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Why I won’t be watching ‘The Crown’

November 8, 2016

thecrownI watched the first episode of the new Netflix series, “The Crown” the other night (if you haven’t heard of it, or seen it, it’s the fictionalized story of events in the life of Queen Elizabeth II from the death of her father, King George V, through her ascension to the throne and beyond. Known events [personal and political] are given a ‘behind the scenes’ treatment that is part soap opera, part reality-show, part reverie. Nearly everything that is ‘revealed’, however, is pure fabrication; there is no evidence that what we hear coming out of the actors’ mouths, or what we see them doing, has any basis in fact. Little is known about the actual personal lives of the Royals and the producers take full advantage of that fact to make up their own version of ‘the truth’ and present it as if it’s a factual portrayal of what really happened.) While the show had its merits (the costumes and set pieces were sumptuous; the actors portrayed their famous counterparts admirably), I came away feeling slightly ‘dirty’ for having watched it. It took me a couple of days to figure out why.

liesA number of years ago, an individual (related, but not close; curious about my life, but not concerned for me; living some distance away but in regular contact with other family members and friends of the family) decided to rewrite the narrative of events taking place in my life (a promotion, a divorce, a business opportunity, an invitation to my then 13 year old son to travel unaccompanied to another country, a new job, a new relationship, a change in my parents’ circumstances and living arrangements) in her own words. She neither cared to check the veracity of her ‘assumptions’ with me, nor to change her version of ‘events’ when inaccuracies and blatant untruths were pointed out to her. Rather, she continued to fabricate stories, tell lies, and spread rumors about me that were both insensitive and hurtful (a good number of which I wasn’t even aware of until years later!)  When I begged her to stop, to listen to the truth, to apologize for the harm she’d caused, she refused. By that time, I believe she’d actually convinced herself – and others who’d been party to the gossip-mongering – that her version of my life and circumstances was actually the truth. And that my ‘side of the story’ was nothing but a pack of lies.

truthUltimately I had to concede that when it came to ‘me against them’, ‘they’ were always going to come out on top. After all, how does one person convince a multitude that a single truth is more factual than a pack of oft-repeated lies? You can’t. Eventually, of course, I gave up and moved on with my life, leaving this person (and a number of others who chose to accept her false version of events over my very real truths) behind. My life is better without them in it. I will always know the truth, even if they chose to believe the lies. But what happened all those years ago wasn’t easily forgotten.

And the sickness I’d felt then came back to me after watching “The Crown” the other night. Because when someone (anyone – relative, friend, stranger, Hollywood scriptwriter) takes it upon themselves to put words into the mouths of people who have no say whatsoever in what is written or said about them – who cannot attest to (or argue against) the truth of words and actions attributed to them – it is a vile and contemptible act. I’m not sure why these individuals (writers, producers, director) were allowed to create a series about the Royal family without their permission (they are, after all, still alive, fully cognizant of their surroundings, powerful yet hand-tied by protocol to say nothing about such blatant invasions of their privacy), but (in my opinion) it shouldn’t have been sanctioned (certainly not by anyone with a shred of common decency).

And, unfortunately, the viewing public, with their voracious appetite for all things salacious (reality TV being a prime example), are very likely going to believe everything they see on this series to be ‘real’. They will think the ‘stories’, the fabrications, the phony conversations, the fake interactions really took place as shown. They’ll go on to repeat them as fact (look out Wikipedia!)  They – like some people in my life years ago – will assume that something told on such a grand scale (or through the exchange of local gossip or social media) must – absolutely MUST – be authentic. Regardless of who says otherwise. Despite the fact that there is no proof to hold the ‘fact’ against. In spite of the surety that no one can possible know what goes on ‘behind closed doors’ in someone else’s life (except the person or persons themselves).

voyeurismI won’t be watching any more episodes of “The Crown”. I have respect for the British monarchy (even if I don’t understand how it has survived all these years, or how the family can withstand the constant barrage of harassment and tabloid publicity they face every single day); they don’t deserve this ‘Hollywood treatment’ (not a lot of it is particularly flattering). Even if this show was about a less well-known family, I couldn’t bring myself to sit down in order to ‘eavesdrop’ on their (imagined) conversations without their permission (I’ve honestly never watched ‘reality TV’ for the same reason – even if it WAS ‘real’ [and let’s be honest here, it’s all play-acting for the cameras] what goes on in those homes is NONE OF MY BUSINESS!) “The Crown” felt too much like voyeurism for me.

And I have no interest in becoming a ‘peeping Tomasina’, now or at any future time on … the other side of 55.

 

 

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12 Comments
  1. November 10, 2016 9:23 am

    Thanks for making me think of it in a different way, Margo! I watched it too and like so many viewers got caught up in the “story” without reminding myself it is fictionalized but I too was uncomfortable with the way each royal was depicted. I think we Americans are also somewhat fascinated with the lives of royals and that’s why we want to watch it. Because of your post, I shared the facts that this is not a true version of the royal family’s lives.

    • November 10, 2016 4:24 pm

      What I (still) don’t understand is how it got made without approval/input from the Royals. Too strange.

  2. November 9, 2016 10:15 am

    It has been said that life imitates art, but in this case art is attempting to imitate life, and it makes me uncomfortable for all the reasons you have so eloquently stated. I don’t watch “reality” shows at all, but I do watch “The Voice”. I’m becoming less comfortable with it since I heard it and similar shows referred to as “manufactured music” by a REAL musician – someone who was out touring and entertaining. It’s a strange world…

    • November 9, 2016 10:17 am

      … and getting stranger by the day. So sad that society has confused ‘reality’ with ‘real’.

  3. November 9, 2016 6:37 am

    Interesting. I’ve only watched a very small portion of the first episode and I felt unaccountably uncomfortable….you’ve out my feelings into words. I too probably won’t continue to watch it

    • November 9, 2016 8:31 am

      Its odd that so many people are watching it and not feeling ‘odd’ about it. I suppose that says something (not very nice) about our society. Thanks for commenting.

  4. November 8, 2016 5:28 pm

    So sorry to hear you were maligned in that way. In a perfect world, you would have been able to sue her for libel!

    We live in this sad world where gossip and lies carry more weight than privacy and the truth.

    • November 8, 2016 6:03 pm

      So true. The take away lesson for me was “What someone else says about you is none of your business”. A hard one to learn.

  5. November 8, 2016 5:22 pm

    I didn’t think of it like that. Well said!

    • November 8, 2016 6:04 pm

      It bothered my husband immediately; I was fascinated by the story but soon realized most of what I was watching wasn’t even remotely ‘real’. Sad really.

  6. November 8, 2016 4:48 pm

    We started watching this when it began and within a few minutes also had the sickening feeling of being Peeping Tom and Peeping Tomasina.. So, off it went, never to be turned on again. I totally agree with you. Thank you for posting this.

    • November 8, 2016 6:05 pm

      Glad I’m not the only one who feels this way. Unfortunately, millions will watch and leer and salivate over details that aren’t even remotely related to what really happened. I wish the Royal Family would sue the producers! The message needs to be sent that this sort of thing is unacceptable.

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