Why does The Crown irritate you?
There are a number of reasons. It is beautifully shot, well acted, and the politics of the period are both fascinating and mostly unfamiliar to me (as far as the Irish history curriculum is concerned, English history stops in about 1921).
However, there are aspects of the show that I’m just never going to get on with.
On the most basic level, I am republican, in that I believe the only legitimate source of power is the people – and inherited power seems profoundly unjust to me. Thus, the way the show buys into and somewhat justifies the mystique of the monarchy is something that is always, always going to rub me the wrong way. Now, from what I am aware of, the Queen herself comes across as a fairly decent person, and her father most certainly was, but that doesn’t stop me from finding the reverence with which the show treats her position rather obnoxious.
I cannot get over my sense of inherited monarchy as fundamentally WRONG, and I admit it colours my interpretation of the show. (This is one of the ways I feel genuinely FOREIGN in England – many of them almost can not grasp the mere concept of questioning the monarchy’s right to their position).
I am also, so far, rather frustrated by their handling of decolonisation – there’s a genuinely fascinating story to be told there, and one that hasn’t been told many places – and yet they keep ducking away from it, ensconcing us safely in the privileged European position, rather than facing it head on. (Another way I feel foreign in England is that, being Irish, I have not a single shred of sentimentality about the concept of empire, nor any sense that it was “on balance, a good thing.” It was brutal oppression and expropriation of a third of the planet, and it’s only a shame it didn’t end sooner – and of course, we’re all still dealing with the fallout. It’s not a coincidence that many of the world’s major conflict zones are in formally colonised countries). It’s a minor point, I know, but I remember saying to my mother when we watched the first episode that I hated the way they filmed the Kenyans lined up to meet the Queen, almost as though they were zoo exhibits. (This perhaps was a filming trick to underline the gulf between the monarch and her supposed subjects, but I don’t think they struck the right balance).
I also find the character of Philip deadly dull, and not nearly worthy of the amount of attention lavished on them. It’s not Matt Smith’s fault either – there’s only so much he can do when he’s given the same, infuriating, note to play over and over again. I mean, really, Philip was (technically) of royal blood himself, and he fought in the Second World War – I cannot believe he was such a baby as to spend years (literally) whining that his wife, the Queen, was in fact the Queen, and therefore had to carry out the obligations of her office.
Every time the show focuses on Philip it commits the one truly unpardonable sin of being deadly DULL.
As a result of all of this, I feel like I’m having an argument with the entire premise of the show every time I watch it – which doesn’t make for particularly engaging viewing. I should also say that nothing I’ve said above fills me with much confidence for the third season, when they’ll hit the 1970s and have to deal with the Northern Irish troubles (I would imagine). If there’s one thing Brexit has made clear, it’s that many, many British people (including senior politicians) have only the most notional idea of what went on in Northern Ireland (to a degree where a startling number of British people aren’t sure where the border of their own country is, which must be unique), and I’d rather not see further misinformation propagated. How the Crown will handle things like Bloody Sunday or the hunger strikes or even the Enniskillen bombing, I am not at all sure, and with so many of the survivors of those events still alive, they NEED to be handled sensitively.