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January 11, 2017

Center of the Universe: How Framing Conveys Power in The Crown

Instilling power and directing focus in the Netflix series.

Each year the Golden Globes offer a few surprises in the way of unexpected winners, and the 2017 ceremony was no different. But perhaps the most significant set of surprises this year was the dominance of Netflix’s The Crown, which walked off with two awards in the Television Drama category: Best Actress for lead Claire Foy, and Best Series.

If you don’t know, The Crown comes from monarchy historian Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon, The Last King of Scotland) and traces the ascent of Queen Elizabeth II as she takes the titular headpiece and the power that comes with it. Elizabeth became Queen in the early 1950s when the idea of a woman ruler was less than en vogue. As a result, Elizabeth had to assert herself in ways her male counterparts (had there been any) would not have had to, and it is in no small part her resilience, her confidence, and her assuredness that has helped to make her one of the most beloved royal personas in her country’s long history.

One way The Crown emphasizes these attributes of Elizabeth’s and the time in while she rose to power is in its framing, which tends to center buildings and people, especially the Queen. In the instance of the former, government buildings are centered to establish their rigid formality and adherence to balance, thus reflecting the intentions of the country in which they sit and the purpose of those who gather inside them. In the instance of the latter, Elizabeth is often set in the center of the frame because, frankly, this world revolves around her, whether in admiration or trepidatiously, she is the nucleus not just for the show but for the era of England it depicts.

In the following montage, editor Zackery Ramos-Taylor has compiled all the center-framed shots of The Crown. Taken out of narrative context and seen together like this, the ability of this simple technique to subconsciously instill power and focus on the character of Queen Elizabeth becomes more readily apparent, as does its ability to reflect the mindset of the subjects who helped elevate her to a realm of royal immortality.

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