Op-Ed: Netflix series 'The Crown' offers star dialogue Special

Posted Jan 9, 2017 by Jonathan Farrell
The new series "The Crown" on Netflix won last night's Golden Globe for Best Drama. It has received rave reviews for its stellar acting and production quality,
New series  The Crown  now on Netflix won a Golden Globe for Best Drama of a TV Series for 2016 at t...
New series "The Crown" now on Netflix won a Golden Globe for Best Drama of a TV Series for 2016 at the 74th Golden Globes ceremony on Jan 8, 2017.
Some of the dialogue in various scenes brings up a difficult topic in this presidential election year about government. The life of the royal family of the House of Windsor aside, the idea of royalty being "anointed" versus appointed or "elected" caught this reporter's ear.
American sensibilities often view royal attitudes with skepticism, even when respectful. Yet, our ideal of "government of the people, for the people and by the people" stands in sharp contrast to the age-old concept of ruling by "divine right."
Seeing the first season of the 10-part series unfold does provide insight into how the Windsor's lived in the early days of Elizabeth II's reign as sovereign. And, lots of banter back and forth about personal individuality versus duty to the monarchy and ultimately to the people. This is a theme that writer/creator and executive producer of the series Peter Morgan details well. Keep in mind, he was the force behind the award-winning 2006 movie "The Queen," starring Helen Mirren.
While much of the series so far is dramatic interpretations of life behind the palace walls out of public view, the discussions about the role of Parliament and Monarchy were of important interest to me. Naturally, there are many in Britain who question the continued role of monarchy in modern times and if it should be abolished.
Still, the profound sense of tradition and its link to history for the British people is undoubtedly something that endures. This brings up the question, does tradition, such as what is maintained within a monarchy or dynasty help preserve good government? Or does it simply create more maintenance?
One example of this was an episode when then President Dwight Eisenhower is scheduled to visit Buckingham Palace and a state dinner is being planned. Director and fellow executive producer Stephen Daldry present a very finely explained protocol of lavish furnishings and refinement. The extra long dinner table, fawned over by dignitaries, is shot from an elevated camera shot, and looks as if 100 people could fit there easily. Set and attended to by an army of staff, all in uniform, the scene is beyond impressive. Palace staff strictly measure each plate setting to ensure everything is perfect.
But then word is sent that the state dinner has been canceled because Prime Minister Winston Churchill is ill and will not be attending. The staff must then put away all of the hundreds of dishes, glasses and pieces of silverware. Each palace or royal residence be it for a short-time or extended stay must be maintained and staffed. An array of rules, protocol and ceremony goes along with it. This no doubt, all creates lots of bureaucracy and cost.
Compared to the United States, if any elected official were to really live like royalty (as depicted in this series) with palaces, staff and adornments, there would be an outcry. Does anyone remember the criticism former First Lady Nancy Reagan received when she ordered a new set of dishes for the White House when Ronald Reagan was elected back in 1980?
For many, the notion of royalty in today's world — which is struggling for more forms of democracy — seems archaic and out-of-tune. But in this Netflix series the conflicts between tradition and a changing modern world are highlighted.
Again for me, the discussions about a monarch being anointed and consecrated to govern took me aback. Because such an idea, while stressing the sacredness of good leadership is of utmost, it is not a guarantee. No matter what the theology behind the oath or the authority invested in ceremony, can good government be assured? How many kings and queens, the world over has humanity seen through the aeons that abused their "divine right?"
Yet, one thing also stressed in the series is the fact that a monarch (or prime minister) must be fit to rule. How appropriate this series debuts at a crucial time in our nation when we must deal with the election of a new President. Will he rule or 'preside' justly and fairly? What credentials and training has he received to help him be fit to govern over such a diverse population as our United States of America?
In one episode, Queen Elizabeth II expresses her concern that she has not "received a proper education" in matters of the world to help her in the duties as queen. And, "to hold her own" as the script says amidst world leaders and such. Again, like most of the series it is a scene that has been imagined. The U.K.'s Independent notes this in its review , which is significantly more critical than some of the rave reviews the series has received thus far.
Still, whether based on actual witnessed conversations or not, the scene is important. Most of what Queen Elizabeth had learned up to that time was about Parliament, the British constitution and its history. Elizabeth II was tutored privately, not in a school, and topics studied were kept only focused on being a royal, not on being a citizen.
This struck a chord in me that made me stop and think. If the role of our presidency even if only for a short term of office is to govern, then shouldn't the candidate for the office be well educated and experienced?
When applying for any job, especially a position of authority, education and experience is required. Well, then shouldn't there be a requirement that any presidential candidate have a proper training in civics and some law? And in terms of experience, wouldn't it be best that the candidate have served in public office first, before reaching for the Presidency? I think a term in the U.S. Congress or at the House of Representatives would be essential, would you?
Egalitarian ideals are appealing. The notion of anyone with guts and determination is free to run for office is inspiring, especially at a grass-roots level. But is it wise to elect someone who has no political experience? And even if people might say, "Believe in the system, have faith, and the ideal of Democracy!" Isn't it best to ensure that a candidate for leadership have the tangible qualifications (education and years in public office) before hoisting that person up to the nomination level?
Netflix and producers Peter Morgan and Stephen Daldry have given us something very thoughtful and profound to ponder over. The timing seems perfect. If you are watching the series, pay close attention to the dialogue. Get passed the gossip aspects, romantic dalliances (which include a lot about divorce and its impact upon legitimacy). And, even get past the pageantry, which as reviews point out is the most costly to date. Try to hear the dialogue — the meaning of some of the important subjects discussed in the script, such as leadership, being worthy and "fit to rule."
The 200-plus years of our American history has much in it that relates to the subjects discussed in "The Crown.' And to me, it is very relevant to what is happening with our presidential election experience today.