Mothers and media analysts knocked Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle’s debut children’s book “The Bench” for serving to disrupt the traditional notion of fatherhood.
Markle told NPR in her first interview since her and husband Prince Harry’s sit-down with Oprah Winfrey in March that her book is dedicated to Harry and their first son Archie. She also said the book intentionally challenges the traditional view of masculinity and that she worked with illustrator Christian Robinson to depict a softer side of fatherhood that would “capture the warmth, joy, and comfort of the relationship between fathers and sons from all walks of life.”
“I wanted him to just try something a little bit new and work in watercolor,” Markle said. “And that was specifically because I just felt that when you talk about masculinity and you talk about fatherhood, it can often not come across with the same softness that I was really after for this book. And I just wanted this to feel almost ethereal and light and Christian was able to use that medium and create the most beautiful images.”
At least one of those non-traditional images of fatherhood include a father donning a pink tutu to match his son’s fashion sense.
MEGHAN MARKLE TALKS NEW BOOK ‘THE BENCH’ AND ITS NON-TRADITIONAL DEPICTIONS OF MASCULINITY AND DIVERSITY
Julie Gunlock, director of the Center for Progress & Innovation at Independent Women’s Forum, a conservative nonprofit, said she would have taken Markle’s message more seriously had she taken a different approach.
“If Meghan Markle really wanted to be provocative and challenge people’s views, she would push back on men who abandon their wives, partners, and children and reject the destructive narrative that tells boys and young men that their natural behaviors are inappropriate, toxic, dangerous, and in need of reform,” Gunlock said in a statement to Fox News. “Markle thinks she’s produced something new, but she’s done nothing original or even interesting. Masculine behaviors in boys and young men and traditional fatherhood aren’t the problem. What is a problem in this society is children growing up without fathers and boys being told they are inherently bad or damaged.”
“Fox & Friends Weekend” co-host Rachel Campos-Duffy questioned why parents should be taking advice from the “narcissistic” couple, who shocked the world when they stepped back from their duties as senior members of the Royal family last January.
“Meghan and Harry’s hubris and self-importance are reaching new heights as Meghan declares she is reimagining fatherhood for the world with her new children’s book. Aside from the fact that they have been parents for like two hot minutes, I’m not sure we should be taking advice on fatherhood from two narcissistic psuedo celebrities who are estranged from their own fathers,” she saaid.
British book reviewers have posted similar complaints about “The Bench’s” messaging.
“It’s too try hard, woke, overly sentimental, and in my opinion should have stayed on the bench,” wrote The Sun’s book columnist Natasha Harding.
“The Duchess of Sussex’s semi-literate vanity project leaves Harry holding the baby,” wrote The Telegraph’s Claire Allfree in another brutal review.
Allfree was also one of many critics to point out the book’s rough rhythm and questionable grammar. In the final line of the book, for instance, Markle takes liberties by shortening the word alone to ‘lone: “Right there on your bench/The place you’ll call home…With daddy and son…Where you’ll never be ‘lone.”
“One wonders how any publisher could have thought to publish this grammar-defying set of badly rhyming cod homilies, let alone think any child anywhere would want to read it,” Allfree wrote. “But that’s planet Sussex for you, where even the business of raising a family is all about the brand.”
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It has not gone without positive reviews, however. Some left-leaning media outlets like HuffPost described it as an “ode to the joy of fatherhood.” The Evening Standard’s Emily Phillips said the book was “schmaltzy,” but she too was moved by the “loving bond” it depicted between father and son.
“With soft rhymes and gentle watercolours about the loving bond between father and son, all rooted around that humble piece of furniture found in every home and park, it’s a metaphorical expansion on the royal-not-royal couple’s guided tour round the chicken coop with Oprah,” Phillips wrote. “The thing that tells you, we’re a family, we’re just like everyone else. But this time, in illustrative form, it doesn’t feel so polarising.”
Despite the mixed reviews, “The Bench” has managed to make both the New York Times bestsellers list and the Amazon Top 40 list.
Markle and Prince Harry left the UK for California after stepping down from their Royal duties, explaining to Winfrey that “the system” did little to help them through a barrage of negative media coverage, which Markle claimed severely affected her mental health. The pair also stirred controversy by claiming members of the Royal family shared concerns with them over how “dark” their son Archie’s skin would be when he was born.
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In a statement following the interview, Buckingham Palace said Queen Elizabeth II was “saddened” to hear the extent of the couple’s challenges.