The streaming giant announced that it has ‘no plans’ to add a disclaimer to TV series The Crown to inform viewers that it is a drama rather than a documentary.
For those of a nervous disposition, please sit down; I have some potentially shocking news for you. Superman, James Bond, Mary Poppins… none of these beloved figures are real; they are merely characters played by actors. On the plus side, you’ll be pleased to hear that the shark from Jaws poses no threat to holidaymakers in New England.
According to UK culture secretary Oliver Dowden, Brits need to be informed of such things in advance for fear that they cannot tell the difference between a narrative-led TV show based on history, and the real history itself. Dowden has asked for a disclaimer to be screened before episodes of The Crown, the TV series following the British monarchy in the twentieth century. Of course, the first clue for the audience should have been the fact that the real royal family is nowhere near as good-looking as the cast of thespians in the TV show.
Netflix has rebuffed the call for a caveat, stating: “We have every confidence our members understand it’s a work of fiction that’s broadly based on historical events. As a result we have no plans, and see no need, to add a disclaimer.”
The minister’s intervention seems to be the first of its kind – evidently there was no previous dramatisation of history that had ever been so damaging to a British institution than one that has Agent Scully posing as Margaret Thatcher.
So what exactly are the accusations of falsehoods levelled against The Crown? According to Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins, they include the following:
1. Lord Mountbatten wrote a letter to Prince Charles the day before his death.
2. The royal family laid protocol traps to humiliate Margaret Thatcher on a visit to Balmoral.
3. Princess Margaret ridiculed Princess Diana for not being able to curtsey.
4. Prince Charles called Camilla Parker Bowles every day in the early years of his marriage.
5. Princess Diana threw a tantrum on a visit to Australia and forced the plans to be changed.
6. Princess Margaret visited two of the Queen’s cousins, who had been placed in a “state lunatic asylum” to avoid embarrassing the monarchy.
7. The Queen was responsible for leaking her view of Thatcher as “uncaring”.
8. The Queen was repeatedly shown wrongly dressed for Trooping the Colour.
If you can find it within your heart to forgive the last of these transgressions, you will perhaps agree that it hardly constitutes a Tarantino-esque rewriting of history. Rather, it is often a simplification in the name of drama, or as the series writer Peter Morgan says: “Sometimes you have to forsake accuracy, but you must never forsake truth.”
One would be forgiven for thinking that a government minister might have a vested interest in pleasing the royals, particularly if he fancies receiving a knighthood from the very same family after an illustrious career of forelock-tugging. But that perhaps that’s just my very own tinfoil crown doing the talking.