Margaret Thatcher: Her portrayals in pop culture
Margaret Thatcher, like other politicians before and after her, has appeared often in movies, TV shows and stage productions. Everyone from Meryl Streep (who received an Oscar for her performance) to Monty Python comedian Michael Palin has portrayed the 'Iron Lady.'
As the legacy of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who passed away at age 87 on Monday, is honored, Thatcher is also remembered in everything from songs to films. Like many symbolic historical figures, the pop culture renditions are a mix of positive and negative.
Here’s a list of some of the most notable:
"Saturday Night Live": The NBC comedy show “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at Thatcher following her election in 1979. Guest host Michael Palin, known for his role in Monty Python films, played her in one skit on Weekend Update, donning a wig to imitate her voluptuous hair.
James Bond: In the closing scene of the 1981 Bond film "For Your Eyes Only," actress Janet Brown has a cameo as Thatcher. During the closing scene, Brown speaks with James Bond, portrayed by Roger Moore, on the phone and congratulates him on a successful mission. When he asks her to "give us a kiss," she responds with, “Oh, really, Mr. Bond."
"House of Cards": Long before Netflix created a US version, the UK had its own political drama with the same title. Released in 1990 on the BBC, the four-part series took place as Thatcher has just left office. However, she is not portrayed onscreen.
"The Iron Lady": The most recent onscreen portrayal of Thatcher in 2011 had mixed reviews. While Hollywood favorite Meryl Streep won the Academy Award for the film in 2011 for what The Guardian called a “note-perfect performance,” the film was still criticized for focusing on Thatcher’s personal life rather than her politics. In The New York Times, film critic A.O. Scott argued that those entering the film with strong stances on Thatcher – either good or bad – will leave more confused. “Though the film pays lip service to Mrs. Thatcher’s analytic intelligence and tactical shrewdness, its focus is on the drama and pathos of her personal life,” Scott wrote in a statement issued on Monday, Streep herself gave her respects to the Thatcher family. “To me she was a figure of awe for her personal strength and grit… I was honored to try to imagine her late life journey, after power; but I have only a glancing understanding of what her many struggles were, and how she managed to sail through to the other side," Streep said.
"The Audience": Playwright Peter Morgan is behind a play called “The Audience,” in which Queen Elizabeth II, played by Helen Mirren, meets with 12 different historic prime ministers, including Thatcher, played by actress Haydn Gwynne. According to the show’s Facebook page, representatives for the production said the April 8 performance “will go ahead as scheduled” at London’s Gielgud Theatre. However, “as a mark of respect,” Morgan will give a short speech prior to the start.
Saba Hamedy is a Monitor contributor.