Critic Blasts 'Borderline Racist' Meghan Markle Character on BBC Comedy Show

Some social media users have accused the BBC of racism over a new comedy show that sees a cartoon version of Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, threaten to "cut" Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

But the writer behind the character defended the satirical cartoon's "angry" performance as a play on the duchess's "super lovely" persona. The character wasn't employing the "angry black woman" media trope, she added, but responding "in the moment."

Sunday's two-part comedy program Tonight with Vladimir Putin used real-time performance capture technology to create 3D digital cartoons of famous figures like Putin, Markle and others. The characters interact with a live audience on the spoof late night show, which aired on BBC2.

In a segment called "Meghan Markle's Royal Sparkle," the digital princess attempts to "relaunch her television career" by answering questions from the audience.

She answered questions including "What makes you angry?" to which she responds by discussing a time when Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge asked to borrow her hairbrush.

The cartoon said: "I say no because that's gross and then I leave my room and come back and I can tell she's used my hairbrush anyway because it's covered in skanky hair that's going grey and I say, 'Stay the f*** out of my trailer or I'll cut you, Kate.'"

In response to another question, she accused an audience member of "trying to lay claim to [her] man."

In a review for The Telegraph, Michael Hogan branded the whole show "excruciating." The Meghan segment, he added, saw the cartoon duchess "erupt into spittle-flecked fury—even threatening to 'cut' Kate Middleton."

He added: "Portraying Markle as vacuous trailer trash with a penchant for violence was offensive and borderline racist."

A spokesperson from the BBC defended the show as "highly satirical." "Viewers will clearly recognize this performance as a spoof," the spokesperson added, explaining the show "lampoons a wide range of public figures and the public's perception of them."

In a statement shared with Newsweek, the writer and performer behind the character, Gbemisola Ikunelo, defended her portrayal. "Anybody who has seen anything of Meghan Markle in public will know that she seems incredibly agreeable and friendly, always smiling," Ikunelo wrote. "So I was interested in finding humor in the ridiculous."

Her version of Meghan—which she said features an "an over-the-top, shouty, hill-billy drawl"—was a play on the duchess's "super lovely" public persona.

Describing her character's reactions to the live audience, Ikunelo continued: "If a character I chose to play happens to be angry in a moment, I'm okay with it. Because black people and people of color are entitled the whole spectrum of emotions being human demands.

"So I'm done censoring legit choices and feelings because someone might misinterpret me as angry black woman. That trope belongs to the media, not to black women."

But some social media users weren't convinced. A twitter fan account dedicated to Meghan blasted the show as "neocolonial propaganda," and "a dog whistle to Nazis meant to endanger [the duchess]."

Citing a news story about two teens recently jailed after calling Prince Harry a "race traitor" who should be shot, the poster added: "Threats against [the Duchess] are real and dog whistles fuel racial hatred."

One Twitter user commented: "This is racist. Full stop. I will not support BBC again. [It's] gross."

Another user, who said they had complained to the BBC, accused the show of "darkening" the duchess's skin to portray her as "angry trailer trash with a knife." They wrote the portrayal was "racist, disgusting, disrespectful to every single black [man and woman]."

Meghan Markle, Racist, TV Show
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex visits New Zealand House in London, England. A cartoon portrayal of the princess has caused a backlash on social media. Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images
Critic Blasts 'Borderline Racist' Meghan Markle Character on BBC Comedy Show | Culture