When I first heard that there was a series about the British crown, I couldn’t help but think that few things could be as boring as following the life of Queen Elizabeth II. The idea of a dramatic show based on a monarchy, a political system that seems outdated in our day and age, seemed something very distant and irrelevant for a world where politics is dynamic, to say the least. I couldn’t be more wrong.
The Crown, one of Netflix’s most important series of the moment, has proven that storytelling is not actually about the story itself. Although a story matters, it matters even more how you tell it.
I have to admit that I’ve binge-watched the entire show, and if you have doubts about whether you should watch it or not, you’ve landed on the right article. I’ll try to convince you why The Crown is probably something you should watch.
You don’t have to know the details of how a monarchy works; besides the people involved, I don’t think anyone really does. As a matter of fact, if you don’t know anything about how a monarchy works, then you should give The Crown a try.
A monarchy is a system that seems outdated. The head of a political system, the monarch, carries the power to represent the people, only because (and this is where it gets crazy) it is their divine right. In other words, being a monarch is an inherited privilege.
I know this sounds pretty lunatic. Rather than choosing someone democratically to govern a country, a monarchic system depends pretty much on tradition and people’s faith in the system. Certain aspects of a monarchy depend on how power is maintained. In the case of Britain, although there is a political system of parties and a Prime Minister who makes decisions on behalf of the state, the monarch is the true sovereign, that is, the person who’s at the top of the system.
Monarchies have been criticized since the first modern states began appearing, and even though they are centuries old, many countries all over the world still keep this system alive. I personally used to think that monarchies were a thing of the past and that other political systems, better suited to modern states and their problems, were more convenient. However, I admit that I’ve started to change this opinion. It is not that I know favor monarchies. The point is that, if something works, it works. After all, democracies are not so great if they don’t work, and evidence worldwide seems to be showing us this: the fact that a country is democratic says nothing about the success or failure of its system.
A Bright Side to Monarchs?
Although monarchies give enormous privileges to a few, there seems to be a great deal of philosophical justification as to why this is done. By watching The Crown, I’ve changed my mind on the role of a monarch. They don’t just go from one aristocratic party to another, draining important resources that actually belong to the people. Although this happens, there sort of some sense in having people whose lives are dedicated to keeping the system alive.
Watching the show has given me an insight as to what a monarch’s role is. I know this sounds a bit naive, especially because this series is one where facts merge with imagination. After all, it’s not as if we know exactly what Prime Ministers discuss with the queen. But having a writer imagine it and taking it to the screen helps us imagine how it might possibly be.
The result is a sort of speculative exercise that allows the viewer to imagine the secrets of royalty. For me, this made me realize that there is a lot I don’t know about politics in a monarchic political system. Looking beyond the veracity of the story, it is how the story itself is told what matters. If a story is so good as to make someone question their beliefs, then it’s probably a worthwhile exercise.
So, I’ve talked a lot about how it is not the story itself that matters, but how it is told. I think there is a lot of truth in these words. The Crown can be slow, predictable, and quite repetitive. So, what is it about it that makes it so interesting?
For a start, I think that the actors are great. The cast is just superb, and how they change throughout each season, not only in terms of a character’s evolution, but also the actors, helps the viewer feel that they are inside a living story.
The production is also worth mentioning. The setting in which the scenes take place are just surreal. To be honest, as of writing this, I don’t know how the series is being recorded, but every little detail is taken care of, and it seems that nothing is left to chance. One feels inside Buckingham palace.
Last but not least, there is one element that stands out in The Crown’s storytelling: tension. I know this sounds kind of obvious, but few elements make a story as compelling as some good old tension. Even though we sometimes know some of the things that will happen, the way they are narrated and portrayed just grabs attention in a way that is hard to avoid.
In a world full of lunatics that seize power through democratic means, a monarchy is probably not so bad. It might be a gamble at the end of the day, but so is democracy. The Crown has meant for me not only a revaluation of many premises I had regarding monarchies, but also a way to learn about history in a fun and engaging way.
I know this is not as good as it sounds because there is a lot going on, and a story can easily be modified to achieve certain goals and dictate a new discourse, one that can alter how we understand history. As interesting as this discussion is, this is not the place to have this discussion.
I want to close this entry by highlighting my initial claim: The Crown is something worth watching if you are looking for some great storytelling. Give it a try. I did and I don’t regret it a bit.