Well helloooooo, readers who stuck around while I got comfy with my new job (because I GOT A FULL-TIME JOB OMFG) and let my poor site go neglected! I appreciate you greatly.
Today, as part of the blog tour for Stephanie Kate Strohm’s new book Prince in Disguise, I’ve got a guest post from Strohm about a show you will barely believe actually happened: I Wanna Marry “Harry.” (I’ll be reviewing the book soon and you guys, IT WAS SO CUTE. I DID NOT KNOW HOW MUCH I NEEDED THE BREATH OF FRESH, ADORABLE AIR THIS NOVEL WAS.)
I might be one of the only people on the planet who watched I Wanna Marry “Harry” during its brief run on TV – and who went on to watch the remaining episodes online after this travesty of a production was cancelled after airing only four episodes. On paper, this show seemed to combine two of my greatest loves: reality dating TV, and the British royal family. What could possibly go wrong??
So very, very much.
The concept for I Wanna Marry “Harry” was simple, yet insane: a mild-mannered 23-year-old English guy named Matthew Hicks who looked vaguely like His Royal Highness Prince Harry of Wales was given a royal makeover to increase the resemblance, and trained in such princely arts as horseback riding, fencing, and ballroom dancing. Then, he was moved into a fancy English estate along with a dozen American women who were strongly encouraged to believe that they were in a reality dating competition for the hand in marriage of an heir to the British throne.
I don’t remember as many of the dates or the challenges as I wish I did. I do remember that there were frequently fake paparazzi or actors pretending to be star-struck locals asking for a picture with “Harry.” I remember one woman finding a photoshopped picture of “Harry” with his brother, William. I’m pretty sure there was a sports challenge where the women played a sport (maybe cricket?) in revealing outfits, and then the losers had to serve the winners afternoon tea. In short, it was absolutely ridiculous. A frequent “reward” for “winning” dates was to stay in a room that adjoined Fake-Harry’s. “The Queen would never allow this!” I sputtered at the television. “There’s no way these women could possibly believe this guy is really Harry!”
That was a common refrain that dogged the show. These women must have been playing along for the cameras…right?
Maybe not. The eventual winner of the show – Kimberly Birch, an actress/drama therapist from Long Island – gave an illuminating interview about a year after it aired. She said the show was pathologically committed to trying to mislead them. Frequently, producers would stage conversations outside the contestants doors about how unhappy the Queen was and how she was demanding “Harry” shut down the show and return to Buckingham palace. Production even brought in a fake “therapist” – that’s right, an actor posing as a therapist – to convince the women that any doubts they were having about “Harry”’s real identity were all in their minds. Isolated and subjected to this kind of brainwashing, I am not at all surprised that these women began to believe they were actually in the presence of Prince Harry!
(But in case you were wondering, Kimberly Birch is not engaged to either Matthew Hicks or Prince Harry.)
I Wanna Marry “Harry” portrayed American women as the worst kind of shallow, stupid, royal-obsessed clichés we absolutely aren’t, but I do think that amid all of the nonsense, it did tap into a tiny kernel of truth about some of us – about me, for example. I know my obsession with the British royal family is weird. (My friends in the UK, most of whom are in favor of disbanding the monarchy, find it particularly perplexing.) I couldn’t even articulate why, exactly, I am so thrilled by all of Kate Middleton’s statement coats, or why I am so delighted by Harry and Wills’ love for Star Wars (although that is pretty objectively adorable.) I can’t explain it. My royal family obsession just is, a fact about me as immutable as my eye color or need for old-fashioned donuts. I know that I’ll buy any magazine with Harry and Meghan Markle on the cover. I know that I’ll pore over pictures of their wedding, just like I pored over every picture of Will and Kate’s big day.
And I know that if I had been a single actress/model/cocktail waitress in 2014, I would have been first in line to marry “Harry.”
About the Author:
Stephanie Kate Strohm is also the author of Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink, Confederates Don’t Wear Couture, The Taming of the Drew, and It’s Not Me, It’s You. She works as an actress and teacher in Chicago. You can find her online at www.stephaniekatestrohm.com and on Twitter @stephkatestrohm.