor based in London. His work has appeared in Slate, Vogue, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, Wired, and more. The opinions expressed here are his own. Read more Opinion on CNN.
Days before Prince Harry’s memoir, Spear, was officially released on January 10, scandalous details from the book made headlines around the world. The Guardian got the first scoop: Harry’s description of a physical fight with his brother Prince William, which resulted in a shattered dog bowl and a broken necklace.
Soon we heard more snippets: Harry’s frostbitten penis (or “little kid” as he kept calling him) on his brother’s wedding day, his confession to using cocaine, and the story of how he lost his virginity in a field to a mysterious older woman who smacks his ass.
Unsurprisingly, these headlines don’t reflect the whole story. “Reserve” is a somber read about a man who is visibly hurt and damaged. A man who by accident and through tragedy did not have complete control over his life.
The central narrative of the memoir is that despite being born into enormous privilege, Prince Harry is also a victim. From a young age, he remembers knowing he was there should anything happen to William. (As a child, it was believed he was there to make organ donations if the heir to the throne requested it.)
When he got older, he was bullied by the same newspapers He haunted his late mother, Princess Diana. He talks about how they called him the “Naughty Prince”, “Prince Thika” or made him a drug addict. In the book he says that a tabloid editor who allegedly tried “blackmailHe went to work for his father and stepmother. (Charles and Camilla have not commented publicly on the claim.)
Now that Harry’s relationship with his family and the British press has deteriorated, the adjectives often used to describe him are becoming less flattering: soft, fragile, soft-skinned, spoiled and spiteful.
Racist and misogynistic media coverage of Harry’s wife, Meghan Markle He has an experience he Well documented. What is often discussed, however, is how Harry’s masculinity can be used against him. In fact, the gendered expectations of Harry’s behavior are the main driver of much of the harsh criticism he has received.
Prince Harry comes from a long line of military personnel who pride themselves on adopting a tough upper lip stance and getting the job done. That was an image his grandfather, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was particularly keen to present himself with as he continued his royal duties into his mid-nineties.
In this perspective, complaining is feminine and weak. Harry has alluded to this himself by making a distinction between “Institutional Harry” and “Husband Harry” – The latter of them are more emotional.
Outside the royal establishment, there has been a cultural shift towards Encouraging men To talk about their feelings and Psychological health. “Spare” takes us through Operation Prince to do just that. And after examining some of the ways his upbringing in the royal establishment harmed him, with the help of a psychotherapist, he seems to prefer “husband Harry” to “institutional Harry”.
The tension between the two characters of The Prince is really a microcosm of a broader culture clash between different versions of masculinity. In the so-called “culture war” in which the Sussexes find themselves embroiled, millennial manhood has become a major battleground.
A number of conservative politicians and commentators have coalesced around the idea that today’s youth are no longer, as they might call them, “real men.” In 2020, conservative influencer Will Witt gave a talk at the University of Denver titled “Make men man again‘, in which he argued that men are no longer masculine causing deep societal problems.
Republican Senator Josh Hawley’s upcoming book, “Masculinity: What America NeedsLikewise calls on American men to “stand up and accept their God-given responsibility as husbands, fathers, and citizens.”
In the UK, the right-wing political activist was Lawrence Fox mock them Bemoaning the fact that men are not “tough” anymore, he tweeted: “Bad times make men hard. Hard men make good times. Good times make men soft. Soft men make hard times. We are in bad times. We need men.”
But similar language has fueled the alarming rise of “ultra-masculine” influencers like Andrew Tate. The former British kickboxer built a profitable social media platform by claiming he could teach men how to be an ‘alpha’. In some of his videos, he’s been showing off Choking and beating women. Along with his brother Tristan, Tate was arrested in Romania as part of an investigation into sex trafficking and rape in December 2022. Their lawyer, Eugene Vedenek, said the brothers reject the allegations.
To these self-proclaimed saviors of “real” manhood, Feminists like Markle They are the main enemy. But hostility is also limited to so-called beta males who do not share their worldview.
In “Spear”, Harry recalls seeing a cartoon in a British newspaper, depicting him on a leash of a dog his wife was carrying. He describes this as a “biblical” misogyny, which he blamed on women for the decisions he made. But it was also a classic example because he sought to emasculate him for refusing to participate in the oppression of women—a key tactic used to support misogyny.
Similarly, Jeremy Clarkson called Harry “Harold Markle” in A now infamous newspaper column, where he wrote that he wanted to see Markle paraded naked through the streets and pelted with excrement. The Sun later removed the column and I apologize. But this is just another example of how Markle’s demonization goes hand in hand with the occasional castration of her husband.
Older men like Clarkson and leading Sussex pundit Piers Morgan go out of their way to mock Prince Harry who feels attached to his openness about being a man in therapy. The right-wing media has made it a target for the so-called “treatment industryIt often reinforces the characterization of therapy as a self-practice.
On the eve of the release of Spear, the royal establishment appeared to fuel this narrative by briefing reporters that Prince Harry was “Kidnapped by a psychotherapy cult.In this framing, the man presents himself as victimized, or damaged in any way, by vulnerability and narcissism.
On social media, I can feel overwhelmed that the Sussexes continue to share their story across so many different mediums. But Spare is still it The fastest selling non-fiction book in the UK Start. Most people will form their opinion based on excerpts of the memoir arranged for them by the media or social media users, not by reading the entire memoir.
But beyond memes About a prince rubbing Elizabeth Arden cream on his frostbitten penis or Googling his wife-to-be’s TV sex scenes, “Spear” is a story about a massively privileged man trying to at least do better — even if it means going against the institutions and societal conventions that benefited from it in the past.
Yes, this book is contradictory at times, out of touch and contains a lot of meandering details that I would have been happier not to have known. (For someone like Harry who often criticizes newspaper editors, there were a lot of details included here that seem tailor-made to make you drool.)
And yes, a break from hearing about the Sussex would be most welcome. But I can’t get rid of the feeling that this is bigger than Prince Harry to his biggest critic. His most ferocious critics feel threatened and betrayed by the version of modern masculinity he represents—a man trying, like the prince himself, to break free from her past.