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by Crystal Downing
God Savor The Queen
The horrific death of Lady Di in 1997 fueled lurid speculation about monarchical jealousy and murderous conspiracy, turning the glamorous princess into a near martyr. As a result, her ethical commitments have continued to generate far more media attention than the sacrificial service of Mother Teresa, who died several days later.
Using archival footage of the hagiographic media storm over Diana's death, the 2006 film The Queen brilliantly reconstitutes the ethical issues surrounding the event. Rather than delivering a Hollywood cliché—the tragic demise of a beautiful woman with a heart of gold—The Queen focuses on a frigid and frumpy middle aged monarch to present an issue relevant to most religious traditions today: the ethics of tradition itself. Like church leaders who struggle to negotiate when to keep traditional doctrines and practices of the faith untouched and when to change them for contemporary relevance, the film's Queen Elizabeth must determine how to maintain monarchical tradition in light of the furor over Diana's unorthodox death.
The film begins with televised reports about the 1997 campaign of Tony Blair for Prime Minister, celebrated as the Labour Party candidate who overturned, in a landslide election, the 18-year hegemony of British Conservatives. After a montage of quick takes showing Blair energetically walking to the polls with his family and waving to his shouting fans, the film cuts to a contrasting image of stasis: Queen Elizabeth, standing stock still in traditional monarchical robes as an artist paints her portrait. When she stiffly asks him whether he made it to the polls, the white-haired painter reports that he voted, but not for Blair: "We are in danger of losing too much about this country as it is." The queen responds with a satisfied smirk, "You are not a modernizer," a term applied to Blair multiple times during the film. Thus, before the credits are even over, we have had symbolized for us the central agon of the ...