Welcome to the Weekend Binge. Every Friday, we’ll suggest a binge-able title designed to keep you from getting too stir crazy. Check back throughout the weekend for even more gloriously queer entertainment.
The Golden: The Crown Season 4
With Oscar weekend upon us–and with the British Royal Family dominating the news for one reason or another–we’ve decided to recommend this week’s Weekend Binge as something both timely and unexpectedly queer. The Crown follows the reign of Britain’s Elizabeth II from her coronation amid national scandal and war to the modern-day…where war and national scandal continue to plague her family. Funny how that works.
Season 4 of the series–which has already cleaned up at the Golden Globes and will likely do the same at the Emmys–catches up with Elizabeth (now played by Oscar-winner Oliva Colman) in the 1980s as her son Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor, of God’s Own Country) plans to marry Diana Spencer (Emma Corrin). Beyond the royal fanfare, the ultra-conservative Margret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) nabs the office of Prime Minister, ushering in an era of international strife and national disarray courtesy of her draconian policies. As Charles and Diana struggle to raise their children in a troubled marriage, Elizabeth begins to test the bounds of her office by criticizing Thatcher and her policies. The actions and inactions of the monarch begin to raise questions about the relevance of the Royal Family in modern times. How can Elizabeth help usher her family through the modern era without getting deposed?
Colman, who won an Oscar for playing Elizabeth’s ancestor Queen Anne, and who scored another nomination this year for The Father, dominates the proceedings as Queen Elizabeth, focusing on the character’s contradictions of perfect poise and her inability to accept or give the kind of affections most humans take for granted. Corrin, who recently appeared to come out of the closet as queer, also makes a Hell of an impression as Princess Diana, a woman both impressed by her role as part of the Royal Family, and frustrated by the media scrutiny and (let’s face it) dehumanization it carries. Helena Bonham Carter is also a hoot as Elizabeth’s sister Princess Margaret, a party girl who begins to question her purpose in life. Emerald Fennell, a current Oscar nominee for writing and directing Promising Young Woman, shines on screen as Charles’ mistress and future wife, Camilla Parker-Bowles.
The real star of the show, however, is Anderson. The actress does the best work of her career as Margret Thatcher, mastering both the woman’s peculiar mannerisms and zeal for punishing Britain’s poor. Unlike Meryl Streep’s Oscar-winning performance in The Iron Lady, Anderson isn’t afraid to show Thatcher’s self-loathing sexism, flagrant racism, self-serving motives or lust for power. Thatcher may have been Britain’s first female Prime Minister, but that doesn’t mean she did anything to help the station of other women in the UK. As a queer woman herself, Anderson also bites into Thatcher’s homophobia, and her contempt attitude toward the AIDS crisis.
In other words, yes, we prefer her Thatcher to Streep’s. So there.
But we digress. Season 4 of The Crown features the show at its best: a dramatic chronicle of history unafraid to commend or condemn its characters. Aspiring gay icon Colman reminds viewers that she’s one of the best actors working today. Queer actresses Corrin and in particular, Anderson, match her every step of the way. Even for those familiar with British history, The Crown has its share of surprises. We recommend it for the drama, and for the award-winning performances of its extraordinary cast.
Streams on Netflix.