First they came for our pavlova, now they’ve come for our Buzzy Bees. Tara Ward watches the new season of The Crown and discovers Australia has pinched more of our stuff.
It seems I was premature in declaring that season four of The Crown was all about New Zealand. After a sneak peek at the new season, it’s fair to say that “all about New Zealand” turns out to be “a couple of measly references and a questionable montage that juxtaposes a Māori cultural performance with the Princess of Wales throwing up in a toilet”.
We got it wrong, but we’re not the only ones.
Not only has The Crown largely ignored New Zealand in season four, but it’s gone and rewritten our history. Hard to believe for a British show about the rule of the empire, but true. This season features the well-known press call from the Prince and Princess of Wales’s 1983 royal tour of Australia and New Zealand, which is recreated in episode six. Originally, this took place on a beautiful autumn day in Wellington. Our trees were green and our grass was thick, and the world was about to see all our naturally photosynthesised beauty for themselves.
A royal rug was placed on the lawn of Government House, and a man and woman sat on it with their baby. And a Buzzy Bee. See the image, captured in posterity below:
This picture-perfect moment of the royal family was shown around the world. Wee William crawled in public for the first time, a developmental feat that New Zealand can take all the credit for. Charles and Diana appeared happy and content, probably thanks to the lushness of the lawn, and said things like “look” and “yes”. Most importantly, Buzzy Bee secured its place as a New Zealand cultural icon after being unexpectedly suckled on by the heir to the throne.
The Crown, however, sees it differently. Below, specifically, is how The Crown sees it:
Like Keith Urban eating a lamington pavlova, The Crown has rewritten our past by taking this moment and placing it firmly in Australia. The show’s photocall with baby William takes place when Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Diana (Emma Corrin) visit a New South Wales farm, and while the landscape is dry and brown, the scene clearly references the visit to Government House. Diana rocks that enormous collar, Charles’s hair is parted with similar preciseness, and William acts like a total baby. Even the sheep baa with an Australian accent.
The final nail in the regal coffin, however, is the presence of that Buzzy Bee.
The Buzzy Bee is an iconic New Zealand toy, first designed and produced here during the 1930s. It’s understandable that The Crown would be confused by the presence of the Buzzy Bee, because bees contribute more to the British economy than the royal family, but it’s a recognisably New Zealand thing. It’s also the toy that’s holding the Commonwealth together. In the 1950s, they made a Queen Buzzy Bee with a polythene crown, and in 2019, Prince William gave a personalised buzzy bee to Neve Ardern-Gayford to celebrate her first birthday.
Perhaps he knew what was coming in season four of The Crown. Too little, too late, William.
In the end, it’s all about Australia, and New Zealand barely features in the new season. Members from Ngāti Rānana London Māori Club appear briefly to perform a haka, and deserve better than the montage The Crown has created, where it is bizarrely crosscut with Diana having a bulimic episode. Other than that, we’re left with Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) mentioning her New Zealand chief of staff, and there’s an actor who may or may not be playing David Lange in one episode.
Who’s responsible for this crime in British-New Zealand relations? The Queen (Olivia Colman) gets the blame for everything else in season four, so let’s start with her. I also think Prince Andrew had something to do with it, even though he’ll swear he was at Pizza Express. We could even point the finger at that Buzzy Bee, who, although a painted piece of wood, should have known better. What’s the point of having an iconic national toy if it’s not going to speak out at an important moment to defend the country that lathed it into existence?
Disappointing, on many levels.
Season four of The Crown drops on Netflix on November 15
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.