Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 29 March 2020

Gary Janetti's Prince George TV show: isn't it a bit cruel to satirise a child?

I cannot be considered a royalist, but to have words put in the mouth of a 6-year-old by scriptwriters seeking a good punchline doesn't quite sit right

Prince George, 6, is the basis of the titular character in upcoming animated comedy 'The Prince'. Getty Images
Prince George, 6, is the basis of the titular character in upcoming animated comedy 'The Prince'. Getty Images

Britain's Royal Family are set to be the subject of The Prince, a new animated TV series helmed by Family Guy producer Gary Janetti. It was announced this week that the satirical show has been given the green light by HBO Max and 20th Century Fox TV; it's based on Janetti's own Instagram account, which regularly parodies one of the family's youngest members – Prince George.

In the account, the eldest child of Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, is portrayed as a precocious, silver-spooned, snobbish little boy, constantly throwing shade at both members of his family and the common folk.

The caption on this one reads, “Oh my God, they’ll be... people.”:

"Princess Eugenie's wedding dress designer has announced some very sad news," declares the headline in this similar composite post.

"He saw her in it?" snaps back Prince George in the caption written by Janetti:

Don't get me wrong, many of these Instagram posts have elicited an inelegant snigger from me that would likely secure the wrath of Prince George's online alter-ego.

But the difference between a few tongue-in-cheek comments on a personal Instagram page with 900,000 followers and a TV show with a potential reach of hundreds of millions is vast. No longer will this be one man's passion project, but instead the product of tens of actors, producers, editors, illustrators and more.

There will likely be a hefty dose of bad-taste jokes, mean-spirited put-downs and crude innuendo, content few parents would want to see coming from the cartoon mouth of their own child

The royals, bound to a life of public service, may be fair fodder – but a 6-year-old, not yet old enough to be considered a working member of the family? That's an entirely different ball game.

“We’re so excited to bring the world Gary’s created on Instagram over to HBO Max, where our viewers can discover what his Instagram fans already know – that George can be hilarious, shocking and surprisingly sweet,” said Sarah Aubrey, head of original content for HBO Max. “We can’t wait to see what Gary does with a bigger canvas to paint on than just a 1:1 square.”

I cannot be considered a royalist (I'm mostly just apathetic), but to have 6-year-old George ridicule his own family on a global show, to have words put in his mouth by scriptwriters seeking a good punchline at the expense of others, just doesn't quite sit right.

This show will be about making fun of a child, and on a large scale. With such a team behind it, and the gravitas of backing from HBO and 20th Century Fox, this parody show has been given a level of validation that pales in comparison to an account on a photo-sharing app. Among those who have signed on to be part of the cast are Lord of the Rings actor Orlando Bloom, Game of Thrones' Iwan Rheon, Bohemian Rhapsody's Tom Hollander and The Good Wife's Alan Cumming.

No, this is no little indie show – this is star-studded, heavyweight TV fodder.

The show may follow the trials and tribulations (of which there have recently been many) of the Royal Family through George's eyes, but several other members will round out the cast, including Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Prince William, Catherine, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. Even Prince Harry and Meghan look set to make cameos, according to a promotional image shared by HBO Max.

Can broadcasters even use royals' likeness without consent? As both The Crown and long-running British satirical puppet show Spitting Image have proved, shows about the monarchy don't need approval. However, should a work be proved to defame, slander or libel a member of the family, one could have grounds to sue – though there's no precedent for them to do so, outside of cases regarding privacy and paparazzi. They are, in reality, a rarely litigious family.

However, judging by the Family Guy connection, there will likely be a hefty dose of bad-taste jokes, mean-spirited put-downs and crude innuendo, content few parents would want to see coming from the cartoon mouth of their own child. A lot of George's fictional vitriol is directed at Meghan, already a media punching bag, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, is another subject of derogatory comments about her appearance, more of which we can expect to see on The Prince. It certainly won't have the respectful, rooted-in-history approach of The Crown, of that much we can be sure.

A curse (or a blessing, depending on how you see it) of the monarchy is that one is born into a life of service, engagements, duty and, yes, great privilege – but it is not a choice. While Prince Harry and Meghan may have been able to step back from royal life and into their Canadian hideaway, it has, according to reports, been a long negotiation.

Prince George isn't currently choosing to be in the royal family. He likely has years of duties ahead of him and, as the third-in-line to the throne, abdication would be a much harder fought battle if he should ever attempt to seek it.

He may be a future king of England, but he is also just still a child. It's a shame that his childhood, which Prince William and Catherine have done their best to keep as normal and as private as possible, will now be used to fatten up the bank balances of TV executives.

Updated: January 23, 2020 05:02 PM

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