‘The Crown’: Bishop Barron Weighs in on the Netflix Royal Drama (Plus JFK Casting!)

The-Crown-FFBDon’t know about you, but with wild weather all over the country, if there ever was a weekend meant for relaxing indoors, this might be it. For Catholic families, it might be worth putting “The Crown” on the menu (along with some tea and scones, if you like).

If you haven’t seen it, here’s the trailer:

The sumptuous drama premiered in its entirety on Netflix back in November, but Los Angeles’ own Bishop Robert Barron had his say about it just last week.

He emphasizes how “The Crown” demonstrates the willingness of the young Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) — as a God-anointed monarch, rather than an elected leader — to subsume her own wishes to the demands of her position. Consistently, she puts duty to crown and God over self, remaining bound more to traditional values than the vicissitudes of society.

Here’s his commentary:

Bishop Barron’s thoughts echo some of what was said about “The Crown” in a recent commentary at the Catholic magazine Crisis. Here’s an excerpt:

The monarchy may not be politically powerful anymore, but the crown is still heavy, both literally and figuratively. Nearly every historical drama makes something of the struggle between tradition and changing times, but most cheer for progress, with the result being a triumphalist vindication of modern-day mores. The Crown can’t easily follow that path because of, well, the crown. If society’s primary goal is to throw off the benighted ways of our forbears, kings and queens will be the first thing to go. In discerning a meaningful role for the monarch, one must also find a meaningful role for tradition, and this is a major theme of the show. The young Queen Elizabeth must negotiate a blitz of conflicting demands that are placed on her, most of which are rooted in one way or another in the soil of tradition. As queen, she knows that she has particular obligations to tradition, so she is uniquely entrusted with sifting through the relevant questions.

“The Crown” is not perfectly historically accurate, but it’s not bad. It’s visually stunning (and apparently had a hefty price tag), but unlike many historical dramas, it doesn’t rely on titillation and scandal. This is true to life. Whereas Queen Elizabeth II’s sister and children have had their personal peccadilloes plastered all over tabloids in the U.K. and around the world, the queen herself has remained a model of rectitude and self-possession.

As head of the Anglican Communion, she also hasn’t been shy about speaking on faith. Here’s her most recent Christmas greeting. The beginning is more secular, but at about the 4:20 mark, she begins talking about Christ. The queen even echoes Saint Therese of Lisieux, in talking about “doing small things with great love.”

As far as family viewing goes, “The Crown” isn’t without flaws. There are a couple of scenes of the backside of Matt Smith (“Doctor Who”) who plays Prince Philip, and some brief female nudity during scenes in Africa. There’s blasphemy and profanity scattered here and there (the series is rated MA for two stronger uses of profanity).

But overall, with some caution — and a recommendation for parents to watch WITH their kids —  “The Crown” is suitable for mature middle-school students and high-school students.

As a Catholic American of Irish and French extraction, I have no particular love for the British monarchy. But, in a self-indulgent world obsessed with tossing aside tradition in search of the next hot trend, Queen Elizabeth II stands as an example of someone who’s devoted her entire life to a duty she neither sought nor actively chose.

And she’s done it well.

By the way, there will be a second season of “The Crown,” which begins in the 1960s with a storyline involving war in Egypt and the downfall of the queen’s third prime minister. “Dexter” star Micahel C. Hall has been cast as Catholic U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and Jodi Balfour as his wife, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

Image: Courtesy Netflix

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