Margaret Thatcher’s legacy in art, theater
MANILA, Philippines - “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher, who died on April 8, left not only her mark on politics but on pop culture as well.
The longest-serving British Prime Minister is immortalized in countless works of art including plays, films, songs, comic strips, and books.
She has been portrayed by Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep in the 2011 film “The Iron Lady,” Haydn Gwynne in the play “The Audience,” Janet Brown on television and in the 1981 James Bond movie “For Your Eyes Only,” and many more.
Her rule, from 1978 to 1990, spawned the careers of several influential British bands who wrote angry songs about her policies and decisions. These include The Clash, Gang of Four, and The Jam.
British alternative rock musician Billy Bragg admitted to The Guardian, “Whenever I'm asked to name my greatest inspiration, I always answer ‘Margaret Thatcher’…Truth is, before she came into my life, I was just your run-of-the-mill singer-songwriter…It was only when Thatcher started to menace the miners that I began to see things in ideological terms.”
Today Entertainment writer Randee Dawn even credits Thatcher’s terms in office for the proliferation of the ska and punk music scenes in UK. Protest songs like Morrisey’s “Margaret on the Guillotine” and Elvis Costello’s “Tramp the Dirt Down” captured the imagination of Britons who were against her policies.
Watch Billy Bragg explain Margaret Thatcher's influence on his music here:
Thatcherism in theater
Though Thatcher was not known as a passionate patron of the arts, she was well-aware and proud of British theater and its global popularity. According to The Guardian, when then-National Theatre Director Peter Hall complained about the arts' underfunding, Thatcher’s menacing response was, “Look at Andrew Lloyd Webber.”
Thatcher saw Webber as the personification of what theater should be. He was a combination of entrepreneurial skill, the ability to make money, and a world-famous name.
During her time, the musical became the dominant art form. British theater became identified with its musicals: "Les Miserables," "Phantom of the Opera," "Cats," "Miss Saigon," "Starlight Express."
Many dramatists also used the medium to communicate their opinions on Thatcher’s policies and values.
“A Short Sharp Shock,” a play written by Howard Brenton and Tony Howard, was a satire on Thatcherism, the political style and set of economic, political, and social policies of the only female British Prime Minister.
Thatcherism and feminism were central themes in Caryl Churchill’s play “Top Girls” (1982) about a woman running her own employment agency. It sought the kind of feminism Thatcher was perceived to symbolize: that to be successful, women have to behave like men.
Another Churchill play “Serious Money” (1987) questioned perceived Thatcherite values that glorified greed and justified amoral actions if they yielded profit.
Even "Billy Elliot the Musical," an adaptation of the eponymous 2000 film about a boy who pursues a career in ballet instead of boxing, is set amidst a backdrop of the UK miners' strike which fomented under Thatcher's watch.
These works of art ensure that though the flesh-and-blood Margaret Thatcher has passed on, her strong persona and her controversial leadership will stay with us forever. - With reports from Pia Ranada/Rappler.com