Streep and Lloyd are not, after all, conservative. “I still don’t agree with a lot of her policies,” said Streep diplomatically. “But I feel she believed in them and that they came from an honest conviction, and that she wasn’t a cosmetic politician just changing make-up to suit the times.” As for those policies: in an interview, Streep said, laughing,
We’re not interested in King Lear’s politics. We’re not saying we would have voted for him… What interested me was [playing] the part of someone who does monstrous things maybe, or misguided things.
Monstrous things? Misguided? That’s a rather blatant giveaway as to how Streep views the female Lear’s politics and legacy. Director Lloyd described her goal with this project in a similar vein:
In parts of England now it’s a transgression even to consider her as a human being. She’s that monster woman, the she-devil. For me the point of the film was to find the human side.
Though she did not vote for Thatcher, Lloyd cheered when a woman finally came to power in England: “It felt like one for our team.” Streep, too, remembers a thrill running up her leg:
I did the same thing. We all thought if it can happen in England – class-bound, socially rigid, homophobic — if they can elect a female leader over there, then it’s just seconds away in America.
Hold on – did Streep just call the English homophobic? And socially calcified? These aren’t the kinds of comments that make for a successful promotional tour. But more and more often, many in Hollywood forget themselves and reveal contempt for their socially unenlightened audiences.
Of course, feminists ordinarily do not embrace Thatcher, despite her political trailblazing. Her rejection “even from feminists,” says Streep, seems to “have something to do with our profound… discomfort with women in power. Or our terror of it.” No, the feminist rejection of Thatcher has everything to do with her conservatism, because feminists are profoundly discomforted and in terror of conservative women who more successfully embody the feminist ideal of “having it all” than do self-proclaimed feminists themselves.
Film critic and libertarian Kurt Loder claims that “the movie has no apparent partisan agenda. It presents the good and the bad (depending on one’s political orientation).” But he does note that the film’s completely invented sequences of “the doddering Iron Lady in retirement,” succumbing to dementia and imagining conversations with her dead husband, are “jarringly unpleasant” and distasteful.
And therein lies the other way in which this film downplays or even undermines Thatcher’s place in history as a conservative legend. As a “King Lear for girls,” “the story concerns power and the price that is paid for power,” as the press release states. And that price for Thatcher is, according to the film, loneliness, mental decay, nightmares, and haunting regret.
“There have been people who have seen the movie and were fully aghast, who would have liked it to be a triumphalist saga,” Ms. Streep said. Yes, heaven forbid that Hollywood depict a conservative world leader as politically triumphant (imagine a Hollywood bio-pic about a national leader they unreservedly admire, even worship – say, Obama; would it be anything but a triumphalist saga?).
Some are unconcerned about the film’s impact. It “is a non-event,” dismisses Lord Tim Bell, one of Thatcher’s key PR advisers. “It won’t make any difference to her place in history.” Unfortunately, he underestimates the power of Hollywood to shape the perception of entire generations who, thanks to the left’s domination of our educational system, don’t know much about history.
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