Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Royal vs. Business in The Queen


In Stephen Frears' The Queen, we primarily focus on the death of Princess Diana and the subsequent week in which the newly elected Prime Minister Tony Blair must keep the peace while the Royal Family, headed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, attempts to seclude themselves from the public. The family's plan doesn't go so well, as the public demands a response regarding the death of the "People's Princess." It's a story of the traditional vs. the modern and how even the most powerful woman doesn't always get her way.

The film's aesthetics are fascinating and certainly highlight the traditional aspects of the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family, as well as the modern aspects of the Prime Minister, his staff and his own family. One of the elements that really enhances these aspects aesthetically is the costumes.

For the traditional side, the costumes are very elegant and anciently glamorous. For the women, washed out colors are the name of the game. They wear all sorts of well styled attire that screams a sense of fashion but also a sense of class. For the men, things are quite similar. Their suits are slightly colorful. They certainly want to seem professional but without losing the signature "Royal Family" style, which could probably be defined as showcasing clothes stolen from the 1800's JCPenney Catalog.

This clothing style for both men and women tends to stay the same throughout the film except for the final scene in which the Queen dons a black dress while "mourning" over Diana. The choice to keep all of their clothing fairly similar and traditional not only brings out their since of period piece fashion, but also their morals and beliefs. There are many instances in the film where the Royal Family go with their traditional instinct over adapting to the new modern approaches suggested by Tony Blair. Like their costumes, they want to stick to tradition and do things the way their ancestors did and continue to do things that way.

Team Blair on the other hand thinks otherwise. Their attire at least echoes the 20th Century and seems much more accurate with the 1997 setting. While most of the central modernist characters are always wearing business clothes, the point still gets across that these guys are forward thinking. Every suit looks like it was just taken off the rack at your local mall and the colors looks pretty basic. While it ain't as elegant as the Royal Family's wardrobe, it's sweet and simple.

This kind of clothing tells us that these guys are trying to think in the now as opposed to the past. They want to understand the public and connect with them not only on a political level but also a personal level. The scene where Blair wears a Football jersey is a perfect example of the "average every-day dad" persona Blair wants to get across to the British citizens. This approach starkly contrasts the traditional mask worn by the Royal Family and explains why the public has a much easier time siding with Team Blair as opposed to Team Elizabeth. Without the brilliant decisions made in costuming for The Queen, much of the subtle character development for both the Royal Family characters and the Blair-related characters would have been lost.

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