The death on Thursday of Queen Elizabeth II at the ripe old age of 96 ended the second-longest monarchy in the history of the world: 70 years and 214 days on the British royal throne.
As one of the steadiest and most powerful rulers in history, Her Majesty displayed the kind of influence that touched the entire world. That includes the good things, such as overseeing the decolonization of countries taken over by her nation and becoming the first British monarch to address the U.S. Congress, and the bad, such as the long-standing royal income tax exemption that was reversed in the 1990s and her family's many tumultuous scandals.
All of these events as well as the woman's own legend have rubbed off on the pop culture, swarming all of us, no matter how little of it we consume — whether it was to celebrate her nation and lift people's spirits or to knock her down a peg or two by questioning the very need for a modern monarchy. Here's just a taste of the mark she made on pop culture.
The 2012 Summer Olympics' Opening Ceremony The last time anyone on this side of the ocean cared about the Summer Olympics was probably almost a decade ago when the Summer Games opened in London. The opening ceremony helmed by acclaimed director Danny Boyle was perhaps the most memorable moment, when the Queen herself was escorted to the Olympic Games by James Frickin' Bond, aka Daniel Craig. The whole thing from her "parachuting" into the arena to Rowan Atkinson's Mr. Bean cameo as a bored pianist during the Chariots of Fire theme felt like a new standard for opening ceremonies that reminded us that something as meaningless and fervent as sports doesn't have to be taken as seriously as the reading of a royal will. Dame Helen Mirren's Portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen The tragic sudden death of Princess Diana in 1997 after her scandalous divorce from Prince, excuse us, King Charles III, prompted an outpouring of grief from the world for her generosity, philanthropy and grace. The silence expressed by Queen Elizabeth II in the shadow of Lady Di's death was just as deafening. She viewed it as a private family matter that should be treated as such, but the decision came at a steep political cost that made many question the political role of the British throne. Mirren's performance as the steadfast but sadder side of Queen Elizabeth II was moving and poignant, reminding audiences that royalty and tradition do not negate the need to show human emotions. And the role finally earned Mirren an Oscar for Best Actress in 2007. The Sex Pistols' God Save the Queen and The Queen is Dead If the concept of being under a monarchy of any kind in the 20th or 21st century sounds bizarre and stupid, then you're probably a Sex Pistols fan. Having a king and queen to whom citizens must bow when in their presence is the ideal target for art that spits in the eye of authority, and punk pioneers the Sex Pistols had no problem launching loogies at the lunacy of the worship of royal blood. The British group came along at a time of disenfranchised feelings among Britain's youth in the 1980s that fueled riots, antiauthoritarianism and punk culture for decades until, of course, Johnny Rotten became pro-Trump, which is like seeing Ted Nugent at a vegan salad bar.
Speaking of punk...
Scott Thompson's Impression of Queen Elizabeth II on The Kids in the Hall Canada has a storied tradition of satirical comedy that fearlessly seeks laughs on its terms, from the early days of SCTV to the most recent episodes of the rebellious storytelling of The Kids in the Hall. The troupe's long-running comedic approach stayed far away from easy parodies of pop culture in favor of stronger characters with more concrete personalities and real emotions — even in the face of absurdity, with characters like Jerry and Jerry Sizzler, Cabbagehead and the Headcrusher. In a way, that gave them greater license to tackle a real character such as Queen Elizabeth II, whose grace and calls for traditional civility while ignoring the monarchy's checkered past inspired the troupe to create some of the sharpest satire of the decade. Thompson's portrayal of the Queen is played to an extreme, but not to a circus-clown point. And this delicate balance made her one of the show's most enduring characters. Fred Armisen's Queen Elizabeth Impression on Saturday Night Live
Armisen won his spot on SNL in 2002 in a unique way. He started as a drummer for the punk rock group Trenchmouth and acted in a sketch pilot called Next! produced by Mr. Show and Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk that found its way to SNL's talent department. So it makes perfect sense that Armisen's take on Queen Elizabeth II would be a cockney punk rocker who doesn't act or talk lady-like and won't bullshit anyone about the actual purpose of the royal line of succession when the public's eye isn't on her. Queen Elizabeth II's Meeting With Marilyn Monroe
It's been a while since America had to live under a monarchy, but if some bizarre time travel accident erased 200-plus years of democratic tradition, then Marilyn Monroe would've earned a seat at the throne. The actress' stardom was undeniable and relentless. Her short life became a cautionary tale of fame and fandom we still can't seem to learn from. Fervor erupted when Monroe met the British monarch in 1956 in a shiny, form-fitting dress that defied years of stuffy, formal tradition and allowed her to express her individuality on her terms. The Queen's Visit to Los Angeles in The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! One of the joys of watching a Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker comedy in which the storyline is a distant second to unapologetic slapstick and daft non-sequiturs is the way it boils down authority to its essence and shows just how stupid it can be. Queen Elizabeth II's textbook decorum is pitted against the bumbling antics of Detective Lt. Frank Drebin, played by the always wonderful Leslie Nielsen in the 1988 film spinoff from the short-lived TV series Police Squad! The series famously failed because, as one TV executive put it to co-creator David Zucker, "You had to watch it." The Queen is a perfect foil for such a target. After she's humiliated at a royal dinner in her honor, she attends an L.A. Dodgers game where she throws out a Nolan Ryan-worthy first pitch from the skybox. The Royal Succession Joke on The Critic This animated sitcom starring the voice of Jon Lovtiz as film critic Jay Sherman landed on ABC long before Seth MacFarlane turned the primetime animated cartoon into something big enough to sell by the pallet at Costco. It's a gem that does for movies what The Simpsons did for a form of suburban life that no longer exists thanks to a widening economic chasm. This joke about then-Prince Charles' long-awaited accession to the British throne is a small blip in a memorable episode about Jay's Ted Turner-ish boss Duke Phillips running an independent campaign for president. However, it's the portrayals of the Queen and Prince Charles, both voiced by voiceover legend Maurice LaMarche, that remain one of the show's greatest moments because of the cartoonish, fearless spoof of the Queen's longevity and a tradition still thriving in the face of widespread democracy and weakened centralized power (for the time being, of course).
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE...
Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune,Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.