I’m conflicted about Margaret Thatcher. As as fiscal conservative, I’m aware she made ludicrously hard economic decisions that radically and brutally overhauled socialist-style Britain, and made way for the prosperity (and greed) of the 90’s and naughties. As a social liberal however, I revile her repressive “Victorian values” – classist, sexist, homophobic – that set Britain back decades. I remember her name first as a very small boy when free milk was removed from Primary Schools to chants of “Thatcher, Thatcher, Milk Snatcher.” I remember her much later in life when friends were caught up in the Poll Tax Riots and returned home bruised and bloodied and trampled by police horses. I remember Section 28 most of all – an amendment which stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. Pretended Family Relationship? Even then, it stuck in my craw.
I went to see The Iron Lady then, feeling queasy. I really, really didn’t want to end up feeling sympathetic to her – and I’m glad to say I did not. It’s an odd movie, more Docu-soap Love Story (Denis comes across as quite a card) than Political Melodrama, as a doddery, mentally enfeebled Thatcher looks back at her rise to (and fall from) power. It’s also a kind of tragi-comic Magical Realism of the South American kind (Denis appears frequently, though he’s been dead for years at the time of the telling) and that’s kind of ironic considering Thatcher’s greatest moment was a messy war over small islands with a South American ally. Of course, none of this really matters because this is just an All-Meryl, All-the-Time kind of show. And it’s true, the Oscars’ race should be handicapped; the woman is outstanding again here.