Business 182 (9/17)- Remembering Queen Elizabeth II

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Remembering Queen Elizabeth II : Pop Culture Happy Hour : NPR


1. Queen Elizabeth II died today at the age of 96. She was the longest-serving British monarch, and she was undeniably a major figure in pop culture, as well. Her image on television in series like “The Crown” and in movies like “The Queen” never seemed to quite capture who she was. And yet people kept trying and trying.

2. Elizabeth was born in 1926. She became queen when she was 25. She had her coronation several months later, and it was widely considered one of the first really big televised news event. She eventually had four children with her husband, Prince Philip – Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward. As the oldest, Charles is now king. 

3. What we’re going to try to do is wrap our heads around the pop culture understanding of Elizabeth and how it played out in movies, both comedic and dramatic, and on television and even at the Olympics. We’re not going to touch on the larger history of the monarchy or British colonization, not because they’re not important but because that’s not our expertise. But I encourage you to seek out the people who are writing about those things as part of their reflections on her death because they are a big part of the story.

In what ways do you think the queens death will impact Great Britain? What about the rest of the UK and the commonwealth?

4. We’re also not going to cover all the family gossip because we assume you already know exactly as much about all of that as you want to. The royal family is a complicated institution that has fans and detractors and a whole lot of people who don’t care about it. We’re going to try to dive a little bit into how it’s played out on television and in movies. We talked with our pal Kristen Meinzer about Queen Elizabeth. She’s a royal watcher and the co-host of the podcast “When Meghan Met Harry.” You watched this queen for many years. What opinion of her did you develop?

5. MEINZER: She’s an icon. She’s almost, like, not human. She’s, like, superhuman. She has been around for 14 U.S. presidents. She’s on money. Her popularity and her visibility have lasted longer than any other human I can think of. And not just in my lifetime – in my parents’ and my grandparents’ lifetime. I mean, she goes so far back. I mean, when we think about icons, we oftentimes think of people like Elizabeth Taylor. But Elizabeth Taylor is nothing compared to Queen Elizabeth II.

6. She’s probably the most famous woman on the planet and has been for 90-plus years. You know, in passing, she will continue to be probably the most famous woman on the planet. And she is the sovereign of many people. She – for those people who don’t see her as their sovereign, she is this other kind of icon, everything from the Sex Pistols’ song “God Save the Queen,” which I know is one extreme version of the queen being memorialized… “God Save the Queen. She ain’t no human being…”

Do you think maintaining a royal family is a good idea in countries that now  have modern functioning democracies? Why / Why not?

7. HOLMES in recent years, during the marriages of both Prince William and Prince Harry, there has been so much criticism of the royal family as sort of an institution. And that obviously predates them. It obviously also involves Princess Diana and other things. And some of it is more political and has to do with less the personal angle of how people in the family are treated and more sort of what the proper role of the monarchy is or isn’t. 

8. But I’ve always been surprised that it doesn’t feel to me that was directed as much at her as it was the family/institution, what people talk about as the firm. And she somehow seemed to – as a person, she very rarely shows that kind of warmth and humor that would naturally endear you to people. And yet somehow that anger at the family and the institution has not seemed to be mostly aimed at her. Is that your sense?

9. MEINZER: Yeah. That’s my general sense, as well. I mean, when we think of who is the recipient, a lot of – of a lot of the anger in that family, it’s still Prince Charles, frankly. Prince Charles, who never really seemed to stand up to his mom, who never seemed to be a good husband to Diana, who was cheating on Diana, who never seemed very kingly in lots of ways and so I think it’s interesting that there’s so much anger still at Charles.  But she just doesn’t get as much of the brunt of that. And it’s not to say that the queen never made missteps. The queen made many missteps. 

If you could have the choice would you want to be born into a royal family? Or marry into a royal family? What kind of image do you think a royal family member should have in public life?

10. HOLMES: What are your feelings about the portrayals of her? Because, in my lifetime, she simply was always queen of England. She was sort of eternal. And my image of her, I think, didn’t change that much from, you know, when she was probably 60 to the time of her death. And so I’m curious how you feel about sort of this – portrayals of her more as an older person, as a sort of the stiffer kind of Helen Mirren type of performances that tried to get at what she was like as an older person, by which time she had kind of, to me, slipped a bit behind such a veil of mystery in a way? Do you know what I mean?

11. MEINZER: Yeah, I think she absolutely has been behind a veil of mystery. But also, that veil of mystery has also allowed her to be depicted in ways that maybe we wouldn’t have expected in the past. So specifically, I’m thinking about the 2012 Olympic Games in London. And I’m not sure if you remember the Queen’s depiction of herself in the opening ceremonies. Daniel Craig comes to the castle as James Bond. He interrupts her as she’s, you know, finishing up some correspondence at her writing desk. And he and the corgis then accompany her to the helicopter, and they fly over London and wave to everybody. And then they skydive into the stadium.

12. HOLMES: Yeah. And I think it’s interesting – in the special that Prince Harry and Meghan did with Oprah, it was so evident that there was still, again, such warmth toward her personally. There seems to be an ability to separate her as a person from her as a part of an institution, despite the fact that the windows into who she is as a person are so limited. I wonder whether you think any of the portrayals of her, whether comedic or dramatic, have ever – I don’t know – suggested anything interesting about her that has affected how she’s seen? 

13. MEINZER: Well, you know, a lot of the comedy we get about the royal family – it’s based on leaks from the palace – probably the staff members, acquaintances, people overhearing things. What I find really, really interesting about the queen is there never seemed to be leaks about her. So there’s never been, in my opinion, a successful Queen Elizabeth parody that was tapping into something that she really did, because nothing ever got leaked that we could actually hear about that she did. And so I think that’s part of why those comedic depictions of the queen – they’ve been less than successful over the years because they’re not really based on real gossip or anything we actually know. They’re just like, look. I’m very stiff and have a handbag. I like my corgis.  

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