The Crown: Balancing Family and Calling Is a Royal Pain

The Netflix series focuses on the pressure around the monarch’s marriage.
I recall sitting with my mother in my childhood living room and watching Diana Spencer—about to be Princess Diana—walk slowly down the aisle toward the altar and her prince. The year was 1981, and despite my tender age, the princess fantasy did not take hold. Nor did I become a “royals watcher”… at least not until Netflix released its Queen Elizabeth II bio series, The Crown, earlier this month.

Why the change of heart? Maybe it was the promise of seeing Elizabeth, now the longest-reigning monarch in British history, as a young woman. Maybe it was the heady feminist air as the series debuted, just days before the US—it seemed—might elect its first female president. For others, maybe a love for British period dramas is enough to pull them in.

Since I’ve been aware of the royal family, of course, but not particularly interested before, the effect of the series has been something like moving a piece of furniture in your grandparents’ house only to find that behind that bookcase, the wallpaper you’d taken for granted your whole upbringing had at one time been far more bold and colorful than you’d ever realized. It’s enough to make you question the assumptions you’ve made about what sort of stories the walls would tell if they could talk.

The Crown attempts to tell those almost forgotten bits of the queen’s life that transpired before she ascended the throne and took on a relentlessly public life for the next 64 years. It begins with her marriage to Prince Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh, in 1947 and is chiefly concerned with Elizabeth’s life during her 20s, including her coronation at a mere 25 years old and finding her footing with Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

The Crown brings into focus how much the story of Elizabeth’s transition into leadership is also the story of refining her marriage. Much like the images of gold being poured out and cast into a new shape that accompany the opening credits, the union of Elizabeth and Philip is remade in dramatic fashion. […]

Read the rest online 

originally published at ChristianityToday.com December 2, 2016.

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Foreign Bodies

I’ve been thinking a lot about bodies when I watch TV lately. And that’s new.

I’m pretty savvy to how TV treats gender and sex, mind you, but I’m also a believer in the suspension of disbelief. So I guess you could say it’s been my viewing posture to generally “go with the flow” of the American TV aesthetic—its genres, its (sometimes pretty bad) special effects, and how “normal” looks—at least while I’m watching. Later, when I’m reflecting and critiquing, I’m happy to deconstruct or otherwise call out the ideologies at work in just about anything.

This has been my bargain with myself for maintaining some pleasure in front of the boob tube while still working as a cultural historian and critic: Think later and while the TV is on, try not to be distracted by the seams that show in how stories are put together.

But now I’m distracted. Continue reading Foreign Bodies