The Crown recently launched its fifth season on Netflix, and it’s already been plagued with scandals and criticisms from staunch monarchists questioning showrunner Peter Morgan’s commitment to telling the truth when it comes to the royal family. The show’s latest installment covers most of the ’90s, a tumultuous decade for the British institution marked by very public affairs, messy divorces, shocking tell-alls, and heartbreaking tragedies. It all makes for delicious melodrama on its own. Still, critics worry that the liberties that the show takes with its real-life characters could be interpreted as fact by those who don’t live under a constitutional monarchy, whose sovereign basically amounts to a very expensive mascot — a figurehead more for show than anything else.
These would be valid concerns, worthy of the debate they’ve ignited, except for one thing. We’ve seen Season 5 of The Crown, and there’s absolutely no way anyone would believe this show is anything but fiction. Why? Because Dominic West is too damn hot to be playing Prince Charles.
Now, we know what you’re thinking. “This is television, of course Prince Charles would be hot. They’re contractually obligated to cast pretty people so that us couch-ridden Jabba-the-Huts will keep our bulging, blood-shot eyes glued to the screen.” And you’re right. Hollywood loves casting attractive stars to play incredibly average-looking people. Look at Margot Robbie in I Tonya, Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs, Leonardo DiCaprio in literally every Scorsese biopic. Even true stories, no matter how unbelievable, need an element of sex to sell, and the easiest way to inject it is by banking on the beautiful, painstakingly-maintained visage of a Hollywood A-lister.
But The Crown has gone too far this time. It’s been too brazen in its attempts to gaslight us into believing that Prince Charles, a man who once thought phone sex meant vocally fantasizing about becoming a tampon that his mistress could use, is a man who would make you want to drink his bathwater. Its casting department has actively chosen violence and, as a result, we’ve all strayed a bit further from the light.
— KarrotKate (@karrotkate) November 9, 2022
Who did Charles fuck to get Dominic West cast in The Crown as him? pic.twitter.com/QqLRUtnmBh
— Ben Dreyfuss (@bendreyfuss) November 10, 2022
For a series that, time and time again, manages to perfectly recreate icons by shaping talented look-alikes into influential historical figures with just a bit of period-appropriate make-up, fantastic costuming, and good lighting, West’s casting feels like a glaring oversight … until you realize this: it isn’t the first time that The Crown has employed an actor too suave and charming to ever believably portray a man who preferred orchestral hymns to ’80s pop music.
In the show’s third and fourth seasons, Josh O’Connor played the young monarch who was struggling with the weight of his inheritance and torn between his love for one woman and his duty to another. Despite behaving terribly – jealously berating his wife because the public loved her more, ordering his bodyguards to spy on her, weaponizing her mental illness against her – O’Connor made you feel for Prince Charles. His perpetually despondent stare, his pathetic need for his mother’s approval, his lost puppy act – it was only enhanced by full lips, a sharp jawline, and the perfectly-coiffed hair the actor sported. In O’Connor, The Crown gave us a Prince Charles in need of rescuing, a tortured anti-hero who might still be saved. Honestly, it likely caused therapy bills to skyrocket.
The Crown has "beautified" Prince Charles for three whole seasons. First with Josh O' Connor (seasons three and four) and now with Dominic West in season five.
— LaTanja 🥀 (@latanjasworld) November 9, 2022
people talking about how dominic west is too hot to play prince charles but they said NOTHING about josh o’connor??
— m (@thencwsroom) November 10, 2022
And West’s arrival, as an aged, rugged, deviously handsome version of the future king is only adding insult to the emotional injury not covered under any insurance plan. If you think that’s dramatic hyperbole, ask yourself this, “In what world was it necessary to have Prince Charles breakdance this season, and make him look good doing it?”
Dominic West once played The Wire‘s “bad boy” of the Baltimore Police Department, a leather-jacket-rocking womanizer with the kind of internal demons that make well-adjusted grown women weak in the knees. He’s too chiseled and too much of a man to play an overgrown boy playing at being king. And we shouldn’t accept this erasure of the real Prince Charles’ homely looks. We can’t, not if we’re to argue that integrity in storytelling matters. Not if an entire generation is going to grow up now, watching The Crown instead of getting their royal gossip from penny tabloids and ABC News specials like the boomers before us did.
This is the rubbish that had former PM Tony Blair spitting mad. It’s the malicious fiction that drove John Major to criticize a popular streaming series that generously (perhaps too generously) cast actor Jonny Lee Miller to portray him, thus suggesting to millions of uninformed viewers that he, too, was once hot.
This is exactly what Judi Dench warned us would happen.