Monday, 13 February 2012

Entertainment or just intrusion

The distinguished actress Meryl Streep has won a best actress award at the BAFTAs [here]  for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in the film, 'The Iron Lady'; its success at the Oscars seems guaranteed.
But whatever the merits of the film, I'm not sure it should have been made...
I had similar misgivings a few years ago about the 'The Queen,' despite Helen Mirren's convincing performance in the title role.
How far ought we to go in the name of entertainment and box office takings (this is not history or serious political biography, after all) in the cinema or on stage in our depictions of living people with real feelings and hurts and vulnerabilities? They are not fictional characters, even if we are willing to accept that their lives are to some degree, because of their prominence, public property.
It may be common knowledge that Lady Thatcher has been suffering for some time from a form of dementia, but however sensitive the treatment of that may be in the film (in some ways that is beside the point), it would be a kinder and more compassionate culture which postponed, in the name of good taste and decency, this kind of intrusive biopic while its subject matter is still alive.
In many ways a culture can be judged, not so much by the values it proclaims from the rooftops but by the things about which it is prepared to be reticent.

A reminder here from a Jewish commentator that in British public life no-one is being forced to pray.

"I can well understand that for someone who is not religious, prayer is pointless. If you don't believe in who your call is directed to, what's the point in taking the time to do it.

But there is a difference between personally rejecting faith and preventing others from enjoying the benefits of it. Take a stand and leave the room, if you must. There’s nothing to stop Mr Bone – and I’m sure many others who feel the same – from sitting through prayer sessions engaging in an under-the-breath chorus of “nah nah nah, I can't hear you”, in the manner of a child being disciplined for his sibling's misdemeanours.
You don't have to listen. You can sit and doodle "God is a doofus" on your council notes if you like. But what gives Mr Bone the right to decide that prayer has no role for the bloke next to him as he prepares to make decisions about planning permissions and pot hole repairs?"

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