Sex Pistols and ‘The Simpsons’: The queen in pop culture

3 mins read
  • queen in pop culture
    Credit line: Adrian DENNIS / AFP / Profimedia
  • Credit line: Vuk Valcic / Alamy / Alamy / Profimedia
  • queen in pop culture
    Credit line: Daniel LEAL / AFP / Profimedia
  • queen in pop culture
    'Lightness of Being' [L] by Chris Levine and Kim Dong Yoo's painting "Elizabeth II vs Diana" [R] Credit line: PETER MUHLY / AFP / Profimedia
  • queen in pop culture
    "Tree of Life" art piece presented to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II by the Mexican President during a state visit in March 2015. Credit line: Tolga Akmen / AFP / Profimedia

From a Sex Pistols single to “The Simpsons”, “The Crown” and Andy Warhol works, Queen Elizabeth’s pop culture cameos were frequent and often unforgettable.

Some depictions were affectionate, others more hostile, but the monarch’s indelible image in art, music and film cemented her status as one of the most recognisable people in the world.

Here are some of her most memorable appearances:

– ‘God Save The Queen’ –

With her eyes and mouth covered with collaged words, the cover of the 1977 Sex Pistols single “God Save The Queen” is one of the most iconic images of the punk movement — and of Elizabeth II.

The artist, Jamie Reid, also created a version depicting the queen with a safety pin through her mouth and Nazi swastika symbols on her eyes.

Of the many other songs about the queen, the gentle “Her Majesty” by The Beatles in 1969 contrasts with “Elizabeth My Dear” on the 1989 debut album by The Stone Roses, where they declared they would not rest until she lost the throne.

“The Queen Is Dead”, the title track from the 1986 hit album by The Smiths, featured lead singer Morrissey railing against media fascination with the royal family.

queen in pop culture
“God Save The Queen” (R) by artist Jamie Reid made for British punk band the Sex Pistols in 1977 during ‘The Queen: Art and Image’ exhibiton at the Ulster Museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Credit line: PETER MUHLY / AFP / Profimedia

“The very idea of the monarchy and the queen of England is being reinforced and made to seem more useful than it really is,” Morrissey told NME magazine.

“The whole thing seems like a joke. A hideous joke.”

In 2005, electronic dance act Basement Jaxx imagined the queen on a night out in London for the music video for “You Don’t Know Me”, showing her visiting a strip club and getting into a fight.

– Warhol’s silkscreens –

The queen sat for numerous artists during her reign, including Cecil Beaton, Lucian Freud and Annie Leibovitz, showing her in full regalia, at work or with her family.

But few captured the public imagination like Andy Warhol’s technicolour silkscreens, as part of a 1985 series about reigning queens.

Warhol used an official photograph that he customised in a range of colours and styles — a treatment also used to depict stars such as Marilyn Monroe.

– Screen time –

Readily identified by her cut-glass accent and boldly-coloured outfits, the queen was much depicted in cartoons, television shows and films.

She popped up several times in cult US series “The Simpsons”, including in one episode where the main character, Homer, drove into her golden carriage on the grounds of Buckingham Palace.

The monarch featured in British satirical puppet show “Spitting Image” and in children’s television hit “Peppa Pig”, where she jumped in muddy puddles.

She also featured in the movies “Minions”, “Austin Powers in Goldmember” and “The Naked Gun” among many others — in some of them played by Jeannette Charles, her most famous British lookalike.

– Private life –

The queen rarely gave interviews and never retailed details about her most private moments.

But cinematic portrayals of the life she was presumed to lead behind the palace gates were many.

Laid out in films, plays and television programmes, all helped to shape public perceptions of the royal family.

She was depicted as a child in the Oscar-winning movie “The King’s Speech”, about her father King George VI’s struggle to overcome his stammer, and as a monarch, facing public anger after the 1997 death of her daughter-in-law Princess Diana, in “The Queen”.

One of the most influential was Netflix’s big-budget TV series “The Crown”, which told in luxurious detail the story of the queen and her husband Philip from before she ascended to the throne, complete with family rows, scandals and political crises.

– Olympic spoof –

After years of her image being used and abused, the queen took to the screen herself in 2012 in a sketch for the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games.

She was filmed surrounded by her beloved corgis at Buckingham Palace as she met James Bond star Daniel Craig, who was dressed as the suave spy in black tie.

“Good evening, Mr Bond”, she said, before the pair appeared to get in a helicopter, fly across London and then parachute into the stadium.

In 2016, she also appeared in a video with her grandson Prince Harry which also featured former US president Barack Obama, to promote the prince’s veterans sports championship, the Invictus Games.

One of her last appearances was with the popular animated children’s television character, Paddington Bear, at her Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June.

The pair shared a love of marmalade sandwiches and tapped out the beat to Queen’s anthem “We Will Rock You” to kickstart a star-studded pop concert. © AFP

Join Our Mailing List

[contact-form-7 id="9206" title="Sidebar Newsletter"]