TV & Movies

UK Government Wants Netflix's The Crown To Have A Fiction Disclaimer

The culture secretary thinks young viewers will "mistake fiction for fact."

by Mary Kate McGrath

Following the premiere of the royal drama's fourth season, the UK government wants Netflix to add a disclaimer to The Crown to ensure viewers understand the show is fictionalized. UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden expressed concerns about the audience's understanding of the series' portrayal of historical events during an interview with The Mail on Sunday. While he described The Crown as "beautifully produced," per Deadline, he emphasized that it is a "work of fiction," adding, "Netflix should be very clear at the beginning it is just that."

Dowden shared his intent to write to Netflix and recommend a "health warning" clarifying the fictionality of the show. The Crown currently features a warning that the show may not be suitable for viewers under the age of 15, and episodes depicting Princess Diana's bulimia in the fourth season received an additional content warning. There is currently no disclaimer about the historical accuracy of the series.

"Without this, I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact," Dowden said.

Many viewers are likely aware that The Crown is not intended to be a documentary and that there are several historical liberties taken in the new episodes. In Season 4, for example, The Crown embellished Princess Margaret's relationship with Derek Jennings, also known as Dazzle. While Dazzle did join the priesthood, it's unclear if the friendship between the two was romantic — Jennings may have simply been trying to convert the princess to Roman Catholicism. Meanwhile, the romance between Princess Diana and Prince Charles is believed to be relatively accurate, though the cast has spoken at length about the liberties taken in the storytelling. (For example, while the timeline of Diana's induction into the royal family and their etiquette is accurate, the scene showing her greeting royal family members incorrectly is likely imagined.)

A few other prominent political or societal figures have called out Netflix for embellishments in the new season of The Crown. Charles Spencer, Princess Diana's brother, expressed concern about the portrayal of his late sister on ITV in November, saying, "It is very hard, there is a lot of conjecture and a lot of invention, isn’t there? You can hang it on fact but the bits in between are not fact," per Deadline. Additionally, Australian broadcaster ABC objected to the characterization of former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke, specifically denying the political figure referred to the queen as a "pig."

Others have shrugged off calls to add a disclaimer to the show. Alex von Tunzelmann, a historian who writes for The Guardian, defended the streaming platform in a column, writing, "Netflix already tells people that The Crown is fiction. It’s billed as a drama. Those people in it are actors. I know! Blows your mind."

Netflix has not issued a statement on the UK government official's remarks or calls to include an additional disclaimer.