The Crown: Do Political Narratives Seek to Humanise Their Protagonists?


There has been no shortage of content to binge over the past few months. I stumbled upon the Netflix original, ‘The Crown’, after returning from university and looking for something to keep me busy.

It’s interesting watching ‘The Crown’ at the moment – a leader and a country in crisis. It is also interesting to watch the depiction of the Royal Family through this real-life biopic.

What I found was that political dramas like ‘The Crown’ seek to humanise their protagonists, by showing their real-life problems, just like any normal person.

I am torn as to whether this is a good idea or not – on the one hand, humanising the developing years of the Elizabethan Royal Family allows us to empathise with a relatively unknown family (personally at least), but on the other hand, the Royal Family are not relatable. They are miles above the masses and attempts to change this only ostracise the family even more – in my opinion – much like their attempts back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

Attempts to use a Royal Family documentary, a trip to Aberfan, and opening the palace up to the public only emphasised the divide between the Royal Family and the rest of us, as seen in the show.

In tandem with watching ‘The Crown’, I was also reading, ‘Why We Get the Wrong Politicians’ by Isabel Hardman, which seeks to do the same thing by making politicians more relatable. Her book explores the comings and goings of MPs, the Houses of Parliament, and Number 10. I had the same feeling – that politicians and public figures are humanised through the woes of the common people when these people are far removed from normal life.

Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed both this book and ‘The Crown’ (I binged ‘The Crown’ in a week), but these people are worlds away from those reading or watching these materials and I am unsure of how effective it is to humanise these figures on-screen and in print.

Nevertheless, what can be agreed on is that shows like ‘The Crown’ significantly alter the audiences’ perspectives of the protagonist. The same way the Royal Family appeared in everyone’s homes in their documentary in the 60s, The Crown is the next instalment. Dramatised no doubt, but yet it offers another face of the Royal Family and an insight into the inner, personal turmoil of perhaps the most prolific, international family.

I found the TV show incredibly interesting, having studied very little English monarchical history beyond the Wars of the Roses and therefore not only was this show enjoyable, but it was fascinating.

An after-effect of a show like ‘The Crown’ is not only to put a spotlight on the humanity of the Royal Family, where before we have nothing of the sort of this magnitude, but also to mitigate the damage caused by scandals – from those at the time and covered in the show, but also the modern-day ones, specifically that of Prince Andrew and the defection of the Sussex’s from the Royal Family.

To some, I’m sure, humanising the most famous royal family in the world is somewhat comforting – to know they are plagued by the same pains of day to day life and to know that they deal with them (or don’t deal with them) like regular people – but for me, I find it hard to empathise with a family that has so much, and to me, it seems, keeps shooting themselves in the foot.

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