Sunderland University academic praises Meghan Markle's bravery but doubts her Oprah moment will have changed people's minds

Meghan Markle was brave to talk openly of her mental health struggles and experience in dealing with racism and sexism, says a Sunderland University academic.

Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 5:14 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 5:31 pm

But journalism lecturer Neil Macfarlane believes the Duchess of Sussex's controversial interview with Oprah Winfrey will have done little to change people’s preconceptions about her.

Neil was part of a university team which previously analysed reaction to the Duchess online and found hundreds of examples of vile racist and misogynistic hatred.

“As a high-profile woman and a high profile woman of colour, she does attract a lot of abuse and a lot of criticism, and the decision to go public in the way she did, I imagine, is not going to help with that,” he said.

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Neil Mcfarlane

"It is brave to speak out in this way because she is aware of the kind of criticism and abuse she gets.

“Some people will have thought she came across well but there are some people for whom that will only fuel the flames.”

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He saw elements of history repeating itself in the treatment of Prince Harry’s wife and his mother: “Diana has been deified in the decades since she died but she got really brutal treatment from parts of the media,” said Neil.

Oprah Winfrey interviews Meghan Markle before the pair were joined by Prince Harry

Social media had made people less cautious about resorting to abuse and more set in their opinions, he added: “I think the atmosphere is so polarised now, I am not sure how many people are open minded. People are very entrenched in their views.

“Social media – and Twitter in particular – can be brutal places. People do behave online in a way that they would not in normal life.

"It is not getting better and I don’t think social media companies have done as much as they should to clamp down on it.”

While there had been support for Meghan on social media, Neil said he thought it unlikely the interview would change many people’s views on the monarchy.

“There was a big reaction in support of Meghan but I don’t think Twitter represents society in a meaningful way,” he said.

"You would really need to look at the polling of the general public. I don’t think there’s any great groundswell of opinion on abolishing the monarchy.”

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