'The Queen': When Illusion Becomes Reality (PR-101)

As Britain's new prime minister, Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) finds himself playing teacher to the monarch following Lady Diana's death. In The Queen starring Hellen Mirren, Blair values his Britishness as much as the queen does hers. If he hasn't inherit her privileges, he nonetheless has inherited the same sense of pride, and he brings it to his role as head of government. Unlike the Queen, however, he is in touch with the thinking of the British people and their love for Diana--or at least their idea of her.

Blair
takes office in 1997 just before Princess (or not) Diana dies in a car crash in France with her lover. According to this movie, Blair is a PR pro, whose skills in this area save Queen Elizabeth's royal can following the death of the People's Princess--a moniker of his making.

Like any astute PR professional, Blair understands both his audience and the people to whom he answers. He never mistakes his propaganda for the reality--though he understands the right propaganda serves his interest, the Queen's interest, and the interest of the British people. Patriotism unites all three, yet each understands the homeland differently because each invokes different icons. The British people understand pop culture, of which Diana is the premier British icon; the Queen understands tradition, of which she is the central figure. Blair the pragmatist understands both.

The Queen shows a prime minister who understands the power of that great figment of the imagination, Diana, as a political force he could harness to his benefit. Blair understands that there are two Dianas--the one the Royals know and the one the ordinary people believe they know. He helps the Queen get over her intense dislike of a woman who treated her place in British society as a trifle and reunites her with her subjects without her ever losing her pride. Ironically, it takes a good while before the Royals come to realize that the British people love the idea of Diana--their feelings for whatever she is are heartfelt. The Royals just can't believe everyone doesn't loathe her. Their failure to see this costs them popular support for a while. This is the power of prejudice.

Blair speaks to his audience where they are and works all the players to his advantage. Everyone benefits--especially him. That's PR101. Watch and learn.

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