Fans and Insiders Slam "The Crown" for Made-Up and "Racist" Storyline
Viewers are taking the Netflix show to task for its portrayals of Mohamed Al-Fayed and Dodi Fayed.
The Crown is back for its sixth and final season, with the first four episodes released on Nov. 16. But while fans are no doubt excited that the show has returned after a long hiatus, some are upset about how one major storyline was handled. Sources close to the deceased have slammed Netflix and The Crown showrunner Peter Morgan for fabricating a storyline around the tragic 1997 death of Princess Diana and the man she was seeing, Dodi Fayed. And fans are calling out the series for a "racist" portrayal of Fayed and his father, Mohamed Al-Fayed, who is shown to have orchestrated his son's courting of the princess and to be the reason she was in Paris at the time of their deadly crash.
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Fayed (Khalid Abdalla) and his father Al-Fayed (Salim Daw) were introduced as characters in Season 5 of The Crown. In those episodes, Al-Fayed, a billionaire who became the owner of English department store Harrods, attempts to move up the ranks in British society. In the midst of this, he and his movie producer son cross paths with Diana, who is played by Elizabeth Debicki.
Some fans have noted that Al-Fayed in particular is portrayed as being more villainous in Season 6 of the historical drama. The show implies that he was pulling his son's strings to encourage him to begin a relationship with Diana, even though Fayed was engaged to another woman at the time. The character also pushes his son to propose to the princess for his own gain, including a better chance at being granted British citizenship.
In the series, it is Al-Fayed who gives paparazzo Mario Brenna Diana and Fayed's location so that photographs of them on vacation will be printed in the press. It's also suggested that the media frenzy generated by the shot of the couple kissing on a yacht in the Mediterranean Sea directly led to the paparazzi chase that ended in the deaths of Diana, Fayed, and driver Henri Paul (Yoann Blanc). (It was later reported that Paul was intoxicated while driving.)
Additionally, the first half of the season also includes a scene in which the royal family, including Queen Elizabeth II (Imelda Staunton) and Prince Charles (Dominic West) are briefed about Diana and Fayed's relationship, as well as Al-Fayed's personal intentions in egging it on.
Insiders close to the family have spoken out about the creative license The Crown has taken with Al-Fayed and Fayed's storylines.
Robert Jobson, who was a friend of Al-Fayed and an author of books on the royal family, told Newsweek, "To be honest, I think it's disrespectful and it's easy to attack the dead." (Al-Fayed died earlier this year at the age of 94.)
"I don't think it's true but I think Mohamed would have tried to manipulate the situation because he was a canny old [expletive]," the author said of the show portraying Al-Fayed as being behind the proposal. "He wouldn't have pushed [Diana] to do it but he would have seen the opportunities involved."
He also said that the idea that Al-Fayed was motivated by a desire for British citizenship rang particularly untrue. "To be honest he told me he'd never get that and he knew that as well. He wanted his son to be happy. He loved his son. He adored his family," Jobson added.
In an interview with The New York Times, the photographer Brenna said that it is "absurd and completely invented" that Al-Fayed hired him to photograph Fayed and the princess without their knowledge. He claimed that he always worked in that area in the summertime in the hopes of catching famous people on vacation and that seeing the new couple was a "great stroke of luck."
Annie Sulzberger, The Crown's head of research, defended the show's choice to The New York Times, saying that of all the theories of how Brenna got the photo, an employee of Al-Fayed's leaking the location seemed the most plausible.
Meanwhile, fans of The Crown have taken to social media to denounce the show's depiction of Fayed and Al-Fayed, who were both Egyptian.
"Am I the only one who thinks the Portrayal of Dodi and Mohammed Al Fayed was soo disrespectful on season 6 of The Crown? Like they fully made them out to be the villains of the story. Lowkey racist," wrote one X (formerly Twitter) user. Someone responded to that post, writing, "Yes!!!! Im so pissed !!! They're really diving into the Arabs are thieves propaganda Wtf ???"
Another user wrote, "The portrayal of Mohamed Al-Fayed is cruel and racist, and he's blamed for Princess Diana's death. Her lover Dodi Al-Fayed is stupid and weak whilst Prince Charles is stunning and perfect."
Referring to the fact that ghost Diana appears in scenes after her death, someone posted, "After meeting with Charles and the Queen I hope Diana's ghost appears to [creator] Peter Morgan next and asks what the f was that??? Feels like Charles himself wrote the last two episodes. Blaming everything on Al Fayeds? Really? Shame on you, Netflix, and shame on #thecrown racists!"
Another fan shared, "They really painted the Fayed's in a bad light…RACIST! why couldnt they just in love? [sic] I believe Diana loved Dodi…I believe he loved her…and that they were deliriously, happily in love and engaged to be married."
This is far from the first time The Crown has been criticized for its historical inaccuracy. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, in 2020, Netflix responded to calls for the show to add a disclaimer with the statement: "We have always presented The Crown as a drama—and we have every confidence our members understand it's a work of fiction that's broadly based on historical events. As a result we have no plans—and see no need—to add a disclaimer." The newspaper reported that in 2022, a trailer for Season 5 pointed out that the show is a "fictional dramatization." The final six episodes of the series are set to premiere Dec. 14.
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