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Why Can’t We Stop Obsessing Over Princess Diana? – Monomaxos


Season six of The Crown may not be returning until mid-December, but there’s still plenty of Diana content out there to parse through. On a special bonus episode of Still Watching, hosts Hillary Busis, Richard Lawson, and Chris Murphy unpack all things Princess Di, and discuss two Diana-centric films: Diana: The Musical, currently streaming on Netflix, and Spencer, starring Kristen Stewart as the People’s Princess. Plus, they chat with Vanity Fair’s womenswear fashion market editor Kia D. Goosby about Diana’s impeccable style and her lasting impact on fashion. 

A loyal Crown fan, Goosby sheds some light on why Diana became the style icon of her generation, and for many generations to come. “Her approach to fashion was not done in an unattainable way,” says Goosby. Diana inadvertently helped pioneer the “quiet luxury” trend with her chic, toned-down, accessible looks. “She wasn’t super flashy,” she says. “In the ’80s and ’90s, logos were having a moment.” Diana, though, didn’t let her clothes wear her.

The Still Watching hosts then turned their attention to two very different projects about the People’s Princess: the filmed version of the short-lived Broadway musical Diana, and Pablo Larraín’s Spencer. When the Razzie-winning Diana, led by Jeanna De Waal as Princess Di, premiered on Netflix in 2021, Busis noted, Lawson actually reviewed the film, calling it “a shellacked lump of product born solely of cold, money-minded cynicism.” Two years later, Lawson stands by his initial reaction. “It is, by all means, a modern musical of our sort of current contemporary musical era, and yet, it feels like it could have come out on the West End in 1984. It’s a shocking piece of work,” says Lawson. 

Murphy ultimately agrees about the quality of Diana, but makes a case for the musical as unintentionally brilliant. “As a musical lover,” he says, “it wraps all the way back around to a little thing that we like to call camp.” Murphy backs up his take by sharing his experience watching Diana live on Broadway, after it had evolved into a Rocky Horror–esque, call-and-response experience. Everyone, including the actors, felt in on the joke. “Every time Camilla (Erin Davie) came out, people would hiss,” Murphy says.

Still: those songs. Busis takes umbrage at the show’s simplistic “A/A/B/B” rhyme scheme and, more specifically, the act-two ballad “An Officer’s Wife,” sung by Judy Kaye’s Queen Elizabeth. “We just spent two hours [listening to] third-grade-level poetry, and just whiplashing through every event of the past 15 years. And then you’re trying to stop the show with, like, a serious ballad, and trying to add depth to this character?” she says, in disbelief. To make the Diana experience even stranger, the filmed version was shot in an empty theater due to COVID restrictions. “You have no idea what’s supposed to be a joke and what’s not, because there’s no audience there,” she says. “They just have to keep going forward, and it’s just brutal.” 

While Diana was ultimately unsuccessful, all agreed that its performances were commendable, with Lawson singling out De Waal’s “bring the house down” voice. It’s too bad the show didn’t give the audience a chance get to know the actual princess De Waal was playing. “There has to be a way to write a musical that isn’t entirely exposition,” said Murphy. “It felt so exterior, like, Here’s a Wikipedia page.

Enter Spencer, the polar opposite of Diana: The Musical: “Pablo Larraín and Kristen Stewart were like, ‘How about no exposition?’” says Lawson. All three agree that while Larraín’s filmmaking style might not be for everyone, he successfully captures something authentic, in part because of the metanarrative baked into Stewart’s Oscar-nominated performance as Diana. As the star of the megahit franchise Twilight and a subsequent tabloid mainstay due to her relationship with costar Robert Pattinson, Stewart has had her own brush with Diana-level media attention, Lawson notes. “You’re kind of watching Kristen Stewart do it, whereas with [Elizabeth] Debicki, you’re just watching an actor.” 

Busis was drawn to Spencer’s “cool genre edge,” which gives a well-trod story a new dimension. “It’s a haunted-house movie in a lot of ways,” she says. Murphy praises that Larraín for giving more of an interior look at the People’s Princess, whereas The Crown’s Peter Morgan seems more concerned with showing Diana in direct relation with the royal family. Busis pushes back on that assertion, though, maintaining that The Crown shows several facets of Diana’s personality: “She had agency and aims and goals, and was not just swept up in a fairy tale—which, I guess, is the Diana: The Musical version of it.”



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Meet the author behind the lifestyle inspiration! Antonio brings a unique perspective to the world of lifestyle, weaving together words that captivate and ideas that resonate. With a keen eye for detail and a passion for embracing the richness of everyday life, Antonio invites you on a journey to explore the art of living well.

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