shadowkat: (Default)
[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: 2017-06-12 06:50 am (UTC)
peasant: sweet pea (Default)
From: [personal profile] peasant
Well the show writers will know far more about the issue than me, I wasn't even born.

I guess the weird position of the monarch in relation to the CoE does give it more power over her than almost any other individual.

Date: 2017-06-14 11:58 am (UTC)
peasant: sweet pea (Default)
From: [personal profile] peasant
the practice is in a way, anti-Christian. Yet, the CoE is based in Christianity.

Well, obviously everything in Christianity is open to interpretation, and on top of that the CoE was of it's time. The Church of England emerged at a period when the whole concept of the divine right of kings was also emerging, so I don't know exactly which arose out of which or if they are utterly interdependent. I know the idea was also popular in France but I'm not sure if it spread there from us or if we got aspects of it from them. The later is more likely simply because we were culturally marginal in the late 16th century and throughout the 17th. It is very likely that the reason it took on such significance in England was because of the Reformation and the need for the king to express and develop a right over the church as part of the process of breaking away from Rome. But the original idea may have come in from France via Scotland and James I.

But the idea of the significance of the anointing of a king is of course much, much older. And the Queen takes her coronation oath very seriously indeed.

Date: 2017-06-14 11:51 am (UTC)
peasant: sweet pea (Default)
From: [personal profile] peasant
I'm sorry if our discussions are making you tense. We can of course ease back on them or stop entirely if that is what you want or need.

If you do wish to continue, I am now wondering what you mean by 'left' in religious terms. I've never heard anyone apply the left-right terminology to religion itself.

Date: 2017-06-15 12:34 pm (UTC)
peasant: sweet pea (Default)
From: [personal profile] peasant
You aren't pissing me off so far :)

The UU sounds very interesting and... kind. Although also very different to what I am used to.

The Church of England follows its traditional orders of service, although different churches do different things within that. Worship centres around the recitation or singing of various phrases from scripture, the Psalms and hymns as well as prayers. There is plenty of space allowed for individual prayer, and adaptations by the priest. It is always both very familiar and very individual to each church. In the cathedrals, people mainly come for the music, and the music is maintained at a very high standard drawing on centuries-old traditions of unique English liturgical styles. And I think that the rhythms and communality of the ritual, and the grandeur of the buildings, allow people to move into a different state of consciousness. It is probably more akin to a tribe dancing around a fire while someone beats the drums than what you described.

There is a level of inclusiveness required of the CoE precisely because it is the state religion - it is not just that everyone is welcome but that each parish church belongs to everyone in that parish, regardless of if they worship there or not. We own the CoE in a cultural sense even if we aren't Christians.

Date: 2017-06-15 05:18 pm (UTC)
peasant: sweet pea (Default)
From: [personal profile] peasant
Okay so terminology: The Anglican Communion is the worldwide church, of which the US branch is the Episcopalian and the English one is the Church of England. They all use very similar rights but with a few local differences (I assume the Americans do not say 'O Lord, save the Queen' during the responses!) I've never been to a US Episcopalian service so I don't know how it differs.

Within the CoE there is quite a bit of variation between Low Anglican and High Anglican. The really high churches are called Anglo-Catholic and they are very similar to the Roman Catholics. (And if you've ever tried to sing through a fog of incense you will appreciate the difference - that stuff burns the back of the throat like nobody's business!) But most normal Anglican churches aren't like that.

I've only watched Call the Midwife once so I can't really tell you how useful it is as a reference point :D

Ours is heavy into music -- but it's more gospel, Broadway, classical and choral. Works for me, but not so much for one of my friends who prefers more classical/choral arrangements.
That sounds fun. I am always in awe of your gospel choirs. I can't do anything without sheet music in front of me.

telling me even back then that people make up a church.
Yes :)
Before you get the wrong idea, I'd better tell you that I am not actually a member of the Church of England. I take part in a lot of services because I sing in the choirs. So I'm not a pillar of the church so much as a buttress - supporting it from the outside :)

Date: 2017-06-16 03:49 pm (UTC)
peasant: sweet pea (Default)
From: [personal profile] peasant
Yes, I love to sing. And there is something very special about singing a service.

I you can sing some things you are not tone deaf. If your voice is low register alto then it is normal not to be able to get the higher notes and for them to have no logical meaning in your brain - the connection between the brain imagining a note and the vocal chords being able to reproduce it works both ways.

Also there's the slight issue of being unable to remember lyrics or a tune to save my life. Often I can remember the words, but the tune is lost to me.

I have a really bad memory for music too. Hence my reliance on the sheet music. I have literally sung something in a concert one night and not recognised it on the radio the next morning. Its just the way my brain works. Fortunately it has made me a very good sight reader and doesn't effect my performance as long as I'm not expected to do anything from memory.

you can have female ministers in the Episcopalian in the US. And they support in most cases LGBTQ rights.
We have female and gay clergy. There is still some disagreement about allowing gay marriage, because the church is trying to avoid schism with the socially conservative Anglican churches in Africa. They have been kicking that can down the road for years now and sadly there is still no real resolution in sight.

they tend to be beautiful stone and stained glass
One of the biggest advantages the Anglicans have in this country is they inherited all the old churches and cathedrals. So there is a wonderful heritage of architecture, and the liturgy has grown up around those churches taking advantage of their geography and acoustics. Singing an Anglican service in the choir stalls in one of the great cathedrals is a true privilege.

Date: 2017-06-12 07:03 am (UTC)
peasant: sweet pea (Default)
From: [personal profile] peasant
The Addams did want it, they wanted a ruling class, they believed that not everyone was meant to rule, and not everyone was meant to be educated. That the class system was there for a reason. Jefferson, more of an idealist, along with Franklin did not. Nor did Hamilton.

This debate sounds ridiculous to modern sensitivities, but it makes more sense in the context of a highly religious society. If someone is born to rule then they have essentially been chosen by God, so they clearly have a better right than someone chosen by mere ballot. So what you are actually seeing in this debate is the continuation of the dispute that had been running through British society since the Civil War, as to the divine right of kings. Many of your early settlers had strong cultural connections to the people who largely formed the Parliamentarian side in the war. Indeed Oliver Cromwell himself almost emigrated to America at one point (and just think how it would have changed history if he had!). So this debate amongst your founding fathers is a resolution of that debate in a very clean and final fashion.

We had already resolved the issue during the late 17th century and into the 18th, but we did it in a far more complex fashion, creating the intricate balance of monarchy and elected representatives that survives to this day. It works for us, and so far it has nearly always worked incredibly well, but nobody could describe it as simple or easy to understand.

Date: 2017-06-14 12:06 pm (UTC)
peasant: sweet pea (Default)
From: [personal profile] peasant
Ironic really. Many Christian religious leaders and societies were in direct conflict with the teachings and views of the very God they were worshipping.

My take on this is that any religion that was not flexible enough in interpretation to move with the times would not survive. Christianity is rich enough in texts and interpretations of those texts that it is almost infinitely adaptable.

I also hold that we should judge the past by the criticisms levelled at the time, not by our own standards. Although in this case it amounts to the same thing: The Civil War certainly counts as a huge criticism, and your founding fathers rejected it too, so I think we can say the idea of divine right lost! :D

Date: 2017-06-14 12:12 pm (UTC)
peasant: sweet pea (Default)
From: [personal profile] peasant
painting landscapes is safer than painting people. Landscapes don't talk back and get upset with how they've been painted. And it's safer writing about dead or fictional characters than the living.

Ha ha. I like that!

I'm not sure history can ever be entirely accurate through the lense of those interpreting it. Bias will always skew it one way or another.
Absolutely. There is also the factor of how much space a show or film can afford to explain complex matters. And even if we could have a show that recreated a perfectly authentic plot in a perfect setting, presented by actors who had studied every aspect of their performance for period veracity - the audience could never watch it other than with modern eyes.

Besides, is there even such a thing as a single truthful accurate history to be represented? Even stories set ten years ago show that other people experienced the same period in different ways to what I was experiencing.

irritated with the musical's inaccuracies
This would probably be me. If I know anything about a period my eye just latches onto any inaccuracies and I can't ignore them.

they aren't taking the musical that seriously and just see it as fun.
Something to aim for :)


shadowkat: (Default)

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