What I learned from The Crown is that essentially, the monarchy, or at least the British one, are a sort of government sanctioned and promoted celebrity family. People seem to love them by default whether they deserve it or not, and so the state uses this as an opportunity to promote among other things, proper behavior, loyalty to country, patriotism and devotion to duty. Something to aspire to. Without which you supposedly would have, especially among the lesser educated, mayhem.
Because they are so popular, people are obsessed with everything they say and do. Movies, books, magazines – a whole industry of publications are dedicated to everything these people eat, wear, their stature, their earthly possessions, who they ‘fancy’, none of which may actually be true yet is absorbed, fabricated and supplemented by people like water in the desert. And because there is such obsession and (unnecessarily deserving) adulation, they use this to promote their standards. Like sobriety, conservatism, restraint, respect for law and government, and all those the government sees befit a British citizen.
The Show Itself
The show revolves around the principle character and family matriarch the Queen, and her adherence to her duties as such. While I would normally say there is both good and bad to this, after some reflection you will understand that there isn’t a lot of good at all. There is the grandiosity of being Queen. There is above mentioned adulation and all the trappings of a life as such. But none of this makes up for the bone wearing loneliness, the frustration when things go awry, the pressure of a job you constantly feel ill – equipped to do, and the squabbling with family that do not understand their own roles to play and therefore resist it throughout.
Just as duplicitous is the double life she has to live. While Elizabeth Windsor is a daughter, mother and sister you may think that she can just play the Queen as her day job. Unfortunately that is not the case, as situations occur in the show that dramatize the fact she remains queen in all aspects of her life. From State functions to her bedroom and dealings with her sister, she is the queen and cannot be anything else. The alternative is a supposed erosion in the monarchy, which in turn is a failure of the State – a burden that both strengthens one’s resolve to carry out one’s duty yet at the same time no one can possibly endure for an extended period.
This is the essential drama that the show produces. While most of the issues seem petty at the start (especially at the start), what keeps you watching is the interest in how the protagonist deals with issue after issue. And this is what keep people watching regardless of how they feel about the monarchy or any misgivings about the show itself. It’s another example of a new type of TV ‘anti – hero’ – a character you do not necessarily root for and in fact may often dislike. Similar to Walter White in Breaking Bad you wonder why you’re ‘cheering’ for a drug pusher and killer, you sometimes don’t like Lilibeth because she can be a cold hearted overly virtuous bitch. But you watch anyway, because you understand where they’re coming from, and of course you want to know what happens.
None of which of course is of any use if the actors themselves aren’t up to the task. In this show the actors are the purest sense of the word. Netflix supposedly spent $100M on making this, and I think it would just have been successful if they spent less on scenery and just gave it all to the actors. Claire Foy is a master class in nuance providing shifts in emotion with as little effort as I’ve ever seen. And while I consider John Lithgow as one of my favorites I did not like him as Winston Churchill at the start, partly because he is way too tall, and partly because if there is any country with an abundance of capable male actors that place would be it. However in Episode 9 he delivers a fragile, pained and insecure Churchill just as the historians described him to be and I am duly floored.
Ending On A Domestic Note
I am far too appreciative of the Philippine Constitution and what it tries to achieve to want a monarchy, but studying this show I understand its value and potential to influence hearts and minds. They were a uniting factor during the War when Britain essentially played underdog gate keeper to the marauding horde that was Nazi Germany. They needed inspiration anywhere they could get it and the Royals apparently proved to the task at the time.
I look at my country now and wonder who would both inspire and advocate that which is right and none come to mind. Our ‘heroes’ are fools like Manny Pacquiao and Pres. Duterte, both of whom enjoy massive, unprecendented popularity and blind loyalty, yet chose to use this to promote the worst values possible. One is of frail mind and flexible morals while the other has the ability to consider drug addicts as non – people, a thought process that harkens to the tenets of fascism.
The government can call on the law all it likes, but there is nothing like a person with both backbone and popularity to unite and steer the people to safer shore. A righteous government subsidized celebrity, as it were, whose role the Royals in my opinion were created to fill.