By the same token, The Crown is unwilling to ever criticise the monarchy; there is no meaningful commentary offered on its flaws and failings. It is, fundamentally, a programme quite firmly on the side of ‘the crown’, as you’d expect from the title; while it’s not quite fetishistic, it undoubtedly glorifies the institution, painting it in an unfailingly positive light.
It ultimately hobbles any of the thematic resonance that the drama is supposed to hold; questions of duty and the cost of being Queen are all well and good, but if the greatest criticism you’re willing to make is “having to smile a lot is hard”, then the supposed cost of this duty isn’t conveyed particularly effectively – or at all, frankly. It’s often difficult to see our characters as anything other than beneficiaries of the privilege they enjoy, rather than flawed people suffocating under the weight of it.
So, this was an attempt to put together something of a definitive take on The Crown, after having reviewed it for CultBox, and generally struggling with it – certainly, I was always pretty out of step with the general consensus when it came to The Crown.
Were I to try and distill it to a sentence, I think my problem was that a lot of The Crown was about how difficult it was to be the Queen, while never actually engaging with much critique of the monarchy – not in terms of, like, “oh, we need to abolish it”, but in terms of how it impacted their lives. It’s been a long time since I’ve watched it, but an example that stood out particularly was Elizabeth spending a while upset that she’d never received a general education – but never mind, it was alright in the end anyway, because the special royal education she got was useful too.
Part of why I think I responded so much better to season 2 was that it shifted away from that angle, and put more focus on the actual relationships between different characters. It was, I think, a better approach, and I hope The Crown maintains that in future.