Movies & TV

Your Guide to the Absurd Amount of Princess Diana Content Out There

The past year has seen an extreme surge of Diana across culture. We’re here to help, with a handy guide breaking down your options.
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Have you been feeling like the singular black sheep in a sea of white sheep woven into red sweaters recently? Surrounded by bike shorts and big sweatshirts, blonde, feathered shag haircuts, and unsure when it all began?

You may be suffering from Dianamania, and you're not alone. From fashion to television to film, the past few years have been a barrage of new content telling and retelling the life story of the late Princess Diana, a beloved and singular character in the royal family’s checkered history. Ever since the long-anticipated Season 4 of Netflix hit The Crown dropped last holiday season and introduced Emma Corrin’s Diana to the world, the purveyors of our cultural consumption seem to have decided that what we need is more Diana. From a Broadway musical (yes, really) to the arrival of Pablo Larraín’s film Spencer (in theaters today), there’s a lot of Diana content out there to choose from. How do you know which is right for you? Fortunately, Dianamania has a cure, and the only cure is more Diana. We’re here to help, with a handy guide breaking down your options.

Spencer

We recommend Pablo Larraín’s Spencer for grown-up Twihards and those who are interested in capital-A Art. The film, which follows Diana over the course of a three-day royal family Christmas, comes out up front and calls itself a fable, making no claims about being a recreation of actual events. Instead, it’s a stunning, shocking character study of Diana (played by Kristen Stewart) as she navigates her selfhood in relation to her husband, her sons, the Queen, and the Crown. If you’re looking for a documentary, this ain’t it, but it does feature an impactful Anne Boleyn apparition, a set of wire cutters that will haunt you, and a potential toothache brought on by pearls. That will all make sense after you see the film, which we highly recommend you do, if you’re in the mood for art.

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The Crown

The Crown is the thinking person’s Diana. Early in Season Four, Lord Mountbatten advises Prince Charles to stop pining for the married Camilla Parker Bowles, and instead find “a sweet and innocent” girl to be his royal bride. Enter Diana Spencer. After a whirlwind courtship and a fateful family weekend at Balmoral, Charles and Diana are betrothed, but Diana lacks the maturity to see that her marriage is a political calculation, not a love story. So begins the excruciating withering of this doomed union, masterfully evoked through next-level performances from Josh O’Connor and Emma Corrin. You won’t learn anything you don’t already know about Diana from The Crown, but if you love a good character study, you’ll fall hard for Corrin’s Diana: at once enchanting but frustrating, famous but lonesome, savvy but childlike. It’s a feast of a role, and Corrin makes a sumptuous meal of it, unsparingly tracing Diana’s rocky ride from teenager to global celebrity. But if you’re expecting a sad princess locked in a castle, don’t get it twisted—Diana’s desperate attempts to liberate herself, from a private battle with bulimia to an increasingly public battle with her husband, are can’t-look-away television. If you’re a history buff, a lover of period dramas, a true intellectual, or all of the above, The Crown is the Diana content for you.

CNN Original Series Diana

A six-part CNN series airing on Sunday nights that began on October 10 and ends on November 14, Diana aims to “re-examine the life of an icon through the lens of modernity” and “reveal the person behind the princess.” This is not a Wikipedia entry—though it recounts Diana’s life from childhood up to her tragic death, new interviews with biographers, journalists, photographers, and more add their perspective and commentary to the timeline of Diana’s life. Royal obsessives may know much of the story told in it, but this deep-dive will provide even the most knowledgeable viewer with fresh details and anecdotes about the life of the people’s princess. If you’re new to Dianamania, this is a stellar crash course, in-depth enough that you could probably teach a seminar on her yourself after it ends.

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You’re Wrong About Podcast Diana Series

Arguably, this is the most populist, American offering of the lot. The whole “You’re Wrong About” podcast, hosted by Michael Hobbes and Sarah Marshall, is a brilliant series that dives into the past and reexamines maligned figures of yesteryear. Their five-part take on the Princess of Wales is best for those who want to know more about the ins and outs of Diana’s private life. There’s talk of eating disorders and suicide, which obviously ventures into the dark, but the podcast feels more like friends trading knowledge about something they care about. This one isn’t for Diana newbies.

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Diana: The Musical

If you have absolutely no respect for the royal family or the legacy of a woman hounded by the press, then this is for you. Diana: The Musical, streaming on Netflix, is the wrong answer to the question “can we get something filmed from Broadway?” Offensive to art and the whole concept of “narrative liberties,” the musical spans the entirety of Diana and Charles’s relationship, all the way to her death. The music is abysmal. There is literally a scene where a shirtless man appears from underneath the stage, riding a horse. The musical’s one redeemable, impactful moment, when Diana leaves the stage at the end surrounded by a cascade of flash bulbs, is ruined by a weird “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?” moment. There is nothing this musical did right, which makes it comically, pathetically perfect for skewering. In short, if you hate Diana but still want to laugh at, not with, something, this is for you.

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The movie is also suitable for stoners.

FromEsquire US

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Justin Kirkland
Justin Kirkland is a writer for Esquire, where he focuses on entertainment, television, and pop culture. Prior to Esquire, his work appeared in Entertainment Weekly, Hollywood Reporter, and USA Today. He is from East Tennessee and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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