Monday, March 03, 2008

"The Royal Family": ABC 20/20 Film


ABC aired the two-hour (with commercials) “The Royal Family” tonight, Monday, March 3, 2008, with Barbara Walters as narrator. It was very much in the style of a documentary film, a suitable followup for Miramax ‘s “The Queen” in 2006. (Mirimax, like ABC, belongs to Disney.)

One thread in the documentary was the hard and form-precise work of all of the Royal support staff. There was special attention to the state dinners at Buckingham palace, with the elaborate menus (starting with the fish course) recalling Emily Post. The state went through the food preparation and service with great meticulous care. People in these “service” positions seem to be very proud to have the jobs. I thought about a time when I got into a party at Congress in 1996, by taking up the question, “Would you like to serve food?”

The middle portion of the film covered her visit to the United States in the spring of 2007. The visit occurred after the Va, Tech tragedy and she addressed it in her speech. The film also covered the unusual “white tie” state dinner at the White House. The Royal Family does not own its own planes; it charters British Airways.

The royal family members involve themselves with charity and various causes (related to global warming, AIDS in Africa, education). The Queen was shown visiting a school, and Prince William, a halfway house. The film tried to convey a low-keyed concept of “The Big Give.” Prince William offered an interesting comment about the moral importance of "responsibility for others" (curiously similar to a comment in President Bush's 2001 inaugural address and at Ohio state).

The film purported to show the “private lives” and quarters of the Royal Family, but it showed relatively little of that. It did show a little of Holyroodhouse in Scotland. It did add a last minute segment about Prince Harry’s service in Afghanistan, which was disclosed last week in Australia and then reported everywhere by the media. The film covered the military service of other royal family members. One of the other princes visits Shiite southern Iraq (Basra) in uniform. There was some "drill and ceremony," and commoners really do have to kneel or curtsy when approaching the Queen -- such are (as the Army called them when I was in) the expected "social graces."

The Queen sometimes speaks, and made interesting comments about the cold war. The end of the film deals with the balance of monarchy and democracy. The monarchy costs the British citizen 62 pence a year, but there are demonstrations to end it.

The ABC 20/20 link is “The Royal Family: The Business of the Monarchy: Cameras follow the public and private lives of the British monarchy,” by Martin Clancy and Kate Escherich, link here.

It strikes me that a private citizen of middle class means but relatively few “family responsibilities” sometimes can see much more of the real world than any royal member ever could. Someone like me just makes airline reservations, rents a car and goes. What are the most remote places I have ever been to? The crater of Haleakala. Maybe Kiruna Sweden. Maybe a roadside stop toward Yuma, Arizona where a couple of hours of my life just disappeared. Maybe Snowflake, AZ and the Mogollon Rim. Maybe Sterling, CO, cattle-mutilation country, where I had my 1994 epiphany. Maybe a drafty Newark, NJ apartment, in the slums, where I overhear the far left plan a “takeover” in 1972. I don’t think the princes could run their own blogs (although the Royal Family does have a Myspace page, according to the search engines). The Queen reportedly doesn’t use a computer. Somebody does it for her.

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