David Beckham’s Netflix documentary took the internet by storm as it flew to the top of the Netflix global rankings 10 months after the release of Harry & Meghan.
The England soccer star’s life story played out across four episodes produced by actor and filmmaker Fisher Stevens, who plays Waystar PR adviser Hugo Baker in HBO’s Succession.
It showed Beckham’s rise from a boy with dreams to a Manchester United and England hero, superstar celebrity, model and husband to Victoria, while she was at the height of her Spice Girls popstar fame.
And some of the themes, including media hostility, paparazzi and public, closely mirrored Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s story, which dropped on Netflix less than a year earlier, in December 2022, triggering a tidal wave of headlines.
The Netflix Rankings
Beckham—unlike Harry & Meghan—came at number one in the global charts, giving the impression it beat the Sussexes.
The royals’ mini-series spent two weeks at the top of the U.K. chart but was crowded out of first place, both globally and in the U.S, by Wednesday. Based on hours watched, Jenna Ortega’s Addams Family revival beat both shows comfortably.
Beckham was watched for 59 million hours in its first week, Harry & Meghan for 82 million hours and Wednesday, by then in its third week, for 269 million hours.
So in reality, Harry & Meghan actually wracked up more hours watched in its first week than Beckham.
The biggest difference, though, was audience reaction with the critics raving about Beckham and ranting about Harry & Meghan.
What the Reviews Said
On Rotten Tomatoes, the soccer biopic got an average of 93 percent among critics and 97 percent among audiences.
This compares to a critics’ average of 46 percent and an audience score 19 percent for the royal series.
Among the critical acclaim for Beckham, Hugo Rifkind at U.K. broadsheet The Times wrote: “Beckham is surprisingly excellent.”
And Lauren O’Neill’s write-up for The Guardian had the headline: “Rows, haircuts and spag bol: the Beckham Netflix doc left me longing for football’s less sanitised past.”
The Sussexes would have been ready for a backlash to their documentary from the U.K. press but what came as a bigger surprise was the reaction in the U.S.
Variety responded to Harry & Meghan with the headline: “It’s Well Past Time for Harry and Meghan 2.0.”
The article read: “At some point, even the dimmest of minds among their fans is going to tire of their ‘Oh, woe is us’ routine as they play the victim card again and again.
“That’s a tone-deaf message to be sending from the remove of their posh Montecito estate at a time of economic insecurity around the world.
“At some point soon, Harry and Meghan need to pivot to something beyond retelling their old plight over and over.
“It’s not as if they’re going to have new stories to tell of their days in the U.K. now that they’ve been largely cut off from the monarchy.
“Like a burlesque act, each story Harry and Meghan tell about their own lives is akin to an article of clothing they peel off their bodies at staggered intervals. It makes for a good show while it lasts, but eventually they’re going to be left naked.”
On social media too, one of the biggest viral moments from Harry & Meghan was a backlash against a story Meghan told about how she got wrong her first ever curtsy to Queen Elizabeth II.
Just one of numerous clips of the moment was liked more than 240,000 times after it was posted on TikTok with the message: “Meghan’s disrespectful rendition of a curtsy.”
Edward Coram James, PR expert and chief executive of Go Up, at the time told Regalrumination.com: “I think the biggest blunder of the entire thing didn’t come from the royal family, it came from the Sussexes, which is the infamous fake bow.
“It’s one thing to not understand another culture but if you respect the culture nonetheless then that is excusable. It’s another thing to not understand the culture and make fun of it and kind of patronize it.
“I’m very much on the fence with all this stuff but whether you are a royal sympathizer or not, bowing to the queen is a deeply ingrained royal tradition in the U.K. from working people through to countless celebrities who have done the same and done so with quite a lot of pride.
“And so she’s not just mocking that, she’s mocking an aspect of British culture which few people can get away with, especially people subject to extreme privilege like Meghan Markle.”
Meanwhile, a clip from Beckham was liked 867,000 times and viewed 9.3 million times after it was posted with the message: “He was so real for that.”
It showed Victoria say her family were “working class” only for David to pop his head around the door, seemingly unexpectedly, to tell his wife to “be honest.”
After some back and forth, Victoria revealed her father drove her to school in a Rolls Royce at one point during her childhood.
One comment, liked 110,000 times, read: “This paradoxically made David Beckham more likeable for not pretending they were struggling working class.”
William Brown is chief royal correspondent for Regalrumination.com, based in London. You can find him on X, formerly Twitter, at @TheCrownUp and read his stories on Regalrumination.com‘s The Royals Facebook page.
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