A throwback to the 80s
The latest season of the now famous series “The Crown” was released on Netflix on November 15 and has already left its footprint in an audience who is currently involved in other battles, but might appreciate a throwback in one of the most significant moments of history. The series portrays the 80s world, characterised by political turmoil, social changes, a new sense of high fashion and perhaps most importantly, by women, the driving forces behind these changes.
The woman we nurtured a sense of affection for in the first three series, Queen Elizabeth II, played by Olivia Colman, is now facing competition as Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) moves into Downing Street and Lady Diana Spencer (Emma Corrin) enters the Royal family by marrying Prince Charles. No worries, you won’t find any spoilers here, just some reflections on these women who marked their places in the history of the UK, but even more than that, on the entire world.
The defining characteristics of the characters
Duty is what guides all three women in their journeys, however, they all live it in a different manner. The Queen asserted herself since her coronation as a young girl as a true “Defender of Faith”. Her apparent objectivity on political matters and abstention from divulgating her personal thoughts is revisited in this season, where we see that, contrary to what the public believes, she has a strong political character and is willing to fight for justice. Furthermore, the burden on her shoulders is not to be taken for granted. She feels the pressure to defend the monarchy when many are rowing against it and when even its very members are trying to break free. In an attempt to hold on to the values she truly cherishes, she appears patient, understanding and very diplomatic. Her great talent is in fact that of being able to mediate between the members of her family as well as political figures.
What is key in this series is her new political relationship with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. This woman feels the duty to make England better, at any cost. She is strongly motivated and shows a sense of fierceness that at the time wasn’t associated with women and that won her the title of the “Iron Lady”. Viewed as a compliment, this necessity to define her as something unconventional sheds light on the limited role that women were allowed to play in the public sphere. Typical dynamics are portrayed: the tension between two women in power in an environment that was and still is male-dominated and a tendency to feel the need to always work the hardest and prove what you’re worth. Anderson’s portrayal of Thatcher is complex: while she appears insensitive to Northern Ireland and to her own daughter, she keeps all her tension inside and seeks affection in her husband and profession, which she truly loves. This sense of insecurity is natural when there is a general lack of faith.
Insecurities are also what seem to define Lady Diana Spencer’s character in the series. The most beautiful, inside and outside, woman at the time was every young girl’s aspiration. She became a public figure re-known in all the world for her sense of humanity and empathy. However, the series surprised its audience by showing the personal battles that she was fighting: Diana suffered from bulimia, amongst other eating disorders and this clearly highlighted her unhappiness, which was so well hidden by her smile. What was meant to be a fairy-tale is transformed in a nightmare. Betrayed by her husband and by her newly acquired family, she feels lost and lonely. The media lives for her and this is a phenomenon that Diana was able to use wisely for sometimes, but which eventually, she became a victim of. Diana holds on to the willingness to do good in the world and set the example for others (as she did in her battle against AIDS), driven by a duty to the Crown.
What the show can demonstrate
Ultimately, what this season of the Crown really demonstrates is that three women who apparently seem to be in conflict, are in reality more similar to each other than one might think. They fight for their values, while trying to put together the pieces of their personal lives. They weren’t given the opportunity to live their own lives: each was acting for greater purposes and unfortunately, not all of them, were able to survive this.