Margaret Thatcher whitewashed on film

This is a music video of an Elvis Costello song on Margaret Thatcher.

By Chris Marsden in Britain:

The Iron Lady: What were they thinking?

10 January 2012

Directed by Phyllida Lloyd, written by Abi Morgan

The Iron Lady, a fictional account of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s rise and fall, should have been at the very least interesting, even an important work. So how did it, with the sole exception of a truly remarkable performance by Meryl Streep as Thatcher, end up as such a spectacular misfire? …

The treatment of the only other substantially developed character, Denis Thatcher, played by Broadbent as a jovial old curmudgeon, is particularly ludicrous. Thatcher was a fairly horrible man, a multimillionaire anti-communist, an admirer of South African apartheid, who described the population of Brixton in south London as “Fuzzy-Wuzzies”. This reality makes his use as a loveable foil to the cold and austere Thatcher saccharine, at times nauseatingly so. …

The only political event given greater attention is the Falklands-Malvinas War. Here we see the most naked whitewash of Thatcher. After showing her as a child during the Luftwaffe’s bombing of Grantham, and as the victim of terrorism at the hands of the IRA, The Iron Lady offers us a version of the British prime minister as a new Winston Churchill. The open admirer of Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet, Thatcher is seen passionately pledging her determination to defeat the “fascists” of the Argentine Junta. The sinking of the ARA General Belgrano in May 1982, with 323 Argentine lives lost, while it was sailing away from and outside of Britain’s declared exclusion zone, is justified in the film by the military’s telling Thatcher that the ship could easily turn back and carry out a pincer movement. …

The Iron Lady is released as David Cameron’s Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition is imposing savage austerity measures to make workers pay for the collapse facilitated by the free market nostrums on which Thatcher’s historical reputation depends. Under these conditions, to adopt a pose of impartiality in dealing with her life is not simply an artistic choice. It suggests a desire to produce something generally acceptable to the ruling elite, which plans to provide her a state funeral and wants no questioning of her legacy in such tense political and social circumstances.

Other reviews of this film are here. And here.

Miners’ wives and other women supporters of the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike unfurled a banner last Friday outside the first Chesterfield showing of the new film about Margaret Thatcher. The film is called The Iron Lady—but the women say they are “The Real Iron Ladies”: here.

Although the slogan “Maggie Thatcher – Milk Snatcher” has achieved iconic status, Arthur [Jones from Wales] was arguably the first to coin it: here.

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19 thoughts on “Margaret Thatcher whitewashed on film

  1. On “The Iron Lady: What were they thinking?”

    I agree “The Iron Lady” is a badly made film and I will go so far as to add that it is a dishonest film. The use of Thatcher’s dementia as a framing device humanises the woman but also dehumanises the victims of her policies and renders them invisible. That’s almost as bad as denying genocide when it occurs.

    The film is feted in the media as presenting a woman who was a feminist role model in her time. Thatcher was no such creature. From what I have read about her, she relished being sole queen bee and rarely if ever promoted women to her Cabinet. I have no problem with women who happen to have a masculine way of thinking and behaving and who might not encourage others of their own gender (I’m more of a thinker than a feeling person myself so I know how Thatcher “feels”!) but then to uphold such women as feminist icons shows a lack of understanding of feminism and the values it’s supposed to support.

    The film does not show how Dennis Thatcher’s wealth supported his wife’s ambitions and helped lay the foundation for her political career. In that sense Margaret Thatcher is not that much of a role model for women, if her aspirations ultimately depended on her husband’s wealth. Also whitewashed out of the movie is the son Mark Thatcher’s dubious car rally career in the 1980s and shady financial dealings in the 1990s.

    Most deceitful of all is the moment when Margaret Thatcher declares during the Falklands War episode that she does not do deals with “fascist thugs”! Excuse me, but didn’t Chile under the Pinochet government supply the British with information on Argentine military movements during the war? And Thatcher became friendly enough with Pinochet such that when Pinochet visited the UK for medical treatment in the late 1990s and Spain requested his extradition, Thatcher publicly opposed any moves by the British government to arrest and hand over the retired general.

    Even without these glaring defects, the rest of the film is problematic: we don’t know what spurs the young Margaret Roberts to want a career in politics or what prompts the older Margaret to challenge for the Tory Party leadership and change her image. Where and how did she adopt the economic philosophy of less regulation and more privatisation of the economy? For the amount of money I hand over for a movie ticket, this is the one thing I really want to know!

    Thanks for an objective review of the film otherwise.

    Jennifer H
    10 January 2012


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