Queen Elizabeth II played by Olivia Colman in ’The Crown’. Picture: Liam Daniel/Netflix
Queen Elizabeth II played by Olivia Colman in ’The Crown’. Picture: Liam Daniel/Netflix

Netflix refuses to add disclaimer to 'The Crown'

By The Washington Post Time of article published Dec 10, 2020

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By Jennifer Hassan and Karla Adam

Streaming giant Netflix says that it sees "no need" to warn viewers that "The Crown" is a fictional drama and that it has "no plans" to add a disclaimer to the popular series, despite mounting pressure from British officials and other critics who say the dramatisation of historical events is misleading and is harming the reputation of the monarchy.

"We have always presented ’The Crown’ as a drama - and we have every confidence our members understand it's a work of fiction that's broadly based on historical events," Netflix said in a statement.

"As a result we have no plans, and see no need, to add a disclaimer."

The announcement came after British Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told the Mail that producers needed to be "very clear at the beginning" that the show - based on Queen Elizabeth II's reign and the events that have shaped the royal family, including the turbulent relationship between Prince Charles and Princess Diana - is, in fact, a work of fiction.

"Without this, I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact," Dowden said.

With an estimated 29 million people worldwide watching the series during the new season's first week, according to British media - "more global viewers . . . than Prince Charles & Diana's REAL wedding had in UK," the Sun tabloid noted - the regal epic has caused a stir on British soil.

Last month, Earl Charles Spencer, Diana's brother, said he was worried that viewers would interpret scenes "as gospel" and said the show should alert viewers that not all scenes are a true representation of real events.

"People see a program like that and they forget that it is fiction," he told ITV.

"They assume, especially foreigners, I find Americans tell me they have watched 'The Crown' as if they have taken a history lesson. Well, they haven't."

The series began in 2016 and initially focused on Elizabeth marrying Prince Philip and life in Britain under Winston Churchill.

The fourth and latest season depicts the marriage of Diana and Charles and explores the relationship between Elizabeth and Britain's first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.

New episodes have conveyed Diana's struggle to adapt to life in the royal spotlight and her battle with bulimia - a disorder she spoke about publicly before her death. The season also explores the affair between Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles.

Peter Morgan, the show's British creator, has defended his work, explaining that he faces a "constant push and pull" when working on the historical drama.

"I've learnt, to my cost, that when you're really only focused on research, the drama suffers," he said last month as criticism for the new season intensified.

Dickie Arbiter, the queen's former press secretary, called the series "very divisive."

"It's unfortunate that the public will view it and say, 'Gosh, is that what they're like?' - and probably take an instant dislike" to the royal family, he told The Washington Post. The portrayal of Charles - the heir to the British throne - is particularly unfair, Arbiter said.

"He doesn't walk like that and he doesn't talk like that and he doesn't look like that.

But it's also implying that his affair with Camilla was from day one of the engagement and was in the early days of the marriage. Well, it wasn't," Arbiter said.

Hugo Vickers, historian and author of "The Crown Dissected," which investigates the factual accuracy of the series, says the show's blending of fact and fiction makes it problematic.

"The trouble is, they get some of it right," he said, whereas some parts, "they kind of make it all up, getting it all wrong."

In his analysis of royal portrayals in the most recent season, Vickers had some harsh feedback: The queen, he said, is too "sullen." Princess Margaret is "so tabloid."

And Charles, he said, "is always portrayed as a wimp . . . and actually a pretty evil, murderous character."

Vickers told The Post on Monday that adding a disclaimer was "the least [Netflix] could do."

Royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams said Netflix was "wrong" to refuse a disclaimer, adding that the decision would probably "affect the popularity of Charles and Camilla adversely."

On the official Clarence House Instagram page, which documents the work and life of Charles and Camilla, also known as the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, scores of people have left comments under photos of Camilla, who married the future king in 2005, writing "Diana" followed by heart emoji and the words "Diana forever," along with "Shame on you."

The duchess has also faced death threats, according to ITV, with British tabloids noting that online trolling has intensified since the fourth series.

In September, Prince Harry - Charles and Diana's youngest son - and his wife, Meghan, confirmed that they had signed an exclusive multiyear deal with Netflix to produce children's programs, feature films and documentaries that "inform and give hope," although it remains unclear how much the two will be paid to produce content that "unlocks action."

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