Queen Elizabeth II’s legacy in pop culture

LONDON – In the 21st century, anyone with a smartphone or internet connection has no shortage of information about celebrities. The era of TikTok and TMZ has broken down barriers, bringing public figures closer to us, reduced to a human scale.

The late Queen Elizabeth II was a notable exception.

In her decades on the throne, cultural customs evolved dramatically, but Her Majesty remained very much the same despite being one of the most famous people in the world: reserved, withdrawn, poker-faced and, for most, fundamentally unaware of.

This never deterred screenwriters, filmmakers and other creative personalities from attempting to get inside Queen’s head. In doing so, many viewers believed they understood a woman who didn’t tell us much about her inner life.

Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II in the fourth season of “The Crown”.Liam Daniels / Netflix

Peter Morgan, the British writer of stage and screen, did perhaps more than any other contemporary artist to shape public perceptions of Elizabeth. He wrote the Oscar-winning biopic “The Queen” and then created “The Crown,” the dazzling Netflix saga that splits the difference between earnest docudrama and giddy fan fiction.

The first four seasons of “The Crown” presented us with two incarnations of the Queen: Claire Foy as a young woman seeking her footing at Buckingham Palace; Olivia Colman took over the role as the focus of the series shifted to Emperor’s middle-age years. Both actors won Emmys for their performances.

“The Crown” is intended to show us that Real Elizabeth, the Woman in Flesh and Blood Behind the Stade Portrait at Windsor Castle. She’s a world-historical icon, but just like us, the show argues: stuck in a job that’s just as frustrating, devoted to family members who make her almost as happy as They disappoint him.

Royal historians and other scholars of the Windsor family have long taken issue with “The Crown”, which they see as exaggerations, distortions and outright taunts. The show has a sinister streak, those critics argue—far from fiery psycho-drama and scandal compared to better qualities like Duty and Tradition.

A woman looks at Queen Elizabeth II, by Andy Warhol, 1985, during the press preview of The Queen: Art and Image at the National Portrait Gallery in London on May 16, 2012.
A woman looking at Queen Elizabeth II by Andy Warhol, 1985, during the press preview of “The Queen: Art and Image” at the National Portrait Gallery, London in 2012.Anthony Devlin/PA Wire File

Elizabeth has never publicly commented on the Netflix hit.

“She may have heard of ‘The Crown’, but the Queen has never confirmed whether she actually watches it,” the Express reported in a 2020 report. However, a senior royal source told the Sunday Express in 2017 that the Queen has seen ‘The Crown’ before.

It could be even more unlikely that Elizabeth watched any film, show, or “Saturday Night Live” sketch that depicted her in broad, cartoonish strokes.

“Naked Gun: From the Files of the Police Squad!” (1988) The Queen (played by lookalike actor Janet Charles) is found at a baseball game at Dodger Stadium, where doofus cop Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) saves her from a ridiculous assassination attempt. (OJ Simpson has a supporting role.)

Fred Armisen raises the comedic bet on “SNL,” portraying the Queen as a crude, Cockney-accented dame who’s about to do some tough talk as Kate Middleton (Anne Hathaway) walks out of Prince William’s (Andy Samberg) room. presents to.

Her Majesty, Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II, 2006.  © Miramax/Courtesy Everett Collection
Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II in 2006.Miramax / Everett Collection

Morgan has long been fascinated by how the Queen deliberately presented herself to the world – the strategic calculation behind every Christmas address and the president’s visit. The play “The Queen”, for example, revolves around Elizabeth (Helen Mirren as the Oscar winner) choosing to compare herself after the death of Princess Diana.

But how did a real-life person want to be seen by the cameras?

In recent years, Elizabeth has appeared in two short video sketches that offered some clues to her enduring appeal and perhaps her own concept of herself.

She walks through the halls of Buckingham Palace with Daniel Craig’s James Bond in a video produced for the 2012 London Olympic Games opening ceremony. This summer, she sips tea with a computer-generated version of Paddington Bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw). In a play that aired during his Platinum Jubilee festival.

The tone of both the videos is light-hearted and cheeky. But it also had subtext: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, prominent and appropriate, swirling with the two incarnations of contemporary British pop culture, while remaining perfectly suited to the times.

Staying the same for decades isn’t usually an interesting drama. But when the subject was Queen Elizabeth II, the embodiment of the stubborn tradition is a must-see television.

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