"Of all deceivers...
Jeremy Beer on Technocracy, Liberalism, etc.

The Crown Series Four

This has been out for some months now, and although I enjoyed the first three series a good deal, I was dreading this one a bit. The previous season had taken the Queen and her story up to the late '70s, so this one was inevitably going to deal with Charles, Diana, and Thatcher. And that was, also inevitably, going to be painful at best. Apart from the pain intrinsic to the Charles and Diana story, I know that the hatred of Margaret Thatcher among the sorts of people who run the BBC was and is at least on the level of the hatred of Ronald Reagan among the same sorts of people here. 

So I can't say I was disappointed by the treatment of thos

e two stories. They were no worse than I expected. Well, not much, anyway: Charles is treated as more or less a monster crushing the gentle dove Diana, with a fair degree of assistance from the rest of the royal family, and I wonder how much justification there was for that. I certainly hope it was not as bad as portrayed.

The Thatcher story could have been worse. There was some attempt to treat her as a human being. But that aspect of the series was severely handicapped by the strange and unpleasant manner in which Gillian Anderson portrayed her. I admit that I doubt Anderson's ability to act on the level of those superb English actors. But even if that's not the case and these were conscious artistic choices, this particular portrayal struck me as pretty awful. She's utterly stiff, cold, and just plain weird. For some reason--and I assume there must be some real-life reason--whenever she's in conversation she tilts her head oddly, almost unnaturally, in a way that finally began to make my neck hurt. By the last couple of episodes I was actually looking away. 

I couldn't imagine that Anderson's version of Thatcher could ever have won an election. Wondering if she was really that off-putting, I watched several videos of Thatcher speaking, and while she was certainly no one's idea of easygoing, she was in those clips far more relaxed and normal in her speech and general manner than this series portrays her.

I suppose anyone reading this who's interested at all in the series has already seen it. But in case you haven't and are on the fence: I don't especially recommend it. It's extremely well produced and acted, apart from Thatcher. And Olivia Colman as Elizabeth is great again. What an actress she is!--as convincing when playing a middle-class policewoman (Broadchurch) as when playing  Queen Elizabeth. But in addition to the unpleasant aspects I've mentioned there is the frustration of never knowing how much, apart from public events, is history, how much is reasonable filling in of blanks, and how much is pure invention, with an agenda. And apart from the question of accuracy there's a certain cruelty in treating in raw detail the agonies of real people, most of whom are very much alive. I would not want to be William or Harry watching it. 

GillianAndersonAsMargaretThatcher

Addendum: here, for the moment, is the trailer. I say "for the moment" because I noticed that my link to the series 3 trailer (in this post) is no longer valid:

 

Comments

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It just makes me very uneasy watching it. And I hate forming harsh opinions about people for entertainment.

AMDG

"watching it'--do you mean that you're watching the series or that trailer? I certainly wouldn't positively recommend it to anyone.

As far as harsh opinions are concerned, I think it actually had the opposite effect on me. Partly sympathy for the real people being helplessly bashed, partly thinking they (Charles and Thatcher) are/were almost certainly not as bad as portrayed.

Oh, by the way: I wondered why Gillian Anderson was chosen for this role. Surely there are British actresses who could have done a better job. She's married to the director.

I've yet to see any of 'The Crown'. Like you, I'm wary of revisionist history creeping in where I am too ignorant to notice. Also, the time commitment!

It would be a huge understatement to say that the demands on your time are greater than those on mine.

As far as some very superficial research has informed me, the series sticks to the known facts about public events. But nothing portrayed that happens outside the public eye should be assumed to be anything but a writer's speculation. In the first episode, for instance, Charles receives an admonishing letter from Lord Mountbatten. There is apparently no evidence whatsoever for that, and the royal family denies that it happened.

I have seen the whole thing.

AMDG

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