Margaret Thatcher is a Former British Prime Minister. As the longest-serving prime minister of the 20th century, she implemented multiple policies known as Thatcherism, including the privatization of state-owned companies and reducing the power and influence of trade unions.
Bearing the title of the Iron Lady, Thatcher did not only rule Britain as a fighter but was also an inspiration for pop culture for decades. She entered politics when new musicians were making the different types of pop art, and her politics and presence were nothing less than an influence on the British music scene.
The Impact of Margaret Thatcher on Pop Culture
Pop was more political in Thatcher’s times, and the bitter social divisions of the 1980s often sparked an angry musical outpouring. The political titan and cultural icon, Margaret Thatcher, was often skewered by several comedians or transformed into a puppet. Let’s learn more about the impact of Margaret Thatcher on pop culture.
1. The Beat – Stand Down Margaret
The people of U. K. did not welcome Thatcher’s policies. Many artists grew their dislike for her, which became evident at times, such as in 1983, when a famous British band, The Beat, released the song, Stand Down Margaret, calling Margaret to resign. The song actively criticizes her views and policies.
This anti-Thatcher anthem got fame because of these three lines.
“I see no joy,
I see only sorrow,
I see no chance of your bright new tomorrow”.
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2. Crass – How Does It Feel to Be The Mother of a Thousand Dead
After Britain won the Falklands War in 1982, an English art collective and punk rock band, Crass, transformed into an all-Thatcher-bashing group. The band members commemorated the war with the song, “How Does It Feel to Be The Mother of a Thousand Dead”, referring to the 255 British casualties.
“Your inhumanity stops you from realizing the pain
That you inflicted, you determined, you created, you ordered
It was your decision to have those young boys slaughtered”.
3. Elvis Costello – Tramp the Dirt Down
Elvis Costello, an English singer/songwriter and record producer, produced a song called Tramp the Dirt Down in 1989, a year before Thatcher’s resignation. It starts with an election photograph of Thatcher to a meditation on how she is responsible for ruining human existence. Elvis also imagines the day the last day of Thatcher and says,
“When they finally put you in the ground, I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down.”
The singer also explained the song’s message in Q Magazine in March 2008 and said, “You shouldn’t really celebrate when anybody dies, but I think she did this country a disservice in the things she tricked out of people.”
4. Red Wedge Movement
In 1977, Paul Weller told an interviewer that he’d vote Conservative at the next election but took his words back by 1978. In 1985, Paul Weller and many other famous musicians, including Billy Brag, formed the Red Wedge Movement to campaign against Margaret Thatcher. They tried to inculcate youth with the policies of the Labor Party. These activities led to the 1987 general election, and the Red Wedge Movement wanted to remove the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher.
In 1985, the Miners’ Strike had ended in disaster for labor unions, and Thatcher got re-elected. The Payoneer of Red Wedge, Billy Bragg, made a hit song out of this.
I paid the union, and as times got harder,
I looked to the government to help the working man
And they brought prosperity down at the armory
“We’re arming for peace, me boys”
Between the wars
I kept the faith, and I kept voting
Not for the iron fist but for the helping hand
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Thatcher’s Portrayal in Film and TV
Compared to music, Margaret Thatcher’s Portrayal in film and TV was positive, mostly showing her as a protagonist figure. Let’s take a look at these far more diverse interpretations.
1. The Iron Lady
In 2011, Margaret Thatcher was portrayed sympathetically in the movie Iron Lady, written by Abi Morgan and directed by Phyllida Lloyd. The film shows a more sensitive side of Thatcher, dealing with Dementia and mourning over her husband, Dennis. Despite receiving mixed reviews from the critics, The Iron Lady proved to be the most successful film about Thatcher. Meryl Streep played the character of Margaret Thatcher, which landed her an Oscar in 2012.
2. The Falklands Play
In 2002, the BBC aired The Falklands Play, a dramatic account of diverse political events leading up to, and including, the 1982 Falklands War. Patricia Hodge played the character of Margaret Thatcher, i.e., a strong woman determined to fight head-on with the invaders.
In 1983, the BBC commissioned the play for production and broadcast in 1986. However, the Controller of BBC1, Michael Grade, decided not to proceed with it because of its pro -Margaret stance and alleged extreme-patriotic tone. This action of BBC prompted a press furor over censorship and media bias.
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3. The Long Walk to Finchley
In 2008, the BBC aired a play focusing on the early political career of Margaret Thatcher during the 1950s, starring Andrea Riseborough as Margaret Thatcher. It covered different life events of Thatcher, from her tireless attempts to gain a seat in Dartford in 1949 via invasion to her first successful campaign to win a parliamentary seat, Finchley, in 1959. It also covered the early stage of the relationship between Thatcher and her husband, Denis.
One of the famous TV plays that reevaluated Thatcher’s life was Margaret, starring Lindsay Duncan. It specifically focused on Thatcher’s fall from grace in 1990 when Thatcher was preparing for her speech at the Lord Mayor’s banquet at the Guildhall. Meanwhile, her former foreign secretary and chancellor, Geoffrey Howe, was penning the resignation speech meant to stun the country and seal her fate. The next day, Howe gives his speech, and the last ten days of Margaret Thatcher’s reign begin.
5. The Audience
“The Audience” is a play by the British playwright and screenwriter Peter Morgan in which Queen Elizabeth II, played by Helen Mirren, meets with 12 different historic prime ministers, including Thatcher. These encounters took place at Buckingham Palace.
Haydn Gwynne played the character of Margaret Thatcher. Morgan gave a short speech before the start of The Audience, and the play received a lot of applause.
6. Spitting Image
Whether it’s music, film, comedy, literature, art, or theatre, Margaret Thatcher has been a source of fascination for artists from all corners. In 1980, one of the best satirical comedies about Thatcher, Spitting Image, was released. It was a puppet sketch show that portrayed her character as an alpha female, smoking her cigar, wearing a top-notch suit, and looking upon her ministers with disdain.
Undoubtedly, Spitting Image enhanced Thatcher’s image as a powerful woman who did not let anyone affect her policies or demine her in any way.
Bidding Farewell to The Iron Lady
Margaret Thatcher was one of the few female politicians who stood their ground. Because of her uncompromising politics, unbreakable certainty, bouffant hairstyle, and ever-present handbag, Thatcher was the favorite story subject for playwrights, comedians, novelists, and songwriters. A few loved her, and most of them hated her. Nonetheless, she remained an active part of pop culture all her life, specifically during her reign. The Iron Lady breathed her last on 8th April 2013, aged 87, and was honored with a ceremonial funeral.