The Phenomenal Media Chapter Of Margaret Thatcher English Literature Essay

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In this chapter the Margaret Thatcher phenomenon in media is going to be illustrated with examples. It has been argued that she was an innocent when it came to matters outside politics. [2] However many people had rather negative opinions about her personality and was given nicknames. John Campbell noted that in her public performance she was seen as "a phenomenon which transcended both genders, reconciling the dual nature of both masculine and feminine imagery in her person and she was both the glamorous female star... and also the hard masculine warrior and leader- an Iron Lady clothed in soft female flesh." [3] She was given many names during her priemiership and there two most famous ones that Margaret Thatcher was given by media because of her policies as it has been mentioned in other chapters: "The Iron Lady" and "Maggie Thatcher the milk snatcher". When Margaret Thatcher became Secretary of State for Education and Science she forced to administer a cut in the Education budget, and she decided to cut free milk from schools. This policy provoked a storm in public protest, earning her the nickname "Maggie Thatcher, milk snatcher". She was named "Iron lady" which she preferred to be portrayed as even before coming to power by the Russian media because of her role in the Falklands war. She stated in 1976 in speech for Finchley Conservatives "Ladies and gentlement I stand before you tonight in my evening gown, my face softly made up, my hair gently waved... The Iron Lady of the Western World! Me? A Cold Warrior? Well, yes- if that is how they wish to interpret my defence of values and freedoms fundamental to our way of life." [4] 

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Most of the critics were from different Cabinet Ministers and politicians of other parties. She was also given various names by Julian Critchley who was the Tory MP from 1959 until 1997 and Denis Healey who was the Secretary of state for Defence since 1964 such as 'The Great She-Elephant' [5] , 'Attila The Hen' [6] , 'Catherine the Great of Fincley', 'the Maggietoallah' by the analogy with Iran's Islamic dictator, Ayotallah Khomeini, or just 'That Woman'. [7] Denis Healey called her 'Nightingale with a blowtorch' and 'time of a matron at a minor public school and a guard in a concentration camp'. [8] However it has been argued that all these comments made her look even more powerful. Wendy Webster stated in 1990 that all these images had in common in sense that she was described as a powerful sexual ambivalence. [9] 

Mitterrand the president of France who served from 1981 until 1995 stated that Margaret Thatcher had "the eyes of Caligula and the lips of Marilyn Monroe" and according to Malcolm Rifkind the journalist in NewStatesman one of her appealing qualities is that she would probably take both of these words as a compliment. [10] 

The Private Eye named her 'the Supreme Ruler of the Universe'. [11] However none of these names were famous and none replaced 'Maggie' which in itself contrived and contained all different personas she had adopted. John Campbell stated that there were many role models available to female politicians than to a man and Margaret Thatcher played them all, from house-wife and mother, although different female authority figures to domestic battleaxe. [12] The domestic battleaxe fitted into a British comic tradition characterised by comediennes like Peggy Mount and Hattie Jacques, Wilde's Lady Bracknell and Ena Sharples in Coronation Street. [13] 

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Margaret Thatcher was perhaps most iconic character of the program called Spitting Image and the image of the 'Iron Lady' provided the Spitting Image writers with an endless source of an inspiration. The impersonator of her voice was Steve Nallon. The Spitting Image program portrayed her in many characters as a scolding bad tempered woman in a man's suit, bullying minister, also was described as 'Caligula', 'Messiah', as 'Winston Churchill', as 'Hannibal', as 'bold man with a wig' and so on. One of the famous scenes was in this programme that summed up the way that people believed Margaret Thatcher treated her Cabinet was where Margaret takes the Cabinet to dinner and when she was in restaurant ordering meal, she said 'I will have the steak', and waitress asked 'And what about the vegetables?' 'They will have same as me'. It portrayed as she called her colleague ministers 'the vegetables'. The Spitting Image programme also produced latex models that could be bought as dog toys, Margaret Thatcher's wore a breastplate and helmet made of cooking utensils, thus combining the housewife and the warrior in one. [14] Many people believed this program would damage her image in public however Rob Grant one of the Spitting Image writer in 1984-1986 stated that the Spitting Image character of Margaret Thatcher enhanced her profile and made her look more powerful or "Iron Ladiesh". [15] 

However she did not like any of these characterisations of her and once when she was asked in interview for Central TV by Anna Soubry whether she ever watched Spitting Image, and she replied that 'No, I, once I turned on Spitting Image and I didn't see one of myself, but I saw some of people whom I know very well and obviously I didn't like them, so I thought, "Now, look, my dear, you'd better not watch this,' and I didn't". [16] She also stated in one of the interviews that she did not get offended by Spitting image and stated that "It is part of theatre. We are in a tough business, we are in a harsh and cruel business, but we are in it because in spite of that we want really to get certain things done and it is really what you want to achieve, that you must not be put off by those things." [17] 

It has been argued that colour television had great impact on Thatcher's elections. John Sergeant stated in book called 'Maggie Her Fatal Legacy' that from almost the exact moment when television news was in colour Margaret Thatcher was elected Conservative leader in 1975. [18] This increased the impact and thus the apparent relevance of all the documentaries made about the Thatcher's years. John Sergeant argues that "she could still look striking even at a formal meeting of other world leaders; driven at speed on the top a tank and wearing goggles, she became superstar." [19] 

In order to soften or balance the warrior image she would usually give interviews to women's magazines. During the Falklands war she gave interviews to Woman, Woman's Own, Vague all about human and domestic details, followed over the autumn and winter by few more in the Sunday People in women's pages, the News of the World and The Sun. According to John Campbell usually the female interviewers were amazed by how she coped with the practical aspects of being a female Prime Minister, her clothes, her hair, her health, and the secret of her stamina. [20] 

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Margaret Thatcher usually tried to present her life much ordinary than it really was, such as usually claimed she did shopping, cooking, gardening, reading, watching television. However she accepted that she did not have enough time to watch television most of the time but she liked watching programmes such as "Yes Minister", BBC serialisation of "Trollope's Barchester Towers", "The Professionals" as well as "Morecambe and Wise" and "The Ronies" when she gets time. In News of the World she tried to show that she did not like anything so much as 'pottering in the kitchen' or in the garden. [21] 

John Campbell argued in the Evening Standard constantly Douglas Hurd recalled, "Maggie Acts!", Malcolm wrote, "The way the stories are presented reflects not only the stylistic requirements of vivid journalism but also the methods of her press secretary...who is happy to attribute all decisive action to the Prime Minister herself, symbolically detaching her from the Government and then blaming members of the Government for being "semi-detached". [22] 

Many writers tried to find a description to illustrate the paradox of her femininity. She never had signs of tears or weakness in the interviews. The media were amazed by the feminine side of her personality and they always looked out for this signs which might have had revealed 'the women within.' However she appeared emotional only twice on television, once when Mark was lost in the desert in 1981 and in 1985 when telling Miriam Stoppard about her father's deposition from Grantham council. [23] However Webster suggested that "it is those aspects of her image which are associated with femininity that are seen as constructed, while those associated with masculinity are often seen innate'. [24] 

Her handbag was an important component of her image. When she was criticised the way that she treated her cabinet minister, she was said to 'handbag' him. Her personal adviser was Gordon Reece. He gave advice her on what to wear, what looked well on television and what did not, what jewellery to mould and at that period to soften her image. [25] It appears from the media that she always paid attention to her image and the particular impression she wanted to pass on each occasion. She appeared in the English Woman's Wardrobe programme in 1986 and she was delighted in telling exactly what she had worn in different crises.

She had an impact in all kind of social life of the British women. The writers at the time commented not only her political views and also her image as a female. They way that she dressed to express her personality was described by the fashion journalist Brenda Polan in 1988 'Margaret Thatcher, when we first became aware of her, was middle class mimsy... She looked like a middle class mum would do on special days, like a lady magistrate, like the vicar's wife Very unthreatening." [26] She looked powerful and feminine at the same time.

One of the novelists Angela Carter in 1983 wrote "Of all the elements combined in the complex of signs labelled Margaret Thatcher and it is her voice that sums up the ambiguity of the entire construct. She coos like a dove, hisses like a serpent, bays like a hound', all in a contrived upper-class accent 'reminiscent not of real toffs but of Wodehouse aunts'. [27] 

The theatre director Jonathan Miller criticised her 'odious suburban gentility and sentimental, saccharine patriotism, catering to the worst elements in commuter idiocy'. [28] He stated in the Sunday Telegraph in 1988 that he found the Prime Minister 'loathsome, repulsive in almost every way'. [29] 

The Oxford philosopher Lady Warnock also criticised her arguing that "The Thatcher's 'patronising, elocution voice' and stated that her showing of her clothes on television 'not exactly vulgar, just low'. [30] 

However John Campbell argues that arrogance of these comments says more about the speakers than it does about Margaret Thatcher. [31] 

Margaret Thatcher was very dominant on media. According to John Campbell an academic study of her television technique showed that she intimidated even the most experienced interviewers by turning the tables and attacking them, refusing to be interrupted, while accusing them of interrupting her. [32] 

The novelist William Boyd wrote that 'I have not seen one interview in recent years where she has not wiped the floor with the interviewer with contemptuous ease.' [33] 

The psychologist Anthony Clare called her 'the most outrageous female performer since Edna Everage'. [34] 

"If you believe in something strongly and do it, you will attract the support of those who agree with you and the criticism of those who don't. That is much better than sitting back and doing nothing. Alas in politics you can't please everyone all the time." [35] 

Most of the characterisations of Margaret Thatcher such as by Angele Hodge in "Anyone for Denis?" and by Patricia Hodge in "The Falklands Play" has found the Iron Lady in her prime ministerial pomp, handbag to the fore and blonde perm whipped into position. [36] One of the most famous films which presented feminine side of Margaret Thatcher was "The long walk to Finchley". It is BBC drama about her in the 1950s describes young Margaret Thatcher as a flirty yet steely character. Tony Saint wrote this drama for channel BBC Four, which he claims he has brought out plain old Margaret Robert's personality as industrial chemist and describes her as attractive 25 year old woman who is up against that most conservative and male of all institutions the British Conservative Party. It starts with the night she met Denis Thatcher her husband and tells her determination to get selected to a winnable Tory seat in the 1950s. This film also imagines what might have gone on behind the scenes during her ten year struggle as she was rejected by a succession of five home countries Tory selection committees and finally against considerable local opposition selected for the seat she was to be identified with for the rest of her political career. In this film the actor who played Margaret Thatcher was Andrea Riseborough. It has been argued that she did not need any improvements for her role as the young Margaret Thatcher in the imminent. This film extravagantly described the young zealot's struggle for a seat in a party where Jews, women candidates and grocers' daughters were considered an embarrassment. It has been illustrated as she used her femininity to achieve her political career and illustrates her as having failed to be selected in early years, the earnest brunette lightens her hair, flashes her legs at the chairman of candidates and weeps helplessly at the injustice of her exclusion, until he recommends that Finchley might be just the ticket. In order to act good for Margaret Thatcher role Andrea Riseborough she watched footage of Mrs Thatcher at the BFI library, read her autobiography and visited her old bedroom in the family home in Grantham, which is now a massage suit in a holistic retreat. [37] Andrea Riseborough stated "I sat in her room and I could see exactly why she wanted to leave," she says and "It was the amount of knowledge she had - Grantham wasn't the right platform for her life to play out on. I needed to think about her as a young, aspiring woman. I never wanted to do a version of that Spitting Image caricature. I wanted to capture her essence. We see her making speeches, or being interviewed and talking very slowly in order to think of the next answer, barely ever tripping up. I had to forget all that to get at something real. If you just give people a stereotype they recognise, it's over before it's begun." [38] The actress claims that she understood how Margaret Thatcher felt and she said "Margaret Thatcher had a hard time fighting against a crazy, male-dominant world". [39] This drama criticised by the Daily Mail because of the idea that Maggie may have once had romantic relationship with Ted Heath, the man she defeated as leader of the party. Tony Saint explains "It got me thinking, although its narrative is structured on real events, its tongue is firmly in its cheek. I think anyone with sense of humour will enjoy the film on its own terms. It is not intended to cause offence or upset anyone, but if people with an axe to grind want to take umbrage, that's what they will do." [40] 

Andrea Riseborough also explains "The frustration of always having done her homework better than anyone and being surrounded by an old boys' club that she was desperately trying to break into and be accepted by - all of those frustrations come out physically because she's trapped in this small woman's body. Because she is so forthright as a woman she craned her neck to get her point across." [41] It also shows how her character formed during these waiting years and made her more stronger until she became PM.

There is another BBC Two drama was introduced about the downfall of Mrs Thatcher which is called "Margaret". The writer Richard Cottan tried to illustrate very human story the private Margaret behind the public persona. It has been claimed that this drama " Most of all, it shows us a Margaret Thatcher-the woman who changed our lives more than any other in British history- that has never been seen before." [42] The actress who is playing the role of Margaret Thatcher, Lindsay Duncan in fact it has been claimed that she hates Margaret Thatcher. [43] The actress considered that the scene where Margaret Thatcher decides to resign should move even her opponents and said "It is unsentimental but it invites you to empathise with her." [44] The drama starts with where Margaret starts the resignation speech in November 1990 of Mrs Thatcher's deputy, John Session who plays the Geoffrey Howe character. In the role of her husband Denis Thatcher is Ian McDiarmid. It has been described as Denis Thatcher comforting her when her members of her Cabinet plotting against her and she makes an effort to reassert her authority. Micheal Deacon the reporter of the Telegraph newspaper considered that it is darker than The Long Walk to Finchley. [45] The actress Lindsay Duncan stated that to prepare for the role as Margaret Thatcher she read two-part biography by John Campbell and hired a dialect coach to help her to get Margaret Thatcher's tone and stated that "Someone's voice to some extent is the story of their life, and hers did change. In the Fifties she had that very clipped, careful voice, then in the Eighties, when she was really flying, her voice deepened, because she was so powerful and confident." [46] 

In the "Falklands Play" most of scene is in the Cabinet. The writer of this drama Ian Curteis described her as more powerful and decisive in her policies for Falklands war where she also mentions human rights, wept at the loss of HMS Sheffield.

Margaret Thatcher often appeared on the media before the elections with shopping basket, at the kitchen sink, talking to the girls about her wardrobe. According to Zoe Williams in 1962 in an interview with the Finchley Press after she became and MP for Finchley she shared her Christmas recipes with readers. [47] Thatcher did not show enough concern on all those matters, which were concerned rights to abortion, the oppression of patriarchal language, sexual liberation, rape and domestic violence. One of the policies brought her critical name was taking away free milk from schools while she was secretary of state for education and was called 'Maggie Thatcher, Milk Snatcher'. [48] 

John Campbell argued in 'Margaret Thatcher: Volume one: Grocer's Daughter' that Margaret Thatcher realised the importance of proposing her message though her personality, selling the public repertoire of carefully planned images from the moment she won the leadership.

From earliest campaigning days in Dartford she had shown a flair for contriving photo opportunities to get her picture in the local paper, and she comprehended earlier than most politicians of her generation the importance of coming over well on television.

The BBC reporter Micheal Cockerell said that stated that she did not like television and she "reacted to television like an African tribesman faced with a tourist's camera; she almost seemed to believe it would take her soul away." (Grocer's Daughter, page402)

John Campbell stated that she always needed mentor for this practical aspect of her education the person who she turned was the former television producer Gordon Reece. She met him in 1970 and he became her coach for her occasional television appearances as Education Secretary. She employed him as personal public adviser then in Central Office as Director of Publicity. According to John Campbell Gordon Reece was usually credited for changing Margaret Thatcher's image after 1975, and to an extent he did. (p.402)

He advised her how to wear simpler and bolder clothes, not to wear hats, chunky jewellery and soften her hairstyle and keep her hands out sight. Although he taught her to lower and softer her voice to make her sound less strident and also employed voice coach from the National Theatre to teach her to breathe properly and to speak more slowly. (p.203) She even had two hours session with Laurence Oliver who had famously lowered his voice a few years earlier to play Othello. John Campbell argues that Margaret Thatcher was used to the comments made by other women and he argued, "She took it for granted that her clothes, her hair and her voice were important weapons in her political armoury which would be deployed to help project her message or could equally detract form it if they were unappealing." She did not like the fact that Jon the cartoonist in the Daily Mail always described her wearing the same blue and white striped hat which she had worn it only few times in 1970s, especially in party conference. (p.403) After 1979 she adopted power-dressing, the big hair and the regal costumes which set her image at the height of her power. "As Leader of the Opposition when she was still insecure and lacking the authority of office, she still often looked like a harassed housewife." (John Campbell, Grocers daughter, p.404)

According to John Campbell Gordon Reece in defiance of the conventional knowledge of Central Office moved to emphasis of Tory propaganda downmarket from the highbrow minority media to the more popular middlebrow and tabloid newspapers, women's magazines and mass audience television and radio programmes. (p. 404) She usually preferred to give speeches to live audience which could make good and effective clip on the Nine O'clock News or News at Ten which was suggested by Reece Gordon that a minute on news was more effective than an hour on Panorama.

Moreover Reece planned Margaret Thatcher on mass-audience radio programmes, most especially in The Jimmy Young Programme on BBC Radio two, which she did it once a year. In this way she was directly talking to housewives between records, giving fashion tips and recipes with flashes of her political mission and populist opinions on social questions where she did not have to cross the party line. Before the election she appeared in The Jimmy Young Programme that she had an opportunity to talk about her capital punishment as well as her sympathy with those concerned by immigration. In same way she used to give interviews to women's magazines like Woman's Realm, Woman's Own, Vogue and the women's pages of the national newspapers. The Sun newspaper usually had headlines such as 'My Face, My Figure, My Diet' (16 March 1979) and the Woman's Own typical headline was 'The Margaret Thatcher Look'(Women's Own, 31January 1976).

In place of the Home Counties she was the Tory lady in a stripy hat, who was married to a rich husband and children were educated in the most expensive private schools. She usually tried to force media to redefine her image in media as John Campbell argues battling 'meritrocrat' who achieved her goals by hard work. She was proud to state in 1977 in state conference 'People from my sort of background needed grammar schools to compete with children from privileged homes like Shirley Williams and Anthony Wedgwood Benn'.(p.408) John Campbell argued on the contrary she had expanded the range of available stereotypes for a women politician, and in doing so altered her sex from a liability into an asset and she did not try to escape the traditional female stereotype of the housewife, however she positively comprehended it and transformed it to her advantage. (p.408)

It has been argued that Margaret Thatcher knew it very well the importance of good photographs, and equally the damage that could be done by bad ones. According to John Campbell she never let herself be portrayed as anything less than 'Superwoman'. (p.410)