Friday. 13/11/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Andrew Tuck

Scandal in the wind

An entertaining TV series and an enquiry into one of the UK’s most prestigious news shows are putting Princess Diana back on the front pages of the country’s newspapers and – once again – threatening the reputations of the future king, his wife and the BBC. Just as fascinating, however, is that this confluence of stories highlights that even when events have seemingly been picked clean by commentators, something as simple as a TV drama has the potential to rescript and refocus recent history in the public conscience.

Since it started in 2016, some 73 million households have watched the Netflix series The Crown, a figure likely to soar as season four is released this weekend with its coverage of the 1980s and the marriage of Charles and Diana. Although the show has numerous moments of rather colourful imagined conversations and in the past has been pulled up for inaccuracies, its general thrust is seen as being informed, astute – and persuasive. This all threatens to unravel years of hard work to place Prince Charles, the future king, and his wife in a favourable light and to move on from the idea that Diana was a victim of her marriage and her husband’s infidelity.

In The Crown, Princess Diana is played by Emma Corrin (pictured), who shows us a woman who is complicated, bulimic, needy, determined, compassionate, manipulative and ultimately broken by the family she has married into. You are made to feel for her. Charles is also portrayed with depth – but as ultimately flawed and cold. Camilla is a posh country woman who sees no dangers in the role of mistress. And this is all colliding with another story about Diana: claims that the interview about her marriage that she gave to Martin Bashir on the BBC’s Panorama show in 1995 was gained by using forged documents to win over her confidence.

Yet it’s The Crown that has the potential to fix Diana’s reputation in a more complex and favourable light. History, as we have long known, is not set in the public’s minds only by historians; TV scriptwriters can do this too. And they can do this with such clarity that it becomes the dominant truth. That is what The Crown seems destined to do.

Politics / Israel

Crossing a line

Over the next two months the Israel Lands Authority and Jerusalem City Hall will expedite construction projects beyond the Green Line, the invisible seam that once separated Jerusalem’s Jewish and Arab populations. The reasoning is that a freeze on construction could be on the cards to appease a new administration in the White House. Prior to Donald Trump’s presidency, the US took umbrage with Israeli construction in the disputed territory. “Joe Biden won’t be as friendly to these kinds of developments,” Yossi Mekelberg, research fellow of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House, tells The Monocle Minute. “Settlements and the expansion of neighbourhoods in Jerusalem and the rest of Israel prejudices the ability of establishing a viable Palestinian state.” The steady eastward growth of Israel’s capital has long led to fraught international relations and impacted the prospect of peace. The question is whether Joe Biden will still have any opportunity to influence matters on the ground when he takes up office in January.

Transport / Mexico

Emergency stop

As the death tolls on Mexico’s roads increase, the country has taken the unprecedented step of changing its constitution in an attempt to reduce the number of casualties. The problem is highlighted by the fact that Mexico’s rate of road deaths per 100,000 people is more than 2.5 times the average in the European Union. The new amendment reads as follows: “Every person has the right to mobility under conditions of safety, accessibility, efficiency, sustainability, quality, inclusion and equality.”

Although it won’t change the situation overnight, it is hoped that this national consensus will provide momentum for the government to reduce these numbers significantly. Nationwide legislation should signal that proposals for safe planning, infrastructure and scaled-up emergency-response services can break the gridlock and be passed with newfound ease.

Urbanism / South Korea

Given the green light

South Korea is set to have a new museum that’s dedicated to the built environment. The Korean Museum of Urbanism and Architecture will be part of the National Museum Complex, which is currently under development in the administrative city of Sejong. The UK-based practice AZPML and Yukyung Kim of UKST won the international competition to design the £31.4m (€35m) museum. Aesthetically, the design takes inspiration from South Korea’s traditional hanok roofs but the proposal goes deeper as it aims to create a cultural experience that explores urbanisation and architecture’s role in the climate crisis. Cities account for nearly 70 per cent of carbon emissions and about 66 per cent of energy consumption worldwide, so it’s only fitting that the winning design will exemplify good ecological and environmental performance. The building will be surrounded by plenty of greenery too.

Design / Finland

Cabinet reshuffle

Although many of us have spent more time in our homes in 2020, all the indications are that people, particularly the younger generations, are moving house more. It’s why new furniture brands are placing an emphasis on flexible design options for a so-called “nomadic” lifestyle. Enter Basta, a furniture e-commerce platform launched in Finland last night. The company aims to provide premium and long-lasting flat-pack furniture. “We have a new audience today: the generation that is always on the move,” says Dutch designer Marcel Wanders, who acts as Basta’s creative director. He notes that the brand’s aim is to form pieces that look stylish and work in smaller spaces. The pieces should be easy to order, assemble and – most importantly – disassemble, enabling them to be packed up and moved on along with other personal belongings.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Peloton

John Foley, the CEO and co-founder of Peloton, launched the fitness brand in 2012. It’s now valued at more than €30bn. Built around bringing live spin classes into the home, Peloton has studios in New York and London. Foley tells us about the company’s growth, which included an IPO last year, and delivering on massive demand in 2020.

Monocle Films / Tokyo

On the paper trail

Who needs paper in a world dominated by technology? Kenji Hall finds out as he visits Kakimori, a small stationery shop nestled in Tokyo’s Kuramae neighbourhood, which has been bringing customers joy over the course of three generations.

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