Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Tuning into the cinematic Queens of the Throne Age

I've noticed that here in America, despite all of our vested interest in democracy, we still find the whole kings and queens of England deal fascinating,particularly in pop culture.

 Granted, the British also share our taste for royal biopic fare as they produce plenty of it for our mutual viewing pleasure. This past Sunday was the PBS Masterpiece debut of  the miniseries Victoria, starring Jenna Colman as the young queen as she first takes the throne.

She is beset on many sides(including her own mother and a "family friend") as to how to rule but the one person who truly listens to her is Prime Minister Lord Melbourne(Rufus Sewell). As their professional relationship grows, rumors fly about as to how much influence the PM has over her, a theme that is revisited more than once in Queen Victoria's life:

While Victoria is more of a historical soap opera than a drama, it is well acted and entertaining enough to keep on watching. Plus, that persistent notion of Queen Victoria being easily swayed by the men in her life is worth exploring.

A fine example of that is the 1997 theatrical film Mrs. Brown(aka Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown in the UK), where a later in life Victoria is in deep mourning for her deceased Prince Albert. Both the government and her family wish her to take part in the world again but it's only through the friendship of royal groomsman John Brown that her spirits start to revive.

The bond between them causes much talk,hence the title nickname, and eventually a wedge is made between the queen and servant,which perhaps did not fully diminish their affections. It's s a stellar film and the one of the best performances by both Judi Dench and Billy Connolly which shows that while Queen Victoria did need someone to lean on, she wasn't the weaker for that, rather the reverse:

Of course, PBS's Victoria is being compared to the Netflix series The Crown, that is chronicling the life and times of the current Queen of England, Elizabeth the II.

The show has just won a couple of Golden Globes recently, with Best Actress going to leading lady Claire Foy and the entire program winning Best TV Series. I do plan to watch The Crown at some point but I do think it's a bit unfair to compare TC to Victoria. For one, being on a streaming service like Netflix allows for more storytelling boundaries to be stretched than something made for standard television.

Another even more compelling reason for the difference in dramatic direction is that Queen Elizabeth is still with us,thankfully, and that any biographical depiction of a living notable person tends to err on the side of the serious when it comes to screen. I'm sure that some artistic license has been taken  with both productions but Victoria has the advantage of being set in the far enough past unlike The Crown, which has to tread a little more carefully there:

My opinion on that may change once I watch season one of The Crown but it does seem to be par for the course with dramas about Elizabeth II. The movie that I think opened the door for this series is the 2006 film The Queen, where Helen Mirren played Her Majesty upon dealing with the untimely death of Princess Diana in the late 1990s.

Mirren's performance lead to an Oscar and then a stage adaptation entitled The Audience(which earned her a Tony). The film deftly displayed the dilemma for the queen as to how to balance the private pain of what happened with the appropriate public response, a struggle that even those not having a royal title can relate to and I suspect The Crown covers similar emotional ground:

In the end, part of the appeal for such queenly shows for Americans is, in my opinion, seeing what it would be like to have a woman in charge. While we probably will have to wait a bit longer to see such a shift in power in real life, that time will come for us,

What's important to remember,as many of these stories teach us, is that it is not gender or even bloodline that makes for a worthy ruler. It is the strength of character that such a person has and what he or she is willing to give up for the sake of their duty to others.

This display of character can also be seen in those whom that person chooses to ally themselves with and most importantly, their choice of advisors. Hopefully when we do find that true leading lady to lead us, her inner circle will be a true reflection of her character and perhaps even on the same level as the future queen of Westeros and her Hand will be:

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