January 3, 2012

"The Iron Lady"

From my review in Taki's Magazine:
In 1979, Margaret Thatcher won the first of her three terms as Britain’s prime minister. By 2012, however, no American woman has yet reached the presidency. The only woman to make a serious run was considered presidential timber mostly by having been First Lady. Why are women still underrepresented in high office? 
Judging by The Iron Lady, a Margaret Thatcher biopic starring a superlative Meryl Streep, one reason might be that women, on average, aren’t that fascinated by politics. For example, the three Englishwomen who wrote, directed, and edited The Iron Lady appear remarkably uninterested in the affairs of state that captivated their main character. ... 
While a political nullity, The Iron Lady is a first-rate women’s picture, a poignant depiction of a happy marriage, a sad widowhood, and the frustrations of eldercare.

Read the whole thing there.

46 comments:

dearieme said...

"My wife found these personal revelations fascinating. Yet overall, Mrs. Thatcher seemed more concerned with statecraft...": Mrs Thatcher wasn't American.

Anonymous said...

Oh no, Streep the accentress on the loose again?
Don't much care for the Iron Actress.. or is it Iron ACTOR nowadays?

Anonymous said...

Once in the 1990s, my wife enjoyed a woman-to-woman chat with the ex-PM

You haven't started name-dropping yourself now, have you?

Rain And said...

Meryl Streep is evidence that IQ matters even in acting talent. She has an Ivy league degree.

[[Here's an interesting paper with a list of actors and their education levels. It shows that actors with more education tend to pair up with actresses with more education--- Hollywood IQ sorting.]]

Anonymous said...

"You haven't started name-dropping yourself now, have you?"

Go away.

Kylie said...

"Why are women still underrepresented in high office?"

They aren't.

"Streep, America’s greatest living practitioner of the acting arts"

For my money, that would be Philip Seymour Hoffman. Streep is good at accents but I don't confuse that with good acting. I like what I know of her as a person and she's been good in several movies I've seen but for the most part, I find her far too mannered and invulnerable. I'm with Kate Hepburn on this one.

Hoffman, though, can pull me in no matter what part he's playing. He's dazzling. Streep gave what I think is her best performance in Doubt and I wonder if that wasn't due in part to playing opposite Hoffman.

Anonymous said...

If we're gonna talk about great actresses - holy cow did Cate Blanchett pull off another miracle performance in "Benjamin Button".

Recently it's been playing a lot on cable, and everytime I come across it, I find her character simply mesmerizing.

PS: Apparently Peter Jackson found some way to work her into The Hobbit?!?

I tend to be a purist in these matters [I hated most of Jackson's LOTR], but I'll have to make an exception for Cate.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm looking at the cast [and especially Benedict Cumberbatch as "Smaug / Necromancer"], and I'm thinking that maybe Jackson is going to film the events in Dol Goldur?

Which would then allow Gandalf to spend some time in Lothlorien?!?

PS: Judging from that trailer, it looks like Celeborn better keep a close eye on his booty...

Kylie said...

"Meryl Streep is evidence that IQ matters even in acting talent. She has an Ivy league degree."

I don't think the issue is whether or not Streep is a smart actress; it's whether or not she's a good actress.

She's obviously intelligent. But I'm not alone in often finding her performances mannered in a way that's ultimately unconvincing. I like watching her--but I'm always watching to see which of her mannerisms she'll use next. That's not really what good acting is about.

Anonymous said...

Even her children can't stand her:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2080536/The-Iron-Lady-Margaret-Thatcher-ignored-children-Christmas.html

Steve Sailer said...

Dear Rain And:

Thanks, interesting paper. I'll make a post out of it.

Steve

Steve Sailer said...

Philip Seymour Hoffman can do anything except lose weight.

Anonymous said...

PS: Apparently Peter Jackson found some way to work her [Cate Blanchett]into The Hobbit?!?

Why yes he did, by already having found a way to work her into LOTR some years earlier 2001 - 03, playing the same character as in The Hobbit; Galadriel.

Anonymous said...

Philip Seymour Hoffman can do anything except lose weight.

Buuuuuurrrnnn!!!

Anonymous said...

Even her children can't stand her

It probably says way more about her son than about his mother. Even before the bungled coup in Africa, "Sir Mark" has long been known in Britain to be a completely talentless eejit, able to get lost in the Sahara with detailed maps and compass. If I were Lady Thatcher, I wonder if *I'd* want him hanging around the house at Christmas.

Acting and Streep said...

Although it makes the film much less historically relevant and personally interesting, I'm glad they turned this into a chick flick.

I couldn't see a Hollywood liberal like Streep or the script writers giving anything close to a fair or interesting treatment of Mrs. Thatcher or her times. Streep admitted her politics were about as far from Thatcher's as possible in an interview.

Also, I agree with many here that Streep's talent is something close to, but not quite great acting.

She has an amazing ability at mimicry and is no doubt intelligent, hardworking and remarkably "uncomplicated" by Hollywood terms. Still, she doesn't have the widest range (she her embarrass herself in stretch roles like Mamma Mia) nor the most charisma.

Streep's acting seems entirely planned and precise lacking spontaneity and raw emotion. That said, in the right roles she has been admittedly very good.

Pentheus said...

Re M. Streep "too mannered and invulnerable" (comment by "Kylie"):

The only Streep movies I have really enjoyed are both small film comedies, both romans a clef: Heartburn, and Postcards from the Edge.

In these she shows more vulnerability because of her characters' situations and the antagonist characters (philandering husband, movie star mother), and also I think because these opposing roles are both played by powerful personalities (Nicholson, Maclaine).

In Heartburn, she is hugely pregnant throughout much of the film, waddling around and trying to deal with her husband's infidelities and general jerk-ness. She projects a truly unique (IMO) balance there between her vulnerability and her refusal to become a pitiable victim. You want to pity her character, but she won't allow the film to become melodrama. Consequently, Heartburn is not what I would call either a woman's picture, nor a feminist sermon. Just a pregnant woman trying to muddle through marital disintegration.

Dutch Boy said...

She ought to be called the "iron-hearted" lady.

Anonymous said...

I like the comment telling Steve to "go away".....from his own personal blog....by anonymous


Dan in DC

Butcher Zhivago said...

1. Wasn't there a movie called THE QUEEN few yrs back? English certainly love their ladies.
England had the greatest female ruler of all of Europe, maybe of all time. Queen Elizabeth--even more so than Catherine the Great. So, I think there's a fascination with powerful women in England. Queen Victoria, though not politically powerful, had great cultural influence. An age of named after her after all. And the British sing God Save the Queen than God Save the King. And in the current Queen Elizabeth was the last decent monarch England had. Prince Charles ugh. Prince Di... yech.

In a way, Thatcher was like a political queen or queen of the people. She was a strange hybrid creature, culturally and politically. Like Nixon, she came from humble grocer roots. She didn't come from privilege. Yet, she joined the conservatives.
She was very English--proper manners, fastidiousness, etc--, but also globalist/pro-American, welcoming forces that would yuppie-ize and materialize Britain into the soulless nation it is today(but then UK was turning crazy already by the 60s and 70s with swinging london and punk culture).
Her political husband was Ronald Reagan, and their power marriage was sanctified by Pope John Paul. It was the anti-Soviet Cold War trinity.
If Princess Di was royalty who stooped low, Thatcher was a relatively low-born woman who aimed high.
I suspect the left hated Thatcher precisely because she was hard to pin down. She didn't come from privilege whereas many leftist elitists did. So, she cleverly turned the table and argued that free enterprise empowered the poor and industrious against the rich/elitist/leftist/entrenched.
She championed the people, but as free individuals than as a collective dependent on the state ruled by leftist elites and intellectuals and managers.
There was an element of Ayn Rand in her, but with better manners. She dressed properly but frumpily, which made her comical in a way(like a Polish woman dressed in 50s style)but that was also part of her appeal. She was old-fashioned and modest, a little woman who had risen high without fancy pretensions.

2. Given the fruity nature of British men, it was hardly surprising that the most successful British politician in recent times was Thatcher. Sure, Parliament squabbles could get pretty nasty, but British manliness has always been underpinned by wit and saying clever things. So, a woman with superior wit could easily beat up on the guys.
American politics is bigger on body and smaller on wit. George W. Bush was as witless as a politician could be but he had the beer buddy movements that appealed to Americans. Obama is a pretty good debator but his main appeal is his stature. Reagan too. UK politics require more on verbal quips, and a woman could do just as well or even better(since women have an edge in verbal skills).

3. Didn't Streep do something like this already in Devil Wears Prada?

smead jolley said...

I think I'm far too impressionable. I actually didn't get married because of Meryl Streep in "Kramer v. Kramer."

Anonymous said...

Why yes he did, by already having found a way to work her into LOTR some years earlier 2001 - 03, playing the same character as in The Hobbit; Galadriel.

The character [charactress?] "Galadriel" didn't appear in the book [which is generally known as] "The Hobbit".

But as I indicated in my follow-up post above, it looks as though Jackson is going to expand upon some notes from the appendices of the book [which is generally known as] "The Return of the King", and realize [on film] the events which unfolded in Dol Goldur.

And, again, as above, the trailer seems to hint that Jackson intends to arrange for Gandalf & Galadriel to share some very strange, ah, "face time" together...

Anonymous said...

Streep ought to the 'alar apple scare' in foreign accents.

"VAT ARE VEE DOINGGG TO ARRRRR CHILDRUUUUUUUN?"

Anonymous said...

One of the worst things about 80s cinema was Meryl Streep movies. I COULD NOT STAND THEM. Sure, they were supposed to be INTELLIGENT. Sure, she was supposed to be soooooooo talented. But there was no fun to be had from FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN, SOPHIE'S CHOICE, OUT OF AFRICA, PLENTY, and whatever else that caught her fancy. The other 'serious movie' horror of the 80s was Woody Allen trying to be Bergman. ANOTHER WOMAN... wow that sucked so bad.

Btw, I think Weaver's main problem was less her height than her jaws. I mean it looks like in a fight between Alien and Ripley, the latter would eat the former.
She's a good looking woman, impressive in her way, but I like her jaws. But I can see how some people would be put off by it.

Streep, as far as I'm concerned, looks like a Polish cleaning lady.

Anonymous said...

"Streep admitted her politics were about as far from Thatcher's as possible in an interview."

But not when it comes to earning her millions.

Anonymous said...

Some of the most interesting political movies have liberals playing conservatives or rightwingers. Take PATTON, NIXON, EDGAR J. HOOVER, and now this movie. And DOWNFALL. I heard Roy Cohn character is by the most interesting in FRUITS IN AMERICA.

I think the problem when liberals play liberal heroes is they go all gushy-hushy. It's all mythologizing and heroics. It's all about uplift and nobility, but that's not very interesting.
But when liberals play conservatives, there's bound to be some conflict, and conflict in the heart of drama. The liberal actor is forced to empathize with a figure they ideologically despise. So, that makes for interesting interplay. Also, the writers/directors tend to be liberal, and they too are forced to step outside their ideological straits when writing about conservatives.

All liberal actors want to do something serious and complex, and so they're drawn to 'dark conservative' figures. It's more of a challenge for Dicaprio to play the dark Hoover than play some rosy feel-good movie mythologizing RFK as a saint. Of course, there's a dark side to liberal heroes as well. MLK was one sumfabitch in real life, but Hollywood doesn't wanna pull out the skeletons about liberal heroes, and so that leaves only conservatives.
In Shakespeare and Dickens tales, the most interesting characters are either villains or people of moral ambiguity. Because of liberalism's do-goodiness, it is less morally interesting that conservatives who are more in tune with the darkness of human nature.

HOFFA was pretty interesting too.

Pentheus said...

I wish you (Steve) had used another word than "underrepresented."

I suggest that the answer to your question is that Margaret Thatcher was the product of a parliamentary system, very different from ours.

The PM's leadership is a result of parliamentary elections and appointment by her peers, not direct election by the people as a stand-alone candidate for the Executive branch. The PM is a legislative, not technically executive, position. Probably most non-monarchical female heads of state are from parliamentary systems.

In this country Nancy Pelosi (not Hillary Clinton) may have become the equivalent of Mrs. Thatcher were our system the same as Great Britain's.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. Acting is being able to read lines clearly and stand in the right places. Don't make it out to be rocket surgery.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like the movie makers avoided trashing her on political grounds but it also sounds like they missed the fact that she was one of the most influential people of the late 20th century.

Harry Baldwin said...

And the British sing God Save the Queen than God Save the King.

Err, they sing "God Save the Queen" when they have a queen and "God Save the King" when they have a king.

Streep annoyed me when receiving her Kennedy Center Honors. putting in a plug for her pet cause, a National Women's History Museum, "Because in case you haven't noticed, we don't have one."

We'll have a National GLBT History Museum soon too, I'm certain.

Anonymous said...

Some of the most interesting political movies have liberals playing conservatives or rightwingers. Take PATTON, NIXON, EDGAR J. HOOVER, and now this movie. And DOWNFALL.

Not to mention Scorcese's THE AVIATOR, with Alec Baldwin and Alan Alda playing a politically-connected corporate robber baron and a Republican congressman, respectively. It worked because they didn't treat their roles as cartoonish, but reveled in the possibilities the inner conflicts offered.

Or, looking back, think of the dramatic power a dyed-in-the-wool lefty like Burt Lancaster could exude playing a traitorous, reactionary Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in SEVEN DAYS IN MAY.

Anonymous said...

"So, I think there's a fascination with powerful women in England. Queen Victoria, though not politically powerful, had great cultural influence. An age of named after her after all. "

Georgian era? Edwardian era?
And Victoria was quite an anti-feminist.

"And the British sing God Save the Queen than God Save the King. "

And if a man marries the Queen, he doesn't become King, but a woman can become a Queen by marriage. It's said that this was a product of the male-dominated culture of olden times.
They also stopped favoring sons for royal ascension this year.

"Given the fruity nature of British men, it was hardly surprising that the most successful British politician in recent times was Thatcher. "

Given the fruity nature of British men in recent times...in the land of blind and all that.

Kylie said...

"Philip Seymour Hoffman can do anything except lose weight."

Or, on a related note, play a sex scene without making me want to gag (in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead).

Still, once I got past his having his rotund way with poor Marisa Tomei, I thought he was wonderful in that movie, too.

morleysafer said...

4:37 PM "Acting is being able to read lines clearly and stand in the right places. Don't make it out to be rocket surgery." -- I remember reading an interview with William H. Macy a few years ago. The magazine writer pressed him on his "method." The takeaway line by Macy was, "Anyone can do this." But please, let's hear more fulsome praise of Streep's pedigree and lick her boots some more, and also pedantically correct the British filmmakers on picayune details of their country.

Student Zhivago said...

"Err, they sing "God Save the Queen" when they have a queen and "God Save the King" when they have a king."

Well, I learn something everyday.

Anonymous said...

" Because of liberalism's do-goodiness, it is less morally interesting that conservatives who are more in tune with the darkness of human nature. "

I kinda like "sanctimoniousness", "smugness" or just plain "sanctimony" for "do-goodiness", but do keep providing words for us to coin, any day now...

I'm a hacker too said...

Hey, Zhivago, the schtick is getting old. Did you even see the movie, btw? Most who have would be thinking of the fine story and the even finer cinematography, not making puerile jokes with the name.

Baloo said...

There's a delicious reference to Thatcher in Sean Gabb's The Churchill Memorandum, HERE.

wild chicken said...

Georgian era? Edwardian era?

Er, no. It was the Victorian era, in between the Regency and Edwardian. It is much more referenced than the others, BTW, maybe because it was so much longer.

Reg C├Žsar said...

"Streep admitted her politics were about as far from Thatcher's as possible in an interview."

But not when it comes to earning her millions.


Miss Streep once complained to Premiere magazine about how she wasn't being paid like her male co-stars. I wanted to tell her to go out to the ticket line, analyze the demographics, and ask the queue who it was they were going to see.

If equality is what she wanted, it was there all along-- in the projection booth and the popcorn stand, where the girls were paid just as much as the boys, by law.

Acting and Streep said...

In this case, liberals writing/portraying conservatives led to little conflict and dramatic tension.

The New Yorker, no less, pans The Iron Lady as being overwhelmingly anti-Thatcher.

Despite Streep’s eloquence and wit, however, “The Iron Lady” is seriously misconceived. This bio-pic, written by Abi Morgan and directed by Phyllida Lloyd, is an oddly unsettling compound of glorification and malice that whirls around and winds up nowhere. In part, the movie celebrates what was remarkable about Thatcher, but Morgan and Lloyd appear to object to everything about Thatcher except her early determination to stand up to men.

Hairdresser Zhivago said...

"Hey, Zhivago, the schtick is getting old. Did you even see the movie, btw? Most who have would be thinking of the fine story and the even finer cinematography, not making puerile jokes with the name."

I love the movie. The point I'm trying to make is... could the story have had the same impact if Zhivago had been something other than a doctor?

David said...

>[Screenwriters] Morgan and Lloyd appear to object to everything about Thatcher except her early determination to stand up to men.<

Surely mainstream liberal Hollywood could not be that predictable. Surely.

[/sarcasm]

Anonymous said...

"Err, they sing "God Save the Queen" when they have a queen and "God Save the King" when they have a king."

Well, I learn something everyday.

It's the same with the (now uncommon) phrase "the King's (Queen's) English". An American friend told me that it's always "the King's English" in the States, but here in Canada it's currently "the Queen's English" and presumably switches back and forth depending on the sex of the monarch.

Cennbeorc.

Anonymous said...

Saw part of the trailer.

She would not be allowed to wear a hat in the Houses of Parliament due to it being against the rules and what was she doing in the car park putting her shopping in the car and she heard the bomb go off in Airey Neave's car and she ran to it in her high heels and reached it before anyone else?

Where did the filmmakers think they were? Narnia?

syon said...

dearieme:"My wife found these personal revelations fascinating. Yet overall, Mrs. Thatcher seemed more concerned with statecraft...": Mrs Thatcher wasn't American."

Given the attitudes evinced by such Englishwomen as Helen Fielding, this surely makes Mrs Thatcher even more unusual.