Monday, December 18, 2006

The Deal/The Queen

Two pieces of motion picture, both by Stephen Frears, both starring Michael Sheen as Tony Blair, both originally produced for British Television, and both very, very good.

The Queen in particular would be useful for many people to see - it harkens back to a time when Her Majesty Elizabeth II was in the middle of the worst PR crises of her reign - the death of Princess Diana - while Tony Blair was beloved. How things change.

Speaking as someone who never understood the big deal about Diana, it amazes me that her death, of all things, would spark such an outcry against the monarchy in Britain - newspapers calling for the Queen to kneel to the memory of a woman she loathed, and republicanism (is that even a word?) polling higher at that time in Britain than ever before or since.

Frears, as a director in both pieces, is pretty clearly anti-Tony Blair, though not to the detriment of his work. It's less obvious in The Queen, but you can still see it in the way Blair is slowly transformed from the nervous but passionate reformer to the ardent monarchist. In The Deal (about Blair's deal with Gordon Brown over leadership of the Labour Party) Frears is explicitly pro-Brown, casting Blair as a thoughtless betrayer of promises and principles.

Of course, there's a moment in The Queen where Liz the Two says to Blair something to the effect of "Don't think they won't come for you some day, Mr. Blair." She's talking about the shattering experience of having the public and the press turn on her so vehemently post-Diana, but it's clearly Frears giving us a little poke about Blair's current unpopularity. More interestingly is the climactic scene in The Deal, when Brown asks Blair what happens after Labour wins a second term, something Brown was confident of. Blair says "Well I certainly won't make the same mistake Thatcher did, staying on too long."

The Deal ends with a bit of on-screen narration: "Gordon Brown is still waiting."

You wonder what it is about these jobs that makes people so desperate to hang on. There's the obvious allure of power and influence, but consider the story of Paul Martin - loses resoundingly to Chretien in the Leadership race, goes on to serve for more than a decade, and when he's finally handed the reins, he totally blows it. This, I would think, should be a lesson for all runners-up in politics. I wonder if Brown's been following Canadian politics.

1 comment:

redtown said...

The one character not developed in the film was Diana herself. While she remains the poster girl of superficial popular culture, it was a very different Diana--behind the facades of glamour and pseudo-compassion--whom the Royal family knew personally.

Both Diana and her brother, Charles Spencer, suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder caused by their mother's abandoning them as young children.  A google search reveals that Diana is considered a case study in BPD by mental health professionals.

For Charles Spencer, BPD meant insatiable sexual promiscuity (his wife was divorcing him at the time of Diana's death).

For Diana, BPD meant intense insecurity and insatiable need for attention and affection which even the best husband could never fulfill. 

From a BPD perspective, it's clear that the Royal family did not cause her "problems". Rather, she brought her multiple issues into the marriage, and the Royal family was hapless to deal with them.

Her illness, untreated, sowed the seeds of her fast and unstable lifestyle, and sadly, her tragic fate.