Why do Americans worship the Queen?


Blackleaf
#1
Sarah Churchwell: Why do we Americans worship your Queen?


It offends me that my compatriots are stumbling over one another to bury this film under hyperbole

Published: 27 February 2007





Helen Mirren is by all accounts a gracious and charming person and she is certainly an actress of superlative skill. I thought her performance in Elizabeth I was staggering but her Elizabeth II has left me stumped. And the clean sweep she achieved at the Oscars has just confirmed my feeling that there is something excessive, almost anxious, in our eagerness to hail The Queen. I simply don't see what the fuss is about.

Far be it for me to rain on Dame Helen's parade but all the grovelling on the other side of the pond has aggravated me out of my general state of indifference to The Queen as well as the Queen herself.

Perhaps it offends my pride that my compatriots in America have been stumbling over one another in their haste to bury the film under hyperbole and panegyric. According to the American press the slightly agreeable comedy is a "masterpiece", "magnificent", "gripping" and an "audacious triumph".

Granted that it might have been a bit cheeky to portray the reigning British monarch in her lifetime, what is particularly audacious about this reverent portrait of a heroically dignified queen? It's pretty familiar territory in point of fact, a film with very little plot that is a character study of an extremely well-known character.

I'm sure the Queen loves her country deeply; I find it harder to accept the shibboleth that she has sacrificed herself on the altar of thankless duty. The benefits of royalty - it's good to be the king as Mel Brooks observed - presumably outweigh its costs. I am among those who think the perks of her job warrant the occasional stiffening of her lip. More to the point, though the general attitude of awe-struck delight at the way the film managed to "humanise" the Queen - a word so ubiquitous in the film's stateside reviews as to constitute a refrain - baffles me. Mirabile dictu. The Queen is human.

This dazzling insight was arrived at by means of a performance hailed as little short of miraculous.

One review described the scene in which Mirren as the Queen watches footage of Diana on television and "simply stares, her eyes widening ever so slightly", but managing, according to the reviewer, to convey "distaste, horror, pity, regret, bewilderment and perhaps something else, envy." It's quite a catalogue, although anger and resentment would seem the more obvious emotions on display in what is, after all, just a stare.

I just don't see what was so remarkable in this act of impersonation. Bringing Elizabeth I to life was a feat of imaginative daring and skill but showing Queen Elizabeth II keeping her emotions in check? It reminded me of the exaggerated tribute offered to Cate Blanchett in The Aviator, who I was repeatedly informed had practically "channelled" Katharine Hepburn. I was left wondering if any of these reviewers had actually seen a Katharine Hepburn film.

What does The Queen tell us that we did not already know? The hysterical mourning that Diana's death prompted could only have discomfited a woman like Elizabeth. Where is the mystery in this? It is a tribute to Peter Morgan's intelligence and skill that he managed to find a story at all but I was left with a distinct feeling that this Queen, as it were, had no clothes.

Royalty like celebrity seems to have been invented in order that we might collectively imbue ordinary people with extraordinary qualities and then find it remarkable to find they are actually ordinary after all. Unless we still believe in the divine right of monarchs, by definition the Queen is extraordinary only in her circumstances which are certainly exceptional.

On the whole she is exceptionally fortunate and yet we insist on seeing her as unfortunate. Helen Mirren at least earned her material reward with talent and hard work, the Queen was handed hers and she has had the good sense and good grace to spend her life trying to earn them, but she never can.

There is nothing inhuman in any of this and yet The Queen is apparently marvellous for its radical ability to humanise the Queen. It is my fellow Americans who are by far the most gushing and fawning in their praises. America has never been able to free itself from a toxic addiction to royalty. We are immensely proud of the revolution we fought to liberate ourselves from the tyrannical shackles of mad King George - and to a lesser extent his wife - also played by Helen Mirren. But ever since we kicked them out we have been inviting them back and literally rolling out the red carpet.

Some terrible lingering need in the American psyche makes us eager to adore, to worship; we are in a co-dependent relationship with British royalty. We need help and Helen Mirren should show us the way.

She is after all a card-carrying republican with strong anti-monarchical sympathies in general, despite her fondness for this particular monarch.

By all accounts a downright, forthright and upright woman she might do us all a favour and play a revolutionary for a change. Maybe then Americans could start being arrivistes waiting to arrive, perennial parvenues at the royal banquet.


**The writer is a senior lecturer in American Studies at the University of East Anglia

telegraph.co.uk
 
m_levesque
#2
This is something I've always wondered. For a country who has rejected the whole idea of royalty, Americans sure focus a great deal of their attention on our Royal Family!
 
Daz_Hockey
#3
Quote: Originally Posted by m_levesqueView Post

This is something I've always wondered. For a country who has rejected the whole idea of royalty, Americans sure focus a great deal of their attention on our Royal Family!

funny that, isn't it......

I still think it's something to do with the deep-rooted paradox that is the US of A......

(or perhaps they wernt as anti-royal family as they make out......although, let's face it, most of the former aristocracy of the united kingdom were the ones who declared independence in the first place....not the average joe on the street....so perhaps they feel they're missing something).
 
Curiosity
#4
Hahaha - the concept of the essay is fair enough but WORSHIP is hardly the word to use....

Americans worship many things.... they worship celebrity which could do for the royals.... they also worship wealth.... and notoriety... and people who do things for good causes..... all of the royals fit into this pattern in some fashion.

Americans always pretend royalty - they have Queens of everything - and winners are often treated like Queens.... especially at the Academy Awards - from which many people in the film industry are also made famous.... and they even make movies about Queens (including the British monarch).

Some Americans still believe in another kind of worship too...that would have to do with their religions.

She goes a bit overboard with her descriptives and I think she is doing a bit of self-revealing here... perhaps seeing Americans doing something positive....mired in her belief all they do is drive-by shootings and start wars and indulge in cosmetic surgery.

Typical British attitude wrapped up in a slice of snob snickering. Still stuck on losing the tea party?
 
Daz_Hockey
#5
Quote: Originally Posted by CuriosityView Post

Hahaha - the concept of the essay is fair enough but WORSHIP is hardly the word to use....

Americans worship many things.... they worship celebrity which could do for the royals.... they also worship wealth.... and notoriety... and people who do things for good causes..... all of the royals fit into this pattern in some fashion.

Americans always pretend royalty - they have Queens of everything - and winners are often treated like Queens.... especially at the Academy Awards - from which many people in the film industry are also made famous.... and they even make movies about Queens (including the British monarch).

Some Americans still believe in another kind of worship too...that would have to do with their religions.

She goes a bit overboard with her descriptives and I think she is doing a bit of self-revealing here... perhaps seeing Americans doing something positive....mired in her belief all they do is drive-by shootings and start wars and indulge in cosmetic surgery.

Typical British attitude wrapped up in a slice of snob snickering. Still stuck on losing the tea party?

why would Britain be stuck on losing the tea party?...it's not like we ever lost our foothold in north america is it?........we just returned those bickering snobbish colonies that didnt want a part of us......granted, we needed to find another dumping ground for criminals...but we musta been pleased when we found australia in 1176 lol
 
Curiosity
#6
Daz

What this writer misses completely is the beautiful craft of stage and theater the British are so wonderful at.... Mirren and all of the British actors who have given the world their great talent has nothing to do with "America and the Oscars".... but the fact that Mirren captured the current QEII so very well. The writer was absolutely stuck on "hollywood goes hollywood"....which applies to any winner on Oscar night.... it has a limited audience and thank god it is only one night a year...

I hope the author is still "training" her craft...and as a "senior advisor in American studies", she might want to hone her knowledge a bit...
 
I think not
#7
Quote: Originally Posted by m_levesqueView Post

This is something I've always wondered. For a country who has rejected the whole idea of royalty, Americans sure focus a great deal of their attention on our Royal Family!

LOL! Like when? When a movie comes out?
 
I think not
#8
Quote: Originally Posted by Daz_HockeyView Post

funny that, isn't it......

I still think it's something to do with the deep-rooted paradox that is the US of A......

(or perhaps they wernt as anti-royal family as they make out......although, let's face it, most of the former aristocracy of the united kingdom were the ones who declared independence in the first place....not the average joe on the street....so perhaps they feel they're missing something).

You're too funny.
 
westmanguy
#9
America's royalty is Hollywood.

America doesn't obsess on the royalty at near the scale UK does.

I do admit, I have always obsessed on the Princess Di story... I loved her.
 
Daz_Hockey
#10
Quote: Originally Posted by I think notView Post

You're too funny.

I do try....I still think the US is a paradox though, although, I think I'm right in suggesting it was early unionist's goal to drive British soldiers out of the continant....

didnt happen though did it?.....so who won?
 
s_lone
#11
Quote: Originally Posted by m_levesqueView Post

This is something I've always wondered. For a country who has rejected the whole idea of royalty, Americans sure focus a great deal of their attention on our Royal Family!

OUR Royal Family??!!!!

HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!
 
I think not
#12
Daz

The monarchy is as alien in the US as martians are in the UK.

Now Princess Diana may have had alot of people supporting her in the US, but it has nothing to do with royalty. Jerry Springer had just about as many supoorters. There's your answer.
 
Toro
#13
I've been here for a decade.

I have never once, ever been in a conversation with an American regarding the Queen.
 
Daz_Hockey
#14
Quote: Originally Posted by I think notView Post

Daz

The monarchy is as alien in the US as martians are in the UK.

Now Princess Diana may have had alot of people supporting her in the US, but it has nothing to do with royalty. Jerry Springer had just about as many supoorters. There's your answer.

I realise that....seems like they're pretty alien here too.....dont believe the hype about how the "British" people love their royal family, I do take offence to that comment actually, the Bbritish people today were born with them in power...it's a stroke of good fortune you wernt...so please dont gloat or suggest we love them, it's just were not big on change, I think after William it'll end.....

beside's.....a royal family has no place in this century (you never heard me say that right?)
 
I think not
#15
Hey, if you want them it's your choice.

You are right though, I have heard a great many British folk that ditest the monarchy.

On the other hand, I have heard many that want it.

Maybe Guy Fawkes should have succeeded? lol
 
Daz_Hockey
#16
Quote: Originally Posted by I think notView Post

Hey, if you want them it's your choice.

You are right though, I have heard a great many British folk that ditest the monarchy.

On the other hand, I have heard many that want it.

Maybe Guy Fawkes should have succeeded? lol

when you look at the demographic, in that Britain's largest population group is old people, you'll understnad how hard it is to get rid of the royal family......but Guido Fawkes was a catholic....not really relevent considering you know there were 2 schools of christianity back then and he really wasnt striking out against the royal family.

As I say though, we dont like change and we do like to revel in past glories....that's currently all we have.....for now anyway....although your speaking English and unless that changes, it's something that will always be there.
 
I think not
#17
Quote: Originally Posted by Daz_HockeyView Post

when you look at the demographic, in that Britain's largest population group is old people, you'll understnad how hard it is to get rid of the royal family......but Guido Fawkes was a catholic....not really relevent considering you know there were 2 schools of christianity back then and he really wasnt striking out against the royal family.

As I say though, we dont like change and we do like to revel in past glories....that's currently all we have.....for now anyway....although your speaking English and unless that changes, it's something that will always be there.

Baloney, the British have offered much to the world in terms of culture, science and arts.

The UK is much more than ceremonial robes and royal jewels. I can see that, why can't you?
 
Daz_Hockey
#18
Quote: Originally Posted by I think notView Post

Baloney, the British have offered much to the world in terms of culture, science and arts.

The UK is much more than ceremonial robes and royal jewels. I can see that, why can't you?

oh, I can say we've got the arts, football, a half decent film industry....but really...not a lot more, our industries are all currently in the process of being bought out by foreign countries, our land is currently being invaded by millions of foreigners because our government sold out our boarders to the EU long ago....

did you know the official reason Britain went to war in world war two was?....well it was to protect the sovereignty of Poland (awaful job we did too)..and how do they pay us?...send in over a million people a year to this tiny island...worse than the hispanic problem over there dude.
 
RomSpaceKnight
#19
It's just the American fascination with famous people. Britney Spears and Jerry Falwell get as much press. It comes from a culture of TV and tabloid.
 
m_levesque
#20
Quote: Originally Posted by s_loneView Post

OUR Royal Family??!!!!

HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Don't display your ignorance. The Queen is our head of state, regardless of how we may personally feel, and they are our Royal Family.Do I like them, no as a matter of fact I wish to hell canada would dump the monarchy. But that has nothing to do with what is, and what is is that the House of Windsor is Canada's Royal Family as much as it is Englands'.(And you know that as well as I do)
 
Daz_Hockey
#21
"as well as they are the United Kingdom's"

Canada has a great many more links with England than the queen anyway....besides, she professes to being scottish, like her mother and her husband's greek and her real family name is saxe-coburg-gotha.....I'd like to know where the English bit came in.
 
I think not
#22
Quote: Originally Posted by m_levesqueView Post

Don't display your ignorance. The Queen is our head of state, regardless of how we may personally feel, and they are our Royal Family.Do I like them, no as a matter of fact I wish to hell canada would dump the monarchy. But that has nothing to do with what is, and what is is that the House of Windsor is Canada's Royal Family as much as it is Englands'.(And you know that as well as I do)

You want to dump them and yet you think Americans have a fascination about them? LOL!

Our closest tie to anything "royal" is Burger King.
 
Daz_Hockey
#23
ITN, I think you'll find it's George Bush actually...him being what?....a third cousin....


says a lot doesnt it?

I know the Bush's are closely related to the Spencers (Princess Diana's family)
 
I think not
#24
Could be, doesn't matter either way. Until we refer to someone as Sir, Earl or any other title that grants special status, I'm not going to worry about anything.
 
Curiosity
#25
Again "worship" has been replaced by "fascination"....I think the royals like the GG in Canada are an expensive tourist attraction...I doubt the general public in the U.S. takes much notice except when the media are blaring something repeatedly in their faces...

What people don't seem to understand is they are judging the American people by what their media spash around. You have fallen for the media hype yourself if that is how you base your opinions.

The networks and press are fascinated by tales of Royals and celebrities....... it fills
time and space....as the media are still locked into trying to keep an audience.... a battle they are quickly losing.
 
I think not
#26
On the other hand, King ITN has a rather nice ring to it.
 
Daz_Hockey
#27
Quote: Originally Posted by I think notView Post

On the other hand, King ITN has a rather nice ring to it.

sounds like a news report (you do realise that the news at ten here is actually officially titled "The ITN News at Ten" right?)

I'd never be royalty, my fore and surname sound too irish (unless I change my name like the Duke of wellington).

http://itn.co.uk/
 

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