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[personal profile] shadowkat
Finally finished watching The Crown Season 1, which is about Queen Elizabeth II's reign from her marriage, her coronation, through her sister, Princess' Margaret's brief and somewhat tragic broken engagement to Captain Townsend.

The mini-series by Stephen Daldry is extremely good. I have no idea how accurate it is to the actual events.

It is however an interesting artistic portrait of Britain and The Crown during this time period -- there's an episode that sort of describes the intent of the series, through an analogy of sorts. Which I didn't pick up on until I began to write this review.


It's the second to last episode, where Winston Churchill decides to resign. In the episode, there's this amazing interlude, where Churchill is sitting for a portrait commissioned by both heads of parliament. The artist is Sutherland. During his sitting both Churchill and Sutherland examine each other's paintings, and focus on a painting that each made after their child died. Sutherland focuses on Churchill's continuous painting of gold fish pound that Churchill later reveals he put in a year after his daughter Marigold died. And Churchill focuses on one that Sutherland did. Then they discuss painting...and Sutherland tells Churchill that he can't hope that Churchill will like his work. But he tries to paint what he sees, the truth as he sees it, the person.
And then they discuss each other's paintings, and Sutherland remarks that he saw great pain, and sorrow, a darkness underneath the gold fish pound painting. Churchill wonders, is that a reflection of what is in you or me. Except, Churchill was obviously feeling these emotions when he created the painting.

Later, when the portrait is finally revealed. Churchill feels humiliated by it and hates it.
He rejects the painting. Sutherland goes to visit him and asks why...telling Churchill, who rants at him for showing his likeness in such an unflattering manner...that he is an artist, he can't not paint what he sees. But it is just art, it is not personal.

I think, in an odd, way, Daldry is stating that is true of this miniseries as well. This is an interpretation of events through the lense of writers, many years past when they took place. And, many of the events they are interpreting took place behind closed doors and between people both living and dead who told no one outside of their nearest and dearest about them.

Often those who live in the public eye are the most remote. It's as if they are encased in glass or marble, we can see but not touch. They cannot show the all too human pain and suffering beneath the plastic smiles.

I don't envy Elizabeth her Crown, or her life, of wealth and posterity, but...decisions that isolate her. Towards the end of the mini-series, she's adrift. Isolated. With little to no support from friends or family, or so it seems. The husband she loves, can't come to terms with his role as perpetual side-kick, seen but seldom heard. And her sister can't forgive her for standing with the Church of England, and not letting her marry the divorced Townsend. (Although I don't see how either Phillip or her sister thought she had a choice in the matter, considering when the Prince of Wales did it, not that long prior, he had to abdicate the throne and move to France. And he even counsels his niece to stand with the Church. He tells her that as Queen she can't really abide by her promise or pledge, she's split in half. )

I didn't blame Elizabeth, I blamed an antiquated law within the Church that was created in a time period where people didn't live that long, and well people didn't marry for love but property and advancement. Historically, marriage wasn't about love it was about property and procreation. It really was about division of property.
And I blame a lot of old men who can't change or get rid of antiquated laws that no longer make any logical sense. Inflexibility or the inability to handle change can lead to immoral acts. As you can see, I got angry at the Church of England and wanted someone to rip them a new one. But I can see why Elizabeth didn't, even though she desperately wanted to and did not agree with them, because doing so would have destablized her government and country. It could have caused instability.

Historically, it's not clear what happened. Because according to what I've been able to find, Margret mysteriously called off the romance after the two years were up and said that they'd chosen to go their separate ways. So the above is just the artist's interpretation of the events. Which makes me wonder why they chose this interpretation, as opposed to a less damning one of Church and Country? Maybe because this one provided the most angst and drama? Or it appears this was the most logical reason?

I was watching The Crown partly to try and understand the Brits and their monarchy.
I don't. I admit that. I think there are certain cultural differences between countries, faiths, etc that are difficult to wrap one's head around?

Years ago, back in the 1980s, I wandered around Wales collecting Welsh folk stories, mainly ghost stories and jokes, and had an interesting discussion in a pub with a bunch of Welshmen and women. It was regarding politics and the Crown. On the wall of the pub, was a portrait of the Prince of Wales -- Edward, who they still revered.
They asked me what my political stance was. Was I Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative, Labor? I told them that I was moderate and pretty much neither, I despised Reagan, didn't like Thatcher much either, and unfortunately we hadn't had any Democratic candidates that were lovable, or even likable, but I voted for them because lesser of two evils. They accused me of being wishy washy, and did not understand why I wasn't devoted to a particular party and more focused on the character of the candidates. While I had troubles understanding why they had monarchy which didn't appear to do much, except pop up for special events -- some lauded figure head. They insisted this was not true, but didn't really expand on it.

The Crown explains the monarchy bit. I still don't understand why Great Britain still has one. It seems like an anarchism in this age. But it does shed light on it.

Art can do that, if done well. It can also confuse and pass on incorrect information.
So, it bodes well to take some of it with a grain of salt.

At the end of the Churchill episode, Churchill burns his portrait. We have no way of knowing if he actually did -- the portrait is consider the Lost Masterpiece. So this is just conjecture. And the writer's of the series fully admit it -- showing in writing the truth.

The series is a fictionalized portrait of Queen Elizabeth the II, depicting the challenges and burdens surrounding her day to day duty as Queen. As seen through the lense of the writers, it examines various themes and moral quandaries. Such as should religious doctrine get in the way of love? And should duty break apart family? And to what degree if any, is image and stature important to maintain? Or power for that matter?

It raises some interesting issues. Ones that don't have any clear answers, which is shown as well. In particular, when Elizabeth navigates the treacherous waters of determining the fate of her sister's love life. A job Elizabeth does not want any part of, but has no choice in.

Date: 2017-06-11 07:11 am (UTC)
peasant: sweet pea (Default)
From: [personal profile] peasant
Interesting. I have not yet had the chance to see the show, but as you say it is also history so that makes less difference than normal.

Sutherland remarks that he saw great pain, and sorrow, a darkness underneath the gold fish pound painting. Churchill wonders, is that a reflection of what is in you or me. Except, Churchill was obviously feeling these emotions when he created the painting.
This is a question that artists and writers of all types have to constantly ask. I don't think there is ever a single simple answer to it. We know that Churchill suffered from depression and that he saw a relationship between his mourning for his daughter and the goldfish pond, so in one sense how could the emotion not come from him as the artist. And yet when Sutherland observes it he is a normal person experiencing emotions both from his own life and from his growing relationship with Churchill and Chartwell as a place, so how could he not bring his own interpretation to colour the painting. I love this vignette that you have described, and am eager to see the show for myself because it strikes me as wonderful to have such an idea discussed openly in a mainstream TV show.

But it is just art, it is not personal.

I think, in an odd, way, Daldry is stating that is true of this miniseries as well.

Oh I like that! And how sensitive of them to include such a thought. I am always slightly uncomfortable when the royal family are used in any film or show because of teh awareness that out there are real people who must constantly have to isolate themselves from popular culture to avoid being driven mad by it. To be public property in the way that they are is inconceivably horrible to my mindset, and yet they have no choice.

I still don't understand why Great Britain still has one. It seems like an anarchism in this age.
Many reasons. And different ones will carry different weights for different people. But overall the monarchy is enormously popular and there is no sign of that changing.

The traditions of a country are an important part of what makes us feel we belong and gives us a stability. The buildings and ceremonies and flags of the USA could also be called 'anachronisms' since doubtless each one would be done differently if you were designing them anew today. Yet if the whole lot was swept away I am willing to bet you would feel an enormous sense of loss and uncertainty. Regret that something had gone needlessly.

Also the monarchy serves an important political role, providing us with a head of state who is above and outside politics. The simplest answer to why keep the monarchy is always 'imagine President XXXX' with XXXX being the name of whichever senior politician you dislike the most. Even republicans can appreciate that.

And finally it is a big money spinner. The monarchy brings in tourists and sells the British brand abroad in a way no elected president could. They can open doors and catch ears and make foreign heads of state just a bit star-struck in our favour. That is well worth having.

Which makes me wonder why they chose this interpretation, as opposed to a less damning one of Church and Country? Maybe because this one provided the most angst and drama? Or it appears this was the most logical reason?
My mother has talked about the emotional consequences of Princess Margaret having to give up Peter Townsend (in relationship to current discussions about how Megan Merkel might or might not fit into the modern royal family if it comes to it - these things are not just in the past). For my mother, the pressure that was put on the couple was unforgivable, so it was clearly an issue that caused great tension in the country at the time.

You perhaps should not put the weight on the Church of England that you do. I am fairly sure the church will have been expressing the mood of the class of society they represent - what is often called 'middle England' (a cultural not a class or geographical description) - rather than just the theological beliefs of the bishops. The CoE is generally very in-tune with the wider culture of the country and adapts as that mood adapts. Nowadays it certainly does not ever set that mood but only can reflect it, I don't think it was much different back then, although church attendance was slightly higher then so it might have been different. But you should not think of the CoE as influential, merely representational.

I think there are certain cultural differences between countries, faiths, etc that are difficult to wrap one's head around?
Two nations divided by a common language. We call the USA and the UK 'cousins', not siblings. Cousins know one another well and have much blood and history in common, but they do not grow up in the same house and there will always be things that are not understood at the unconscious soul level. For example, I do not get the workings of race and immigration in US culture. I can observe it is of huge significance to you all, and I can read about the history of slavery, the civil rights movement, Black Lives Matter, and the rest, but I will never understand it in a culturally sensitive way because I have not been immersed in it from birth. A few of your remarks about Northern Ireland the other day made me realise that however well informed an American is never really going to 'get' the undercurrents of emotion, trauma and loyalties involved in that issue for any Brit or Irish person. And maybe it isn't even worth trying to explain things like this that are so visceral, so emotional, so bound up with life-long experience and history that stretches back many generations. It is not quite as bleak as they have it in Last of the Mohicans: "Don't try to understand them; and don't try to make them understand you". I do keep trying and I love having conversations like this with people like yourself, but there is a limit to what can be achieved without living for a very long time in the country. And maybe that is as it should be - it would be a dull world if all countries were the same. :D

Date: 2017-06-11 06:24 pm (UTC)
yourlibrarian: Gwen as Queen (MERL-GwenQueen-angelqueen04)
From: [personal profile] yourlibrarian
The husband she loves, can't come to terms with his role as perpetual side-kick, seen but seldom heard.

Not only that but he apparently married her at the urging of his family for status. At this point given the decades they have been together, who's to say if their marriage was the best thing for both of them or not. But it was good for the story, I think, to demonstrate that successful or prominent women never get support from their husbands the way women more routinely do so the other way around so that marriages are much the same as ever, and we haven't progressed much at all.

Regarding your question, I gather that they were not torn apart by the decision so much as the enforced separation (which, essentially, served its purpose in turning their attention elsewhere) and it's very doubtful that Edward and Elizabeth spoke about this or other issues. However since the story is centrally about Elizabeth I'm guessing Margaret's dilemma was framed this way to create the isolation you cited and also give more weight to her role as sovereign.

BTW, I think your comment about how the art arc is in some ways a commentary on the whole series is a really interesting one. Maybe link this post to [community profile] tv_talk? There must be some other viewers of it there.

There were a few thing I found fascinating about the series, such as the episode about the London poisonings, and its reference to the Pennsylvania incident, which I don't remember ever hearing about before. Disturbingly timely given Trump's very recent rollbacks of EPA regulations >:( It also made me think of recent reports of China's growing panic over its pollution problems and the way some families have evacuated their children out of cities for their health.

In fact, generally much of The Crown resonated with more recent controversies and clashes -- at least recent within my lifetime. I also found fascinating the information about Elizabeth's lack of education. No idea what sort of education expected kings got and she grew up never expecting to wear the crown. But even so, it's rather shocking how little practical knowledge she had. I thought that part got rather truncated as we never learn how long she kept the tutor and how far she progressed.

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