WiSe 15/16: PS-Introduction t Cultural Studies II: Pomp and Circumstance: Filming the Monarchy
Andrew James Johnston
Kings and queens have always held a fascination for film-makers and television producers. Given their dynastic element, monarchies can easily be represented as soap operas, while due to their ... Lesen Sie weiter
Kings and queens have always held a fascination for film-makers and television producers. Given their dynastic element, monarchies can easily be represented as soap operas, while due to their political role they provide ideal settings for subtle intrigue and dramatic power struggles - and their pomp and circumstance tends to make for images of magnificent pageantry. But not all cinematic or TV portrayals of monarchs and monarchies are the same or deal with the same kind of issues. There is obviously a great difference between a Daenerys Tagaryen's using her husband's funeral in order to test the degree to which she is resistant to fire and Colin Firth's interpretation of George VI struggling to overcome his speech impediment. (Or is there? After all, in both cases we witness rulers seeking to maintain versions of the mystical qualities of king-/queenship.)
As far as the portrayal of actual, historical kings and queens is concerned, the British monarchy/-ies especially has/have furnished the film industry with a sheer inexhaustible mass of material. Today the monarchy is still an important aspect of British culture and politics, which is why the changing face of the British monarchy provides interesting insights into the changing face of British culture, society and politics in general. The last two decades, in particular, have seen an increasing number of film-makers engaging with the role of the monarchy, and especially, with the role of the monarchy in a specifically modern society. Thus cinematic/TV depictions of the trials and tribulations of British kings and queens have tended to become increasingly concerned with the constitutional role of the monarchy and with the way the monarchy responds to the challenges of the modern world with its mass media, its consumer society, its specifically bourgeois forms of privacy and its criticism of the culture of deference in which monarchies, and aristocratic systems in general, thrive.
Hence, this course is interested in the way films and television series have been interrogating the role of the monarchy in modern society and culture. We shall thus primarily be discussing films and TV-productions addressing the problems of a monarchy surviving in a modern world. Arguably, we witness the first steps towards this development during the reign of George III (1760-1820), a king whose madness greatly contributed to re-defining the monarch's constitutional role and whose private life - as opposed to the private lives of his sons - displayed a marked element of values destined to characterize the monarchy in more bourgeois times.
Our programme consists of the following films and TV-productions:
A Queen is Crowned(1953)
The Madness of George III (1994)
Young Victoria (2009)
Her Majesty, Mrs Brown (1997)
Downton Abbey: The London Season (Christmas Special 2013)
The King's Speech (2010)
A Royal Night Out (2015, only with a little luck)
The Queen (2006)