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The British government calling for a ‘health warning’ on Netflix's ‘The Crown’ to protect the royal family’s image is pathetic

Chris Sweeney
Chris Sweeney

Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @Writes_Sweeney

Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @Writes_Sweeney

The British government calling for a ‘health warning’ on Netflix's ‘The Crown’ to protect the royal family’s image is pathetic
Streaming giant Netflix’s smash hit ‘The Crown’ has stoked controversy over its portrayal of the Queen and her blue-blood family, sparking a briefing campaign in a bid to control the narrative and minds of the public.

Some people can’t handle looking in the mirror and not liking what they see.

Someone’s truth depends on perspective, and individuals interpret situations differently, but image is a powerful tool that engenders respect and control. This is the British government’s reason for igniting a foolhardy battle with TV show ‘The Crown’.

Also on rt.com ‘Check for little people behind the screen’: UK culture secretary mocked for suggesting Netflix should warn ‘The Crown’ is fiction

It’s a depiction of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign featuring her, Prince Philip, and the rest of the Buckingham Palace gang. Different actors play the same characters, allowing them to age as the show catches up to the present day. The latest batch of episodes, season four, has raised hackles as it’s about a vulnerable era for British society, 1977 to 1990.

There is the marriage of Charles and Diana. It's well-known (proven by a leaked intimate phone call) that the relationship was rocky as he conducted a long-term affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, his current wife, who he originally dated before marrying Diana. The Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, is there with the drama covering the Falklands War. Other incidents include the Queen’s cousin Lord Mountbatten being assassinated by the IRA, Diana dancing on stage at the Royal Opera House, and the Queen and Thatcher disagreeing over imposing sanctions on apartheid South Africa.

So there was a certain inevitability about Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden’s demand that Netflix include a “health warning” prior to every episode. His choice of words is painfully poor. Who needs a health warning to prepare to watch TV? That gaffe only looked worse, however, when Dowden added: “I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact.” 

The inference is that the younger generation are complete idiots, unable to differentiate between drama and reality.

Also on rt.com Galloway: Netflix’s The Crown reminds us Thatcher was just like Trump – an outsider to the ruling class, surrounded by a ‘swamp’

‘The Crown’ is a drama, not a documentary; creator Peter Morgan describes it as “an act of creative imagination.” Of all the movies and TV shows made about historical events or people, have audiences ever taken them to be 100 percent pure fact? Maybe North Korean cinemagoers do, but the rest of us can differentiate. The government’s intervention smacks of taking a leaf out of Kim Jong-un’s propaganda handbook.

It’s a blatant attempt to spin what viewers see in ‘The Crown’ as wild fantasy and devoid of any truth. They are trying to tell the masses, “your royal family and government would never do the shady things Netflix is showing you.” The problem they’ve got is, a lot of the stories and themes in ‘The Crown’ have a fair degree of historical accuracy.

‘The Crown’ was widely praised before this series, but that doesn’t mean it was ever completely factually accurate. Not so anymore, though, as the knives have appeared after the elites decided they wanted to plant a seed in the public’s mind.

“A cowardly abuse of artistic licence,” are the words of Simon Jenkins in the Guardian. Just for context, that’s Sir Simon, a former chair of the National Trust, who was a member of the Millennium Commission, whose members are appointed by the Queen. Sally Bedell Smith’s critique includes the phrase: “viewers are tricked into believing that what they are seeing actually happened.” You could imagine an American author who specialises in royal biographies would have a persuasion to say that, so their books look better as offering readers the “real” story. As luck would have it, that’s exactly what Bedell Smith is, and her last book was titled ‘Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life.’

Another expert commented, "it’s taken dramatic licence excessively and it’s made the Prince of Wales a villain” – that’s the view of Dickie Arbiter, who is completely independent despite working for the Queen as the Buckingham Palace press secretary for 12 years.  He even called actor Olivia Colman’s portrayal of the Queen “rotten.” Colman’s skills during her career have seen her acclaimed with an Oscar for Best Actress, three British Academy Television Awards, a British Academy Film Award, three Golden Globes, four British Independent Film Awards and a British Film Institute Fellowship.

That’s an aside; the merits of what is good acting isn’t the issue. 

It’s the government’s messaging and the society cheerleaders shoring up the image of the royals. Royal commentator William Shawcross even wrote about the family, “Yet the reality is this: ‘The Crown’ is a cruel and mendacious attack on public servants who cannot defend themselves.” 

Excuse me?

Destitute British families are turning to food banks in record numbers and are at the mercy of stringent lockdowns, but the royal family cannot defend themselves? And from what? From a dramatic portrayal that doesn't suit what they want others to think.

Also on rt.com The Crown is like American politics – populated almost entirely by villains with no one you really want to root for

They can join Instagram and show the Queen’s speeches on YouTube, but they aren’t modern and aren’t in touch. They never will be when they quite literally live behind ornate gates and take no part in everyday society. This is another example of that, a manoeuvre to crack the whip so their loyal subjects are well aware they are ruled over by outstanding individuals.

And there’s also a good chance this could be the entree to a Battle Royale, as the next season will see Prince Harry as a teenager and adult. What was the name of the streaming giant that he and Meghan Markle signed a reported £112 million deal with? 

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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