The Crown Is a Shadow of Its Former Self

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Summary

  • The Crown has increasingly blurred the line between fact and fiction, making it feel more like tabloid fantasy than a historical drama.
  • The newest season of The Crown has taken liberties with the truth, particularly in its portrayal of the Royal Family, which has led to criticism and a low Rotten Tomatoes score.
  • Despite its flaws, the performances in the final season of The Crown, particularly Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana, are praiseworthy and connect with the audience emotionally.


As The Crown finally catches up to the 21st Century, the line between fact and fiction has become increasingly blurred, which hasn’t helped the series, nor has it made for better entertainment. Now that the remaining episodes of the final season have come to Netflix, it’s hard to overlook just how much the series has changed since its inception, particularly regarding the liberties it has taken when continuing to tell the story of the British Monarchy. What started as a historical drama beginning with the abdication of King Edward VIII and the eventual reign of Queen Elizabeth II, eventually morphs into what feels more like a tabloid fantasy than anything else.

When the series first began, its depiction of previous historical events about the Monarch was far enough in the past to warrant authentic criticism and analysis. Given there’s relative agreement on how such events came to be, the series was able to represent a more authentic narrative. As the series entered the modern era, the problem of conflicting notions of how and why more recent events developed entered the fray. The same kind of collective narrative has yet to form regarding many events from the past few decades. As a result, The Crown has stumbled over itself and become a mere shell of what it used to be.


Why Are People Upset With The Crown?

The Crown
The Crown

Release Date
November 4, 2016

Seasons
6

The biggest issue audiences have expressed about The Crown’s newest season is the extent to which it has leaned into its fictional portrayals of many in the Royal Family, leading to the show’s lowest Rotten Tomatoes score. From the fabricated origin story of Diana (Elizabeth Debicki) and Dodi’s (Khalid Abdalla) relationship to the manner in which William (Ed McVey) and Kate (Meg Bellamy) initially met, as well as their subsequent forced coupling, such “liberties” with the truth feel more like tabloid fodder. Rather than a thoughtful and expertly crafted narrative about the British Monarchy and its place in an ever-developing modern society, the newest season feels more like complete fiction.

While fictional adjustments for the sake of storytelling make sense, how The Crown makes specific changes feels enormously egregious. As such, it’s difficult to see those alterations as anything but nefarious, given the series blatantly depicts situations that aren’t even remotely adjacent to the truth. During the initial seasons of the series, more of its episodes were based in fact than those that weren’t. However, the opposite is true for season 6. The implications of such “dramatized fiction” and what the series implies by making such changes are the real problems.

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What Did The Crown’s Latest Season Get So Wrong?

The first four episodes of The Crown’s final season detail nothing except Princess Diana and her tragic, untimely death. Retold yet again in a way that adds nothing of value to a narrative so many people already know, the opening scene of the latest season begins with the infamous crash.

After the shock of such a horrendous occurrence subsides, the show flashes back months before portraying the events leading up to Diana’s death and proceeds to take massive liberties with the truth. In the months before her passing, The Crown heavily suggests Diana’s relationship with Dodi only came to fruition at the aggressive behest of Dodi’s father, Mohamed Al Fayed (Salim Daw). While the series has never purported to be anything akin to a documentary, its representation of Diana in the weeks before her death comes across as purposely flagrant.

It’s one thing to embellish the truth for the sake of a desired narrative, but it’s another thing entirely to fabricate situations that never occurred for no real purpose, especially when it simply feels erroneous. Not only does Diana’s storyline in the newest season feel unnecessarily inaccurate, but William and Kate’s developing relationship in the season’s latter episodes feels more like a Lifetime movie than something part of a sophisticated historical drama. Furthermore, the similarities blatantly depicted between Kate’s mother and Dodi’s father in their efforts to push their children toward a member of the Royal Family is a mere lackadaisical attempt to shape its narrative.

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What Has the Newest Season of The Crown Done Right?

Despite its faults, the performances throughout season 6 of The Crown are worthy of praise and are arguably the best part of the final season. Elizabeth Debicki’s performance, in particular, as the late Princess Diana, is nothing short of phenomenal. She evokes the Princess of Wales in a way no one has ever done before. Also, when the newest season tackles genuine emotions within the family, it successfully connects with its audience even when certain liberties with the truth are taken.

The relationship depicted between Charles and William in the wake of Diana’s death, as well as the relationship between Queen Elizabeth II (Imelda Staunton) and her sister Margaret (Lesley Manville) before the princess died, highlight how stretching the truth can add value to the narrative. Unfortunately, when the final season strays toward more fanciful tabloid-like situations, the series feels unnecessarily egregious.

All seasons of The Crown are currently streaming on Netflix.

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