Do People in the UK Think Australia Looks Like It Does on The Crown? An Investigation
Like everyone else, I’ve been watching season four of The Crown on Netflix and one of my favourite episodes was “Terra Nullius”, the one where Princess Diana and Prince Charles toured Australia.
The couple really did visit Australia in 1983, with the series using the trip to demonstrate both the hope for their marriage, and the many factors which undermined it, including Charles’ ongoing relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles.
During the episode, we saw the couple fight fiercely, but also reunite and seem to truly connect for the first time on the series. All of this played out against an “Australian” backdrop.
I put “Australian” in inverted commas because the depiction of Australia on the series has been a talking point online since the season dropped. First, people pointed out that The Crown’s idea of “Brisbane” looked like a Spanish town — which makes sense, considering the footage was shot in Malaga and Almeira, Spain. Except that Brisbane, not even Brisbane in the 1980s under Joh Bjelke-Petersen, doesn’t look even a little like Spain . . .
Then our attention was drawn to the scene set in Canberra, where Prince Charles meets the Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, who sympathises with him having his tour overshadowed by the country’s love of Princess Di. Except, in the background of their conversation, you can see not only beachside villas, but a beach. In Canberra, which is 150 kilometres inland.
Some have argued that it could have been the show’s take on Kirribilli, the Prime Minister’s residence in Sydney, except that the episode clearly spells out the couple’s itinerary, including dinner with the PM in Canberra.
And while a generous interpretation would perhaps say the body of water is our beloved Lake Burley Griffin, the pristine white beach probably suggests that whoever was scouting for shooting locations/doing basic research on Australia phoned this one in. That’s not to mention the errors around wombats near Uluru or a sheep station sans any sheep.
Australian Twitter had a laugh at the expense of The Crown’s production staff, delighted to be represented on screen while still being able to scoff at the UK’s lack of knowledge about our country.
But I had a burning question for my friends in the UK — did the Australia episode strike them as off as well? Is that what people in the UK really think Australia looks like?
“I remember a shot of what we meant to be Brisbane which looked . . . well, maybe, a bit glam for what I imagine Brisbane was like in the 1980s,” Kurt, a man who has travelled to Brisbane, offered. “But then again, I wasn’t there.”
We’re just going to leave that description of 1980s Brisbane as “glam” there.
“It looked dated,” said Sylvia, before offering an astute interpretation of the significance of the Australia episode to Diana and Charles’ relationship arc. “I feel like the Australian scenes have been shot almost with a tinted lens to show it as a stark contrast to the greyscale that the rest of the series is shot in.
“Australia looks like everyone was caught in the weird ’50s resurgence of the ’80s. It’s like a golden nostalgic haze, I think to show that if there had ever been a moment when Princess Di and Prince Charles could have potentially made it work then it would have been there. But they couldn’t stay in that bubble and in reality her dreams of what being a princess was could never have been achieved.”
Clare, who admittedly lived in Melbourne until the beginning of last year, dismissed the question. Of course people in the UK don’t think Australia really looks like that. “It’s so grey in the show and doesn’t feel authentic in the least,” she said. “The house felt Australian though. It was very pretty.”
Phew. You don’t know how relieved I am that people in the UK don’t think that there’s tropical vegetation growing at The Lodge. At the very least, we all got to have a good chuckle.
“Those Canberra beaches with their fine golden sand are some of the best in the world,” one person wrote. “Who doesn’t love to catch a wave on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin,” another joked. “Nothing like the balmy evenings on Costa Del Burley Griffin.
“You can’t have actual Canberra on film, it doesn’t look right. You have to take a bunch of Bondis together,” another joked.
No one can accuse Australians of not having a sense of humour.