It’s never a good sign when a network or streaming service decides to release their newest title with zero notice and little press coverage. Nothing says ‘this movie is terrible’ quite like a studio giving a movie a January release date then either embargoing reviews until the premiere date or denying critics access altogether. As audiences get used to binge-watching 13 hours of television in one go, it’s a little more commonplace for platforms like Netflix to avoid potential embarrassment by sending out an announcement tweet of a release then just pretending the offending content never existed. So, when HBO Max tweeted that all 12 episodes of their new animated comedy The Prince would drop on their platform in less than a day, the writing was on the wall.
The Prince is the brainchild of Family Guy writer Gary Janetti, inspired by his Instagram account wherein he wrote bitchy commentary about the British royals using the persona of Prince George. Janetti’s take on the child, who is currently eight years old, is essentially posher Stewie Griffin. We’ve talked before about Janetti’s rush to delete some of his more offensive posts over the past year, especially the extreme misogyny directed towards the likes of Meghan Markle and Princess Charlotte. While he never addressed or publicly expressed any regret over these posts — which included referring to Markle as ‘trash’ and asking if Charlotte was binging and purging — the fact that he felt the need to cover his tracks suggested that he was aware of the potential for backlash with his new pet project. Royal watchers certainly weren’t wild about the prospect of The Prince and its potential to be yet another piece of media profiting from the shameless abuse of Meghan. It’s no coincidence that Janetti went on his deletion spree after the death of George Floyd, when every minor celebrity acknowledged that racism existed for a moment and posted black squares to their feed.
The show’s mere existence has, of course, sparked the usual slate of conversations regarding satire, the depictions of real people, and the media’s attitude towards the royals. Most of this discourse has, in my opinion, missed the point as to why The Prince has proven to be particularly galling. It’s not about whether one should do a show like this — if you’re British then you’ve likely seen more than one comedy of this ilk that tears into the Windsors — but what a creator actually wishes to say through this perspective. Janetti’s take on Prince George is extremely American and limited by his obvious lack of understanding of the bonkers intricacies of Britishness and the class system. The Prince shows George, voiced by Janetti himself with an American accent, as being obsessed with Kelly Ripa (?) and the Real Housewives (??) He’s cruel and swears a lot and seems to seriously hate women. Bring in Seth MacFarlane and this is just Stewie Griffin. It’s certainly ethically questionable to appropriate a real-life child for these purposes but the sheer laziness of Janetti’s approach certainly doesn’t help his case.
It’s not especially satirical either. As the scant number of critics who reviewed the show noted, it’s mostly dull, too lazy to even be all that offensive. The Queen says ‘f**k’ a lot and that’s the joke. Charles is weak and beholden to his mother’s whims. Harry is stupid. Prince Phillip is essentially a corpse, a depiction that would almost be biting had it not been extremely worn out at least a decade before he died. Anyone familiar with old-school episodes of Spitting Image will have such comedic routines memorized thanks to their cultural omnipresence.
The royals have certainly never been immune to satire, and we certainly could have used some sharp comedic takedowns of the family in their current state. It’s not as though one would be short of material regarding a clan that includes a corrupt prince who was BFFs with a pedophile, a notoriously racist elder, and generations of plotting, affairs, and tampon-related flirting. Hell, an American perspective on this could have been refreshing, especially with Meghan now back in the States and the truly entrenched nature of The Firm’s racism open to all. Yet The Prince proved to be utterly uninterested in such ideas. It’s almost impressive how little Janetti and his writer’s room seemed to care. It’s almost as if they got the show greenlit and he suddenly realized how bad an idea the entire concept was.
In a fascinating twist of irony, The Prince is remarkably kind in its portrayal of Meghan, as voiced by Condola Rashad. She’s positioned as one of the smarter people in the family, the one who has to patiently teach the dim-witted Harry how to do simple tasks such as use a refrigerator. Janetti rose to prominence on Instagram with his callous comments on Meghan before quickly realizing that perhaps it wouldn’t be advisable to dedicate several hours of television towards someone who confessed to thoughts of suicidal ideation after months of press attacks and abuse. It’s a move that’s overall indicative of Janetti’s lack of talent and general hypocrisies, and yet another reminder that just because you say something it satire that doesn’t make it true. Really, if you have to keep shouting that fact from the rooftops then perhaps the problem isn’t the people who ‘don’t get’ the joke.
On a related note, episodes of The Prince are actually preceded by a disclaimer telling viewers that the show is ‘like, parody, or whatever. And certain recent events will not be reflected in this programme because, again, not real. So chill.’ I imagine this was added following Prince Philip’s death and the Oprah interview with the Sussexes, but it simply makes an already heavily diluted attempt at satire seem as impactful as homeopathy. Janetti has also desperately tried to position his ‘comedy’ as being in the name of respectful and silly fun. His husband Brad Goreski even said that the account was designed to poke fun at the royals in an honorable and kind way. That’s almost worse to me than the lazy cruelty. Imagine trying to suck up to the f**king royal family of all people but especially while you’re using one of their own kids as a mouthpiece to attack women’s appearances and sex lives. At least have the nerve to pull the faux-edgelord ‘stop censoring me, sheeple’ card or something!
Each episode begins with a discretion note, which was likely added in after the death of Prince Phillip (portrayed in the series as a nasty, inept, senile man) and the number of controversies of the portrayal of the main character, George. pic.twitter.com/PiDLLL9FKt— animatedplus (@animatedplus) July 29, 2021
HBO Max may have wanted to sweep The Prince under the rug with its rushed release but I can’t imagine how they thought this show would end up as anything other than what they got. Whatever else you can say about Janetti’s show, he delivered what he promised, albeit at a slightly weaker dose than what he previously posted and deleted. At a time when plenty of networks are eager to chase online trends they don’t quite understand, it wasn’t the worst move in the world to greenlight Janetti’s concept. The issue was that it never went beyond that concept. Well, when it did, it was only to be staggeringly sexist, and that’s not the best combination of ideas for a full season of television. Given the way it was unceremoniously dumped, I don’t expect HBO Max to renew The Prince for a second season. Besides, the Sussexes are Hollywood kids now. If you’re going to crawl to power, you may as well do it in style.
Header Image Source: YouTube // HBO Max