The Diplomat: Netflix show suggests the US-UK special relationship needs some TLC

Netflix’s new political drama, The Diplomat, is focused on the trials and tribulations of Kate Wyler (Keri Russell), a new American ambassador to Britain. It begins with a deadly attack on a British aircraft carrier and then follows the twists and turns of a joint US and UK attempt to find the culprits.

Ambassador Wyler is an experienced diplomat frustrated by the unwanted interventions of her high profile husband (Rufus Sewell). Wyler is a capable crisis manager irritated by the ceremonial demands of the role but earmarked for great things by the White House (she has been identified as a future vice president).

It is entertaining stuff and clearly owes much to its highly successful predecessor in dissecting US politics, The West Wing (1999).

The Diplomat also tells the familiar story of the much celebrated “special relationship” between the US and UK. It engagingly critiques, laments and celebrates contemporary US-UK relations.

The history of the special relationship

The idea of the “special relationship” was popularised by Winston Churchill in a speech he gave at Fulton, Missouri, in March 1946 that bequeathed two evocative phrases.

One was “Iron Curtain”, deployed to describe the hardening of tensions between east and west. The other, a rallying cry intended to consolidate the Anglo-American bond forged in war, was that “special relationship”.

For various reasons, Churchill’s phrase quickly entered the lexicon of diplomatic discourse. One reason was its author, a skilful orator whose words always drew press attention. But another was that Churchill had described something – the idea of a special connection between the US and UK – that had long been the subject of sustained cultural attention.

Take, for instance, how the Anglo-American alliance had been depicted in films like A Yank in the RAF (1941), The Way to the Stars (1945) and I Live at Grosvenor Square (1945).

All these films celebrated special Anglo-American connections often – like Churchill – with a nod towards shared language, values and history. And crucially, given a key feature of The Diplomat, many also did so via a specific narrative ploy: a transatlantic love tryst.


For the full article by Dr Sam Edwards visit the Conversation.


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 23/71

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