608. Women as Shields and Scapegoats: Talking Kate Middleton with Melissa Blue


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Sarah Wendell: Hello and welcome to episode number 608 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I’m Sarah Wendell, and my guest today is Melissa Blue. Now, Mel was my guest when we discussed Spare, which has become one of my most-listened-to episodes – thank you for that – and I asked her back to talk about why the weird stories around Kate Middleton grabbed attention worldwide, and why so many people were and are paying attention. So on one level it’s a story that originated in gossip about rich and powerful people in an archaic power structure being weird, but it’s also about misinformation and propaganda and a complicit media system and how, you know, we deal with that over here in the US.

This episode is in two parts because we recorded Wednesday, March 20th, and then did a follow-up this week after the announcement that Kate Middleton is undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer. By the way: Fuck Cancer.

I do have some CONTENT WARNINGS because we are talking about the history of the British royal family. There is a discussion of self-harm, disordered eating, suicidal ideation, and child abuse and exploitation. I also go on a very, very thorough rant about the children of influencers.

I want to say hello and thank you, especially to our Patreon community. If you’ve supported the show, thank you. Your support means a lot. You are making sure that I keep going and that every episode has a transcript that is hand-compiled by garlicknitter – howdy, garlicknitter! [Hiya! – gk] – and you are making sure that we, as independent media – which is a weird thing to call myself, but that is what I am – continue week to week.

I want to say hello to Daphne G., who is one of the newest members of the Patreon. If you like the show and you like what we do, have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches. Patreon members get bonus episodes, there’s a wonderful Discord, we do fun and weird things there like card exchanges, and you get to be part of a really lovely, lovely community of humans. So thank you in advance for considering supporting the show.

And speaking of the show, let’s get to it! On with my conversation with Melissa Blue.

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Sarah: Thank you so much for doing this?

Melissa Blue: Come on, you know it’s absolutely my pleasure. Like, you’re probably the only person that I can talk to, like do deep dives.

Sarah: I’m honored, honestly. I’m honored.

Mel: Yeah.

Sarah: Would you please introduce yourself to the people who will be listening? And I’ve got, I’ve got two whole questions for this conversation.

Mel: I am Melissa Blue. I am an honorary member of the Squaddies –

Sarah: Woohoo!

Mel: – the Sussex Squad. I wrote for about nineteen years, and I consider myself in retirement at the moment, and I currently am freelancing editing.

Sarah: And you are a recent graduate?

Mel: Oh, I am. I did; I graduated with my – [laughs] – Associate’s degree as a paralegal.

Sarah: Okay. So here’s the question: I don’t think it’s possible for us to summarize everything that has happened since January and how off the rails this whole story about Kate Middleton and the, and the, Kensington Palace and the royal family has gotten, but I can say where we are right now, it is still not done.

Mel: It’s not, and I think what it is, the reason why it has exploded in this manner, because it’s been brewing for quite some time.

Sarah: Yes.

Mel: Because if you want to be honest, it’s been brewing since 2016.

Sarah: I mean, you could even say it’s been brewing since ’97, when Diana died.

Mel: Well, I, I won’t say you’re wrong.

Sarah: No.

Mel: It’s been, this whole thing has been, it’s just been growing over and over. When Princess Diana passed away –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Mel: – media did have maybe five seconds of going, Okay, we, we, we went a little too far. We did. Maybe a little too much. And so things kind of calmed down?

Sarah: Yep. And then they turned on the queen: How dare you not show that you’re grieving?

Mel: Yeah.

Sarah: Where are you? They made everyone turn on the queen, because everyone was starting to turn on them.

Mel: Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! You know, they, they definitely threw, the British media threw the royal family under the bus.

Sarah: It’s a lot of buses.

Mel: And I think once Harry and William started to date, started to get back into the tabloids on their own, that’s when things really started to brew, because, as we have learned from Spare, that’s when they really started to protect William.

Sarah: Oh yeah. Oh yes, but once they were both of age and they were considered fair game, the pattern restarted, where they would protect William and they’d throw Harry under the bus, and he had, how many pages was Spare? Nine thousand, eight hundred and forty-two pages of explaining to us that this is the pattern; we were never close; this was all a lie. Here’s what you were told; here’s what actually happened. And I remember we talked about this when we talked about Spare. Already, here’s this, you know, ninety-bajillion-page memoir of Harry saying, Don’t trust what they say, and then he backs it up by suing them.

Mel: Because we have seen it again and again. These, especially within this last year, of something not good about William or Kate: here come more stories about Meghan and Harry.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Mel: Each and every single time.

Sarah: Basically, the super, super barebones version, ‘cause no one listening to this is unaware of what is happening –

Mel: [Laughs]

Sarah: – Kate was seen on the Christmas walk. She went in for a planned abdominal surgery, but canceled a bunch of engagements that had been made in the meantime, and has not been seen since late December. And –

Mel: Mm-hmm.

Sarah: – it keeps getting weirder and weirder and weirder, because Kensington Palace’s PR – I, I can’t even call it a strategy. Hunter Harris of “Hung Up” wrote an, wrote a new-, whole newsletter and was like, Is their PR – who does their PR? A melting bowl of ice?

Mel: I heard someone say that it was just a bunch of corgis in a trench coat.

Sarah: Yes! That’s who’s running this show!

[Laughter]

Sarah: Three corgis in a trench coat; none of them are housebroken. Just crapping all over the place.

Mel: That’s who’s running their PR at this point. Yeah.

Sarah: But, like, it’s not my business. I’m not interested in the business of what’s happened. The fact of what she went into the hospital for is actually irrelevant. It is how far they have failed in trying to control the narrative that has spun out from there. I think what we have here is a narrative with three major acts, and they don’t realize they’ve started the third act, and since you, you and I are very fluent in romance and in –

Mel: Mm-hmm.

Sarah: …structure, here’s, here’s my theory: the first act –

Mel: Okay.

Sarah: – was Diana, and the second act was Meghan –

Mel: Yep.

Sarah: – and the third act is Kate, and we are now –

Mel: Yep.

Sarah: – seeing them do this for a third time, and it’s like, Oh, oh, oh, hang, hang, hang on; I can, I can see your –

Mel: Almost as if…feel like they’re doing worse this time, because they really –

Sarah: They’ve learned nothing.

Mel: With, at least with Diana, they had a lot of control over the narrative they could put out –

Sarah: Right.

Mel: – because all you could know about Diana was from the newspapers. She didn’t have a YouTube channel or, or Instagram. She had the Bashir interview –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Mel: – that blew the doors off.

Sarah: We know there’s a history of women in the family not being okay. They’ve talked about it –

Mel: Not –

Sarah: – they said it with their own words! This is not supposition; this is documented fact from people.

Mel: Diana throwing herself down the stairs when she was pregnant, and this was after years of battling with an ED.

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Mel: That’s one. Two: Meghan Markle’s suicidal ideation from getting absolutely hammered in the press. She goes for help; they tell her, You’re not actually an employee.

Sarah: And we can’t help you. And this is a woman who had her own money and was part of a union. You know she had to look at Harry and be like, This is utter crap. What. The. Hell?

Mel: Like, what, what is…keeping this place together? Because it’s not competent people. And then now, and what has been rumors for years, is that Kate has had an ED.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Mel: Now she’s rushed to the hospital for a “planned surgery.” She’s been missing, and everyone’s acting like everything’s fine, and there’s…

Sarah: …fine here!

Mel: …not even an update statement. Thank, thank you, guys, so much for the well wishes.

Sarah: Yeah. So I, here’s a little behind-the-scenes: I was like, I really want to talk about this in terms of narrative, because this is a, this is a narrative that has a lot of levels, and –

Mel: So many.

Sarah: – and PR is about spinning a narrative and making people follow a story, but make they thing, make them think they thought of the story, and –

Mel: Yeah.

Sarah: – lack of PR is making us think of the story that’s completely off the rails at this point.

Mel: It makes no sense to me. Like, I think that’s why I’m just, I’m so baffled –

Sarah: It’s so –

Mel: – by it all.

Sarah: – it’s so weird, and the weirder it gets, the more compelling it gets. Like, my first question for you was, Why is this narrative so captivating to so many different groups of people and so compelling?

Mel: I think most people, most people are like there, there’s levels of it. I hope she’s okay.

Sarah: Yeah!

Mel: Like –

Sarah: …wish ill on her!

Mel: – all, all that’s going on is really odd, is really weird. Like, I, I think that’s her, but I can’t be one hundred percent. And then you have the level of, I think there’s something seriously wrong and they’re hiding something.

Sarah: Right.

Mel: And then you have the people who are like – [defensive voice] – Oh my God! Why would you question her?

Sarah: How dare you?

Mel: …How dare you?

Sarah: Leave her alone! You’re bullying her!

Mel: It was, it was just some little editing! [end defensive voice]

And so you have all of these. You want to talk about narrative; you have all of these narratives going on at the same time –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Mel: – and…train wreck, and it’s so hard to, to look away because so many people are coming in at different, different avenues. Like, we know way too much about the royal family, but there’s some people who, who don’t even know Edward exists. It’s like you have these three shifting narratives; you have some people who are just here for the jokes. I think for me it’s so interesting to see the reaction to this with America kind of one step removed. All we’ve seen of the British media is their lies. The lies they said about Diana –

Sarah: Yep.

Mel: – the lies they told about Meghan and Harry. And so now you’re saying, Oh, no, no! Everything’s fine with Kate! Americans don’t truly believe you.

Sarah: I think that one of the reasons why that this is such a compelling story for, for me and why it sort of broke containment and, like, sportscasters were talking about it, like, people were joking, Oh, the reason why Kate’s not being seen is that she’s in training! And like, yes, this is her year; she’s coming in strong for the Heisman. Like, people are just, like, it’s breaking containment in a way that is –

Mel: I literally saw a garbage company in New York make a joke about Kate.

Sarah: But I also think that this is a larger story of the media’s complicity in upholding and distributing propaganda on behalf of the royal family –

Mel: Mm!

Sarah: – because it’s profitable for both of them. And you have this –

Mel: Mm-hmm!

Sarah: – secret, archaic institution that is absolutely not willing to examine itself or have anyone looking too closely, failing at the very basic PR of giving them something else to look at. They have created a situation where lots and lots of people are looking very, very closely.

Mel: Too closely.

Sarah: Too closely. But I also think that this is important on a larger scale, because this is very low-stakes drama. Like, where, #WhereIsKate is, is very low stakes, but it’s all the exact same tools being used by the big, scary problems that we’re dealing with right now, whether that’s gun control or reproductive freedom. All –

Mel: Mm-hmm.

Sarah: – those big, scary problems that I can’t solve that are very high stakes, misinformation –

Mel: Okay –

Sarah: – doctored image, propaganda, outright lies, complicity of the media.

Mel: And because if, if you get taught about unimportant things –

Sarah: Yeah.

Mel: – how to look at it –

Sarah: Yeah.

Mel: – when you get an, a feeling, Wait, I’ve heard this before –

Sarah: Wait a minute –

Mel: – but it’s from a much larger government entity –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Mel: – but I will say, I will say, I think downplaying the British institution is the, actually the best PR they have done, ‘cause Kate’s just a mother who, who edits photos amateur-ly at home. No, you are the queen-consort-in-waiting. You know, you are married to the man who is going to be King of Britain.

Sarah: Yep.

Mel: You are the face of a governmental institution, a soft power institution for all we know, because at this point we can’t trust anything you do and you say.

Sarah: Yeah.

Mel: Now, you may have lied about a photo –

Sarah: Yeah.

Mel: – but it is a historical document.

Sarah: Yeah. You are, this was proof of life, and if you are a head of state and you are running a country obliquely or pretend or you’ve got special little red boxes full of documents, who cares? You’re still the head of state.

Mel: [Laughs]

Sarah: That is important. We all agree that, that we want news to be clear and unbiased and not a lie, and they tried to publish a lie, and now it’s like, Well, how dare you bully us for publishing a lie? Like, no! That’s, that’s not what’s happening here!

Mel: But they are so used to lying to the public…

Sarah: Yeah, and never being questioned.

Mel: Never being questioned.

Sarah: Yep!

Mel: Now that people are being actual critical and want proof.

Sarah: Yeah. Like, you know, actual journalism? Like, real journalism.

Mel: Actual journalism.

Sarah: Real journalism. That you do.

Mel: Not just opinion given to you by the palace.

Sarah: Yeah.

Mel: You, that actually produce –

Sarah: Yep.

Mel: – true proof of what you’re saying.

Sarah: They can’t! They just drop an incendiary story right before something that’s about to make them look bad, and then never follow up on it because – it makes me think of that Mark Twain quote that a lie can travel around the world and back before the trace is –

Mel: Yeah.

Sarah: – the truth has laced up its shoes?

Mel: Yeah! And the thing is, these are attacks funded –

Sarah: By taxpayers.

Mel: – ent-, entities!

Sarah: Yep!

Mel: Like, you do owe the public answers. But this is a governmental institution, and it got caught lying to the public.

Sarah: Yep.

Mel: The Royal Rota is acting like it was – [defensive voice] – Oh, it’s just the mom. An amateur photographer.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Mel: Why are you being so mean? [end defensive voice]

Sarah: And the important thing to remember here is that the tabloids in the UK almost all scr-, skew extremely right. Extremely right.

Mel: Mmmm-hm!

Sarah: There is an investment there in right-wing, reactionary politics with everything they cover, especially as it pertains to gender and race and class, and –

Mel: Yep.

Sarah: – the, the tabloid press is threatened as much by this complete buffoonery as the monarchy is. Defunding, deplatforming, and delegitimizing the tabloids to the point where they are no longer profitable? That’s doable. And it’s –

Mel: Yeah.

Sarah: – kind of like KP’s doing that right now.

Mel: [Laughs] And she, and she is so awkward in the job; I’m so surprised –

Sarah: Oh. 

Mel: – that’s she done it for so many years. And the thing is, if you know your principle is awkward, isn’t a good speaker, find other things where she can engage and look personable. This is why I’ve always felt like they really should have leaned into her being sporty. Let that –

Sarah: Oh gosh!

Mel: Let that girl be outdoorsy twenty-four/seven. She’s going to look great! But because of white supremacy and white womanhood, she has to show up in heels and makeup.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Mel: She can’t be out there sweating with the boys –

Sarah: No.

Mel: – because that, that’s not the picture –

Sarah: Can’t play volleyball in wedges. Bunch of bullshit.

Actually, I, speaking of white supremacy, I have a rant, and I would like to deliver unto you this rant –

Mel: Go for it!

Sarah: – I have had stewing in my heart. Okay.

Mel: [Laughs]

Sarah: So I have been on the internet, writing on the internet since 1997, and I remember the original mommy bloggers, and I remember online journals, and I’ve been writing since then, and I have really strong feelings about the children of influencers? I have really strong feelings –

Mel: Mmmm!

Sarah: – about children online. I got real strong feelings, and if you notice, my kids had codenames? They were Freebird and Baba O’Riley, and there’s baby pictures of them when they were born, and –

Mel: Uh-huh.

Sarah: – nothing else since then. Because my kids not only deserve the opportunity to get onto the internet and have no identity created for them, but they also deserve –

Mel: Yeah.

Sarah: – to figure out the internet on their own, without my poisoning their identity. Like, choosing your identity online is extremely powerful. It’s extremely powerful, and –

Mel: I would agree.

Sarah: – and I have very strong feelings about the children of influencers. I could go off about that for about thirty-nine minutes. But let’s be real: the royal family and the working royals? This is just really white supremacy influencers. These are the influencers of white supremacy and colonialism, and whether it’s like, you know, babs622 online or it’s Kate Middleton, their kids can’t consent; they are below the age of consent; they cannot consent to their images –

Mel: Mmmm.

Sarah: – being used in this way, and it’s a problem, especially now that people have been realizing that these children on Instagram and children on TikTok are being viewed by pedophiles? That this is part of –

Mel: Mm-hmm.

Sarah: – the collective imagery of child pornography? That these children are, are vulnerable, and you have a lot of – and I’m, and I’m just going to get dishy for a minute – you got a lot of the children of the early mommy bloggers coming of age, and there’s going to be memoirs, and there’s going to be documentaries, and I’m here for it. ‘Cause a lot of these children were not protected; the income that they have made – except –

Mel: Hmm!

Sarah: – now in Illinois – there’s nothing for them. There’s nothing.

Mel: Yep. Yep.

Sarah: Here’s what pisses me off; here’s my rant:

That doctored photo, the, the big, the composite image of her and her kids that turned Kensington Palace into a laughingstock globally? What made me the most angry about that is the way that, once again, William and Kate have used their children as shields to the public, and had, and, despite all of these mouth noises about giving them a normal childhood and respecting their privacy, you have people all over the world zooming in on the minute body parts of your children –

Mel: Ohhh, yeah.

Sarah: – because you fucked up so badly. We are now –

Mel: Yeah.

Sarah: – zooming in on your children’s fingers because you have fucked up so badly, and this is going to follow them. And it just makes them –

Mel: Mm-hmm.

Sarah: – more vulnerable, and it makes me so mad. Like, that’s the thing where I’m like, Damn it, this is such bullshit! And –

Mel: And the –

Sarah: – just like being a child influencer is a vulnerable position, I also think if you’re, if you are subjecting your children to being an influencer, that’s a human rights violation. I have very strong feelings about this, and hereditary monarchies are also human rights violations, and here endeth my rant. Thank you for accommodating me at this time and holding space for my rage. [Laughs] Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Mel: But you know, I mean, but what’s funny, this is kind of why we ended up doing the podcast, because we had very strong feelings and thoughts – [laughs] –

Sarah: Yeah, and it’s –

Mel: – about everything that was going on.

Sarah: – and it’s not about Kate’s medical things! I don’t care! I don’t – this is not my business!

Mel: I honestly –

Sarah: You’re lying, and you’re a government, and we’ve got a lot of lying governments, and you know, we have an election this fall.

Mel: Mm-hmm.

Sarah: You know, we’ve got an election here in the States this fall, and what we are watching with this whole, like, Kate mishegoss is what power will do to protect itself.

Mel: Ah! Exactly. And I think that’s what upsets me the most, and also what has, why it has felt validating that there has been so much pushback, because KP would not be fumbling the bag this hard if they weren’t trying to respond to the internet response, because otherwise they would have ignored it!

Sarah: Yeah!

Mel: They could have easily just ignored it all. Just let the theories fly. No one, they, they would have gotten off a couple of more laughs, and it would have, it would have ended by now.

Sarah: Yep.

Mel: I’m telling you, if they had not responded, it would have ended a long time ago, but they keep throwing fucking gasoline on the fire!

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Mel: And it’s because they’re not used to being criticized; they’re not used to having someone who isn’t just going to go out with their talking points.

Sarah: Yep!

Mel: And they don’t know how to operate with that, and…

Sarah: And can we just pause for a second and, and just contemplate the absolute epic buffoonery of the idea that they hired a body double, and maybe that was Prince William with a body double, or maybe it was two look-alikes? And this is allegedly okay with, with Kensington Palace, and this is okay with the monarchy, and the, and the tabloids are like, Yep, absolutely, that’s them, a hundred percent them, yep! Uh-huh, trust me! The absolute, breathtaking buffoonery of thinking – and then they hi-, this could be all written up, and there’ll be a whole chapter about, And then they hired a body double.

Mel: [Laughs]

Sarah: Like, are you for real? That’s where we are right now! It is just mindblowing!

Mel: What is, it’s, and for me, it really tells you the lack of trust they now have.

Sarah: Oh goodness, yes.

Mel: The lack of trust they’ve always had, that it is less logical to simply say, It’s her; she lost a lot of weight; it’s a grainy photo. But the logical thing for you is, Oh, that’s totally a body double.

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Mel: Like, how bad is your credibility that people are more willing to believe that it’s a body double?

Sarah: Right?!

Mel: That’s, that’s the true story for me.

Sarah: Yes, and there’s a name for this, and I cannot – there is a, there is a name for it. It’s like a trust cliff. It’s – oh, I found it! Good job, Sarah! And I’ll link to this, obviously, in the show notes. It’s called the trust thermocline, and when you’re talking about brands or companies, bosses think you can keep making the customer experience worse a little bit a ti-, at a time and people will stick around? But there is always a point where people are like, Nope, that’s my limit. I’m done. We’re done now. And the trust thermocline is when that happens, and it, it’s impossible to recover from that. If you have lost the trust of your user base, basically, your audience, your community, if you’ve lost the trust of your community, it’s really hard to get it back.

Mel: They really screwed the pooch after Diana, during Diana. There was a whole lot of, especially want to, I kind of want to focus this on the American people?

Sarah: Mm-hmm!

Mel: On the American market that they always, you know, try to get into?

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Mel: So many people of my previous generation and generation before that who were in real time seeing what happened to Diana never trusted the queen, England, ever again after the way they treated Diana, because they felt like Diana was authentic. Even for Americans, the idea that, they know that they get paid by the government –

Sarah: Yeah.

Mel: – they know they’re part of the government.

Sarah: And it’s like a social currency, too: the more you’re seen doing things, the more value you have as a “brand.” I mean, I hate to bring everything down to branding, but, I mean, brands are a narrative.

Mel: It really is.

Sarah: And they have no concept of what their brand narrative is. It’s this, it’s like when you look at Meghan’s new venture, American Riviera Orchard, it’s kind of like, Okay –

Mel: Mm-hmm.

Sarah: – I get the scope of what you’re doing, I understand the look you’re going for, I understand the price point you’re aiming for –

Mel: [Laughs]

Sarah: – and I expect beige! I expect beige and gray and wood. Like, I understand; you have communicated this narrative to me. But that’s also a result –

Mel: And pastels, yeah.

Sarah: Pastels and, I mean, look, Meghan is deeply stylish. Her understanding of her brand –

Mel: Mm-hmm.

Sarah: – is part of the problem for the monarchy, because she –

Mel: Yeess.

Sarah: – she knew who she was and what she could do and was ready to go do it, and they were like, I’m sorry, you are doing too much. You are, you are doing all of the things and making us look bad, but they don’t understand their brand narrative except My grandma wore hats and was famous?

Mel: And I think that’s what it is. I think there was a small lift with Kate and Will, and then they popped out the kids, and then there was this lull.

Sarah: Yep.

Mel: And then all of a sudden here comes Meghan Markle and Harry, and for the first time there was excitement, not just – and I’m going to be honest – with white people. It was finally –

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Mel: – once again, the Black women who was rocking with Diana actually cared about the royal family again.

Sarah: Yep!

Mel: And, and this created an avenue of market that we now see they absolutely fumbled.

Sarah: Oh yeah. Well, they don’t actually think they need it, and they certainly don’t want it.

Mel: You are not wrong.

Sarah: [Laughs]

Mel: But that’s part of the problem –

Sarah: It is, indeed.

Mel: – is, is that they opened themselves up to this, to this new audience. It’s not just older white women who lusted after Harry and William at a certain age.

Sarah: And the older audience of aging people in the UK who are like, Well, this is our monarchy! The, the support for the monarchy’s always been –

Mel: Yeah.

Sarah: – greatest among older demographics.

Mel: And now you don’t even have the queen, who I think was the steadying backbone factor of the, Will’s not flying the fuck off.

Sarah: So I have a two-part question for you here.

Mel: Okay.

Sarah: What do you think should happen next, and what do you think will happen next? ‘Cause those are not the same thing.

Mel: [Laughs]

Sarah: ‘Cause the, we, we have the, if a logical, competent PR person arrived at this time, what should they do? And what do you think the three corgis in a trench coat will do next? Other than crap on the floor; we know that.

Mel: I think what they are going to do next is quadruple down –

Sarah: Oh God. I can’t take it!

Mel: – and stum-, and completely shit over the carpet again. Let’s look what they’ve been doing over the past few days, and, and so they, the, the talking points have been Kate is being maligned; she’s being bullied; look how bad it is; they’re even breaking into her medical records; leave her alone; Meghan and Harry do it too.

Sarah: So you think that what will happen is that the mess will continue in –

Mel: Yeah.

Sarah: We’ve already got a potential body double, we’ve already got doctored images, and we’ve already got press outlets going over everything that they have submitted, particularly photos from Catherine. They are looking over those for very obvious, it turns out, relics of, of manipulation… So you just think that the mess will continue. Now what should they do?

Mel: What they should do is shut up.

Sarah: What they should do is stop talking.

Mel: What’s sort of kind of feeding into it is their continued targeting of Meghan and Harry, and I think people aren’t connecting the dots. That’s what keeps this story alive, because you keep saying Stop bullying Kate, but then the same day you’re writing a story that’s bullying Meghan. Make it make sense!

Sarah: Yep.

Mel: What you’re doing, you’re pissing people off who aren’t even part of the Squad, because they are seeing, there’s nothing the internet hates more than injustice that they can see with their eyes.

Sarah: Yep.

Mel: They hate hypocrites. They hate people being wrong. And so I think it, it, it has now become a hand-in-hand problem, and it is KP’s doing, because any good article ever written about Meghan Markle, there was always something about Kate being added to it, so these names have become almost synonyms. So what they need to do is literally just shut up for the next… If she’s not going to come out till May, stop the narratives, all narratives. Not even She’s doing fine. Go dark, go quiet.

Sarah: Let me, can I tell you what I think Kate should do?

Mel: Oh God, go ahead. [Laughs]

Sarah: Here’s what I think Kate should do. Okay. So the thing about Queen Elizabeth is that she always knew her narrative, and in our lifetime that was, she was the nation’s grandma.

Mel: Mm-hmm.

Sarah: She was a little old lady in bright hats and bright colors, and she was sort of like the nation’s grandma. And what Kate should do is very quietly release a video as if it’s story time, talking to camera, and she can become the nation’s mom. Now, a very specific portrayal of white femininity and it’s rooted in colonialism and a whole bunch of imagery that just makes my stomach hurt, but that’s what she’s going to do. She’s going to show up as the nation’s mom. A little soft light – remember Touched by an Angel? The light behind you, lighten up your hair, all the hair and a little pastel suit. She’s going to be on camera, and she’s –

Mel: And gentle parent?

Sarah: Yes. And she’s going to talk to you like it is preschool story hour. [gentle mom voice] Hi, I’ve heard that there have been a lot of stories, but I’m worried about you, and I’m worried about us, and all she has to do is come up with one little narrative of, We are together, and we will work together to get through whatever’s happening, but I just want you to know that I’m okay and I want you to be okay. All she has to do is show up as the nation’s mom for like five minutes, and this is done. [end gentle mom voice] And it’ll make William look bad, ‘cause you know he’s not in it; he’s not, he’s not anywhere near her! Like, where –

Mel: He, he threw her to the wolves!

Sarah: They threw her under the bus so hard. All she has to do is show up as, I’m your mom. Hi, nice to see you. ‘Cause nobody wants that from Camilla. Everyone’s kind of like arm’s length from Camilla. She’s got a spot to step into, and she could do that very easily. Five minutes to camera: I’ve been feeling unwell. Thank you so much. All of the things that people have been saying, you know, I’ve gotten cards. Here’s one from a friend of, a new friend of mine in this remote part of the UK. Thank you so much. Like, this could be –

Mel: It would be twenty seconds.

Sarah: – a mast-, she could do a master stroke video in five minutes; put all of this to bed. Just show up as the nation’s mom, and then her social position and her monarchical position would be locked. You cannot get rid of the nation’s mom, my guy.

Do you think that people are more aware of propaganda now? Do you think that this has had an, an illuminating effect on people going wait a minute, this is all lies?

Mel: And, yes. Yes –

Sarah: Oh, I hope so.

Mel: – and I, and I think it goes back, too. I have to give Harry the credit where he’s due –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Mel: – because when he pointed out how his sources, sourced from the palace, I noticed that the palace started to say Friend of William. But yeah, people are seeing more and more real time.

Sarah: Yeah. They’re not subtle, and they’re very clumsy, but now they’re under scrutiny.

Mel: But they’re under scrutiny now –

Sarah: Yeah.

Mel: – because, again, it’s an election year in America. Everything that’s going on, and it’s like, is this the true story? Is this the real story?

Sarah: Uh-huh.

Mel: And what am I seeing, just more propaganda –

Sarah: Yep.

Mel: – to, to get me riled up or to make me believe a narrative that isn’t true? They’re going to have to be competent in order to survive this, or just shut up until people forget, because it’s the internet. After a while, people are going to get bored; they’re going to move on to something else that’s a lot more interesting than #WhereIsKate? And I think that’s what they have always done?

Sarah: Yeah.

Mel: Is that they, they have remained quiet and waited until people forgot, but the problem is, the more you do it, the more it starts to stack up.

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Mel: And I think this is why this story exploded the way it did.

Sarah: What I’m really hoping is that this complete clown show, plus the global attention and the scrutiny that they don’t want, and Harry’s court case is going to completely decimate them. Or if not decimate them, bring them down sixty percent at least. I hope!

Mel: I –

Sarah: I hope, I hope. ‘Cause it’s not just Harry! It’s a whole bunch of celebrities who are like, No, we’re done! And they just keep paying out. Eventually they’re going to run out of money. That’s one of the things that’s so –

Mel: I hope!

Sarah: – so savory about this is that you know they’re very mad at how much money they’re losing, because all of these foreign outlets are now covering their turf. All, and, and the Rota doesn’t mean anything –

Mel: Mmmm –

Sarah: – if there’s no, there’s no Rota events to go to. They’re going to lose money. They’re losing attention to international outlets that they can’t compete with; they’re losing money because the royal family isn’t giving them enough to actually make money. There’s not enough to hold attention on them. They’re going to turn because they’re losing money, and they’re already paying out all these settlements.

Mel: Yeah.

Sarah: They’re screwed if they don’t either turn and make more money by eliminating this unspoken contract, or they’re just going to go out of business ‘cause they’re going to run out of money!

Mel: I think, especially now that the Meghan and Harry articles aren’t moving like they used to because, again, so many people have gained discernment, and the only people who are truly clicking are people who already believe your narrative.

Sarah: Oh yeah. And the Meghan hate is terrifying.

Mel: It really is.

Sarah: Oh, it’s very scary. Like –

Mel: It’s sick.

Sarah: And like you said, it is extremely satisfying to see the institutions that created that hate fandom – and hate fandoms are terrifying – to see them being held accountable for it in some way? Oh, delicious.

Mel: It really is, because they’re, they’re losing money on being hateful now.

Sarah: Mm-hmm!

Mel: They’re going to have to start absolutely ignore them.

Sarah: Yep.

Mel: Or start saying nice things about them –

Sarah: [Snorts]

Mel: – or saying, say the, the nice/nasty things about them so they can continue to get clicks, because now Meghan is an international story.

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Mel: Like, just the way they covered her when she was at South by Southwest, that was kind of insane!

Sarah: She went to a movie in Jamaica and it was global news. No one was going to talk about the Jamaican premier of a Marley movie until she and Harry showed up!

Mel: Yeah. Yeah, I didn’t even know there was a movie.

Sarah: Yeah!

Mel: I didn’t even know there was a movie. So they’re either going to have to pivot with their hate – which I doubt, because I think at this point a whole lot of them have gotten high off their own supply and believe the lies they’ve been telling all these years. I think they’re going to continue to throw Kate under the bus, especially now that they see that it actually makes money for them.

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Mel: But they, but they’ve known that in the past. Like, that’s where she came up with the Waity Katie name, because there was, I wouldn’t say a hate campaign, but being bitchy about her –

Sarah: Yeah.

Mel: – made money. [Laughs]

Sarah: If you wish to be found on the internet, where can you be found?

Mel: You could find me squatting on Twitter at the moment. That is the most reliable website I have. [Laughs]

Sarah: Fair enough!

Mel: Because I retired from writing, and I usually freelance for people I know, but –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Mel: – if you drop me a DM on Twitter I’ll get it, ‘cause I lurk on there all the time.

Sarah: All right! Well, thank you.

[music]

Sarah: Welcome back to the show. It’s been less than a week. So I just actually finished editing our conversation from Wednesday, and the thing that grabbed my attention was that you said – ‘cause I asked you, What do you think will happen, and what do you think should happen?

Mel: Mm-hmm.

Sarah: First of all, above all, Fuck Cancer.

Mel: Yes.

Sarah: Fuck cancer all the way off. You said that they would continue to drag Meghan into it as a contrast to Kate.

Mel: Mm-hmm.

Sarah: Yes, they did, and I said she would make a video as a royal mom? I did not expect to be –

Mel: Oh, she –

Sarah: – right about that!

Mel: [Laughs] I just want, you know, and I think that says so much about the royal playbook is that it’s predictable.

Sarah: It really is!

Mel: We don’t have to be psychic; we just have to know what did they do before, what will they do again?

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Mel: And it’s just all laid out. And as we have seen, now that she has cancer and – I wish her well.

Sarah: Oh!

Mel: I wish her, I wish her health and healing, and I think I need to be clear about this, because what they are now doing is using that emotional shield to do away with all the fuckups that they had.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Mel: It’s going to backfire in a way that they won’t be prepared for, because they’re still incompetent.

Sarah: I still maintain that if there is a PR person, that person is underpaid or is still three corgis in a trench coat. But you’re so right that it’s predictable, because the minute that video came out I was, I was like, Oh, that’s fucking awful. Ugh. Fuck Cancer!

Mel: Yeah!

Sarah: That fucking blows! And then the –

Mel: Yeah.

Sarah: – immediately my first thought was, Wait, so why did the people who work for you have you apologize –

Mel: Hmmm!

Sarah: – for a Photoshop if this is what’s happening behind the scenes? It, it was meant to end all the speculation, and, like we’ve been discussing, it only increased the scrutiny that they don’t want. The palace doesn’t want this, the British royal family doesn’t want this, and the UK press doesn’t want this, ‘cause now they’re doing this giant game of Not It! Not It! Wasn’t us! Wasn’t us! You should feel bad, and this was Russia and China misinformation. I promise you, Russia and China don’t give a fuck about the British royal family.

Mel: Yeah! Let’s, let’s usurp the soft power in the UK –

Sarah: Yeah.

Mel: – by saying Kate has a BBL. Like, that makes no logical sense –

Sarah: No.

Mel: – at all.

Sarah: No.

Mel: And, and what I really just want to point out: there’s no nuance –

Sarah: No.

Mel: – online. There, there doesn’t even seem to be nuance in the media in the UK, or even in the US, because this isn’t, Oh, you, you guys were saying bad things about, you know, someone who has cancer. No. We were questioning an institution that was clearly lying to us, but very good PR that you’re making it seem like everyone is just a shitheel for questioning the institution by putting Kate’s face on it –

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Mel: – but what a horrible institution that they will put your face on that so they can continue to be in power.

Sarah: And –

Mel: They don’t care about Kate.

Sarah: And they will move her out; like, blame her; it’s her fault; don’t look at us. Or they will stand behind her like, How could you be so mean to a woman with cancer? I have two things that I want to point out here.

Mel: They’re horrible!

Sarah: It’s horrible! Number one: Saeed Jones in the last episode of Vibe Check pointed out something that I had not thought of: the missing white woman syndrome and how missing white women get so much attention, and he pointed out there’s an entire generation of people who’ve been going to sleep listening to True Crime. This was –

Mel: [Laughs]

Sarah: – this was like, you know how there’s that joke about how you have a little box and there’s a piece of bait? This was bait. Like, that was –

Mel: Yeah.

Sarah: – you can’t all, he, the way he said it was, Once you’ve wound up those toys, you can’t make them stop moving. You have deployed whiteness in your own favor; you have – and they’ve done it again! Like you said, this is a classic playbook: they have deployed white motherhood and white femininity and white fragility as a defense –

Mel: Hmmm.

Sarah: – and – for the fact that they did not take into account missing white women syndrome, where there’s going to be all this attention ‘cause a pretty white woman is missing. Kristen Meinzer made the point that the US media, especially entertainment media? We punch up. Like when I’m making jokes –

Mel: Yes.

Sarah: – when you’re making jokes, our humor style is to punch up and make fun of those in power, and that highlighted for me the fact that the UK media, they suck up and punch down. They always –

Mel: They do.

Sarah: – punch down, and they’re not –

Mel: They do.

Sarah: – equipped to both deal with being the joke and watching people punch up at the royals, who they are busy sucking up to for access. So the –

Mel: And I –

Sarah: – only tool they have to combat all of us going, And you still suck, is, Well, you should be very, very ashamed of yourself.

Mel: Yeah. I think that’s why, why they’re so upset, and you can tell they are absolutely upset with the way they became a laughingstock, because I could see more and more people, like, almost incrementally become the where, But wait, where is Kate? Where is she? And, and like they said, it was a missing pretty white woman. They were really being questioned, Is she okay?

Sarah: And –

Mel: Like, is she actually okay?

Sarah: Yeah, and that was the weird thing; like, that part of it seems to get lost? Like, we don’t know if she’s okay, but we do know your track record, and we do know it’s terrible, and we also know that we’re funny, and your power is fragile, and we like to poke at fragile power. Like, poke, poke, poke, poke, poke. I remain astonished that knowing this final piece – and this is, this is a shitty fucking ending to this #WhereIsKate.

Mel: Yes.

Sarah: Like, this is, this sucks. Fuck Cancer. But knowing the final piece makes everything that happened before just enraging! Like, this is how you treat women? And this is okay. This is not okay! This is terrible!

Mel: And it, and it’s not even enraging: it makes it all make less sense.

Sarah: [Laughs]

Mel: It makes it, everything you guys were doing to distract, to kill the rumors, it all makes no sense. Kate isn’t just a pretty white mom; she is a face of an institution. The public, one, should know, and two, she should be protected. She should not be repeatedly thrown under the bus!

Sarah: I don’t think that people necessarily universally identify with whiteness or with princesses or with monarchies. There are a lot of people who are like, Fuck all that! But there are people who know someone or who have dealt with or have loved someone who dealt with cancer –

Mel: Mm-hmm.

Sarah: – and that once you get the diagnosis, it’s like the worst full-time job. It is a full-time job, and it is a whole other world, and it sucks, and it’s like, Wow! She had to do this video in one take to appease –

Mel: Yeah.

Sarah: – some of this really outlandish conspiracy theories, because everything else that’s been done has been so clumsy and easily debated. Like, you don’t want to leave room for that narrative; that’s what you had to do to clean up, and it’s still not fully cleaned up. I do love, however, that all of the people who are flying into like a full shaming scold about how everyone was so mean – not mentioning any of the ways in which the palace that she works for was incredibly unkind to her; let’s not, we’re not mentioning that – the response is, Actually, no, I’m not ashamed. I’m confused why this is all tolerable.

Mel: Yeah. Yeah.

Sarah: Stunning, right?

Mel: They’re, they’re so, like, like I said before, they’re so not used to having a critical eye –

Sarah: Yeah.

Mel: – on them that they don’t know how to react; how to, how to respond; how to PR fix; because this was the easiest PR fix possible! Had – I know she probably didn’t want to be seen after leaving the hospital –

Sarah: Can’t say as I blame her! Yep!

Mel: But that, but that is your job –

Sarah: Yep.

Mel: – unfortunately. Your job is to, to keep the public from panicking because a person in power went missing! And all of it is the palace’s fault! This was all so preventable. All so preventable.

Sarah: And I think it, one thing that it makes me a little bit hopeful about is that the US media has done the same thing many, many times: it props up Trump, it props up arguments about transgender people, it props up bullshit –

Mel: Mm-hmm.

Sarah: – dichotomies and binaries that don’t exist, and I’m hoping that with this little low-stakes experience, more people look at the way that the media props up things that aren’t true and, and is able to say, Hang, hang on; that’s, that’s not actually what’s happening. Why should I believe you? Why should I trust you? I also still hope that this delegitimizes the UK tabloid media; fingers crossed.

Mel: I think what’s happening was always going to happen. People, especially since 2016, people have become a whole lot more, have gained a whole lot more media literacy.

Sarah: I hope so! I hope you’re right! Yeah!

Mel: I think they have. I think what we’re seeing is that people are tired. People are tired of, of the world falling down around them –

Sarah: Yes.

Mel: – and I think that’s another component for why the #WhereIsKate became such a thing, because it is a low-stakes thing. It’s not genocide.

Sarah: Mm-hmm.

Mel: Let me obsess about this for a couple hours, going all the way back to fucking Princess Diana and what she went through. It doesn’t matter. That’s why people were, were obsessed.

Sarah: Yeah.

Mel: And there are so many things that matter so much, and it is spiritually, mentally, physically exhausting to focus on it twenty-four/seven. This was a distraction, and like you said, that had low stakes.

Sarah: Nope! Low stakes and a pretty easy history to follow, because there’s so much of it. The other thing I think that, that is very true is that the internet doesn’t have a long memory for scandals?

Mel: Mm-mm.

Sarah: One of the things that Ryan Broderick wrote in “Garbage Day” is that the internet doesn’t, especially social media, doesn’t have a long memory for scandals, but it does have a long memory for memes. We’re going to remember Kate and the BBL for a long, long time. We’re going to remember like, Oh my God, remember when no one could find Kate Middleton and the joke was that she’d had a Brazilian butt lift? [Laughs] The meme will last forever. That part will last, and the media, all media, like all broadcast media, but especially the UK tabloids, rely on the idea that they can tell us one thing and then tell us the exact opposite twenty-four hours later and we won’t remember the first thing that was said. They really think that we have the memory of a goldfish and they can be like, Oh! I, we, we never said that! It’s actually this! The, the Brazilian butt lift meme is, it’s like a cat who wants a cheeseburger. We’re going to remember this part.

Mel: [Laughs]

Sarah: Sorry, guys.

Mel: That’s such a, that’s such a throwback! But I think it wasn’t just this instant.

Sarah: Yeah.

Mel: I, I think when they screwed the pooch with Diana, that never left at least the American mind, that the palace cannot be trusted.

Sarah: And to quote Ryan Broderick:

>> They let a woman who discovered that she has cancer become a global laughingstock and did not intervene –

Mel: Oh my God, yeah.

Sarah: >> – and then at one point made her apologize for it.

To quote him:

>> Absolute sicko shit.

That’s a hundred percent true. Like, this is all visible.

Mel: I’m behind that. I’m behind that one hundred percent.

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Mel: And, like –

Sarah: It’s –

Mel: – but that’s what they do to, to women who are married in.

Sarah: Yep. Women are both the shield and the scapegoat at the same time.

Mel: Always. But here we are! But here we are. And they, that palace hates women. They hate women. I think this is what, what they have proven again.

Sarah: Yep.

Mel: They absolutely hate women.

Sarah: But do they hate women as much as the American Republican party hates women?

Mel: I would say if they got into a death match, the GOP might win.

Sarah: They might. I actually listened to a podcast from a Spanish newspaper in Spanish, and one of the things that they said in that podcast – and I, I will link to it – was Trono vacío – it’s an empty throne. There’s no one on the throne right now. Charles isn’t visible; Camilla’s, like, on a break; William isn’t showing up; and Kate is undergoing treatment. So they literally –

Mel: Yeah.

Sarah: – have nothing to write about. But, you know, let’s take someone else’s cancer diagnosis – which is a terrible fucking thing and I do not wish on any person – let’s take someone else’s cancer diagnosis and use it to bash people, especially the sister-in-law of that person who has nothing to do with them anymore.

Mel: Nothing! It immediately pivots to the narrative.

Sarah: Thank you. It’s –

Mel: The narrative!

Sarah: And they can’t, and they have to negotiate this over women, right?

Mel: It’s unhinged, and I just wish they would stop. I just wish –

Sarah: I wish they would just calm, just be – your advice when I asked you last week, What should, you know, Kensington Palace do, and they were like, you, you said, They should just stop…they should just be quiet. Just be quiet. I wish that that advice was taken by several people in, in the media. I wish that they had just thought before they spoke, at least a little bit. But oh, oh well!

Mel: They definitely don’t buy into the idea that shutting the fuck up is free.

Sarah: Mm-mm!

Mel: They don’t.

Sarah: They don’t.

Mel: They don’t. And it boggles my mind because it’s like, You are turning off so many people. Like, on the ground, lurking, looking out how people are reacting to how the British media is acting? It is turning people off who don’t even pay attention –

Sarah: Yep.

Mel: – to royals. They’re just going, they’re getting the ick.

Sarah: They’re not going to; it’s too profitable for them to stop at this point, but –

Mel: And I think that’s what it, that’s what it comes down to! Because it –

Sarah: It’s always money. It’s always money.

Mel: – it is prof-, profitable to be in Meghan and Harry’s business. Why is there even a single story about them at all?

Sarah: Why are they relevant in this? They’re not! They’re actually not relevant at this story at all, except that you keep making them part of a story that they have, they, like, they have asked to be excluded from this narrative. [Laughs]

Mel: Right? They refuse to let them leave the narrative.

Sarah: No.

Mel: They keep dragging them back in.

Sarah: Even though that narrative actually isn’t going to serve them long-term and isn’t going to help them.

Mel: Right.

Sarah: It’s all very short, short-term.

Thank you for coming back to talk about this again. Like, you had said when we signed off last time, Well, maybe, you know, maybe in a couple months we can check in again and see what the narrative looks like. Oh, no, how about five days later?

[Laughter]

Sarah: Thank you for being my guest twice in one week. I appreciate it!

Mel: I, I definitely had fun during this whole process; I’m not even going to lie.

Sarah: Well, thank you!

Mel: Yeah, but I, I, I wish Kate well.

Sarah: Yeah.

Mel: I, I, I wish they would just stop talking about Meghan and Harry.

Sarah: The people who are supposed to be caring for her are doing a really bad job of it –

Mel: Ah!

Sarah: – and I hope they do a better job now.

Mel: I really do.

[music]

Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this week’s episode. I want to say a massive thank-you to Mel for connecting with me twice and being so generous with her time to make this episode happen. I hope you enjoyed our conversation. I have so many links for you; my goodness! If you look in the show notes, I have links to different articles, a whole Reddit thread about the thermocline cliff, the trust thermocline, and I have episodes that I mention in the second part of the recording, including What a Creep and Vibe Check. If you’re not listening to Vibe Check, it is a fantastic podcast, by the way.

I will have links to all of these different sources in the show notes; I hope you will check them out. There are a lot of really thoughtful writers going on. I’m also including a link to something that I edited out, but I wanted to make sure you knew about. It is from Tressie McMillan Cottom; it is an Instagram Live recording of something she called the Bama Rush lecture nobody asked for, and in that Instagram Live she talks a lot about a class structure and the comfort of knowing that the structure is in place, so if you are interested in this topic, that is a great place to start, and that link is in the show notes.

A while back I asked for reviews, and wow! Wow, y’all came through; thank you. Reviews make a massive difference, and it’s weird that they do, because they’re not on every platform. Like, not every podcast listening platform has a space for reviews, but if you do have one and you have left a review, thank you. I want to thank Flexitarian, who wrote:

>> The interviews are smart and interesting. I learn a lot while being entertained. Sarah Wendell is an excellent host. She is both funny and insightful.

Thank you, Flexitarian. I am honored, and I do try to create smart, interesting, educational, and entertaining content. That’s what I was going for here, anyway.

If you have left a review, thank you. It really makes a difference in terms of the algorithm showing the show to other people; like, Do you like this? You may also like that! And if you’ve told a friend or told somebody that you listen to this show, thank you!

As always, I end with a terrible joke, and this week the joke comes from Laura, who is part of the podcast Patreon.

Did you hear about the two radios that got married?

Yeah. Two radios got married, and the reception was amazing.

[Laughs] That’s a bit of a different style for the jokes I usually tell, but I love that one. Thank you, Laura!

If you want to send me bad jokes, if you would like to tell me what you thought of this episode, if you’d like to tell me things, I love hearing from you. Every episode is posted on smartbitchestrashybooks.com, so you can leave a comment there, you can email me at [email protected], you can find me on social media @SmartBitches on most platforms, but I love hearing from you, and I am very grateful that you listen to the show each week, so thank you.

On behalf of everyone here, we wish you the very best of reading. Have a wonderful weekend, and we will see you back here next week.

Smart Podcast, Trashy Books is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can find more outstanding podcasts to subscribe to at frolic.media/podcasts.

[end of music]



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