What the Iron Lady missed

First, the film was excessively focused on Thatcher-as-dottering-old-woman-LOL. This (1) occupied so much of the film it crowded out really interesting and important and dramatic political history, (2) was tiresome and pseudo-psychiatric in its presentation of her relationship with he deceased husband, and was (3) pretty tasteless, given Thatcher’s stature and the fact that she is still living. The movie’s portrayal of her dotage was cartoonish, and cruel at that.

On the bright side, Meryl Streep was fantastic; some of the scenes (especially of Streep’s entries first into Westminster Palace and then into Number 10, and then taking prime minister’s questions) were very well done; and it was refreshingly politically incorrect in its portrayal of boorish union behavior.

But the film, unfortunately, left out an iconic British institution: Fleet Street. This almost-sympathetic portrayal of the Iron Lady shouldn’t let us forget one of the most interesting and telling things about her, which was how she how she aroused the complete, utter, and obsessive hatred of the British press, and bien pensants and Socially Respectable people more generally. Their cries against her were self-contradicting, but all agreed, essentially, on what horrid shrew she was. She was an enemy of the poor and the working classes, who had risen above her station — a grocer’s daughter! She was a provincial xenophobe, who wanted to learn from those grotesque Americans! She was an idiot; and frankly elitist, as an Oxford grad! Was there any doubt that her regressive views probably came from her father, who was (did you know?) a grocer?

History has — as is its wont — largely redeemed the Iron Lady, and forced the culture industry to take a more measured view of her. But we shouldn’t forget their erstwhile revulsion (which is a risk, since those who hated her so intensely and obsessively are also those who have the luxury of writing our official histories). Rather, Thatcher should stand as a reminder of how, then, as now, the culture industry — the guardians of Officially Approved Views™ — is a nasty, intellectually narrow, middle-brow tribe, which will lie, slander, violate its own ostensible moral standards, and work itself and its cranky followers into fits, in its brutal attacks against those who violate the Officially Approved Views of which it has appointed itself the enforcer, especially when they seem to be having too much success (and they will feel even more confident in their attacks, when the objects are, say,  female, or originating from a lower social order).

She was without question the most impactful woman leader in modern Western history, but she was not and will not be claimed or celebrated by the clique of academic self-appointed guardians of the term ‘feminist,’ because she associated with the Wrong People and had the Wrong Views. Her life was an astonishing Horatio Alger story, of fearless aspiration and mobility, which really ought be held as an example to less-privileged school children — but it will not be, because, hateful woman that she was, she believed, e.g., that Britain was not obligated to provide miners a living so much as they were obligated to make themselves useful to society. The political narrowness and aggressive ignorance of our narrow clique of journalists, academics, cultural-enforcers, and intellectuals more generally means that Thatcher will never get the credit she is due, and others will. It sucks.

I know that it is considered unattractive and resentful or (worst) conservative to say these things. But I say them anyways because they have the (in my view) compensating advantage of being clearly true.


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