Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Iron Lady

I wasn't really sure I wanted to see Meryl Streep’s rendition of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.  The little I had read about the movie in pre-release reviews made me suspicious that it was going to be another left-wing hatchet job.  It was understandably causing a furor in the UK because of the film’s setting and approach, portraying the prime minister’s otherwise remarkable and admirable career as a series of flashbacks in the mind of an ailing, demented Margaret Thatcher.  Throughout the movie she is shown having hallucinatory conversations with her long deceased husband Dennis, hardly a respectful and dignified portrait of one of the great world leaders of the twentieth century.

Despite the screenplay’s uncomplimentary setting, it portrayed Margaret Thatcher’s life and career in very positive terms: Her humble beginnings as a grocer’s daughter, being taught at a young age to not follow the crowd, to stand up for your convictions in the face of criticism, to stick to your ideas not because they are popular but because they are right, and to persevere in the face of adversity, fierce and unfair criticism and even violent opposition.

That is the type of spine that was needed in the second half of twentieth century Britain, a nation in moral and economic decline, in the stranglehold of debilitating social welfare policies and corrupt trade unions, self serving politicians resorting to class warfare and demagoguery, claiming to stand up for the poor and the little guy, but really accomplishing nothing other than increasing the intrusive scope of government and dependency.  Sound familiar?

The unfolding scenes of the movie caused me to remember and relive the transformative decade of the 1980’s, when great leaders like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan faced fierce opposition and blistering criticism for the stands they took for conservative principles of individual freedom and responsibility.  She did what was required to turn around a nation in decay, stating “Yes, the medicine is harsh, but the patient requires it.” Throughout the movie I found myself muttering, “Oh, how we desperately need leaders like that today!”

I am not sure about the screen-writer's intentions in portraying Margaret Roberts Thatcher as frail and ailing, slipping into dementia.  It certainly seems disrespectful, particularly given that she is still alive.  Whatever the writer’s intentions, I personally choose to view this portrayal as appealing, perhaps not in political terms, but definitely in theological terms. God created us to love and serve Him, giving each of us a calling and mission. In the movie, a young Margaret Roberts says, “One’s life must matter”.  Toward the end, an elderly Margaret Thatcher states, “All I wanted was to make a difference.”  Indeed, she did, and the world should be grateful.  But in the end, no matter what we accomplish, this life is fleeting.  We are frail and finite; we decline and, at the time of God’s choosing, we die.  Whether we achieve great things like Margaret Thatcher, or lead humble and obscure lives whose impact is limited to family, friends and acquaintances, our calling is to be faithful to Him.


Tetamay said...

I think you made me want to see it!

JD Curtis said...

I think I'll try to convince the (liberal) Mrs to see it this weekend.