All’s Fair in Politics and Celebrity

In a second piece in this month’s New English Review, Dalrymple says the only justification for the recent biographical film on Margaret Thatcher is prurience. And that is no justification at all.
The wrongness of the film lies elsewhere: in its depiction of Margaret Thatcher’s dementia, for which there is neither artistic nor historical justification. It is intrusive and prurient and nothing else.
It is not pretended that she was suffering from dementia at the time she stood down from office; and, of course, she is still alive. Had she died, however, there is no reason why a film about her career would have been told through the hallucinatory memories during her state of decline. It is the fact that she is still alive that gives the artistic device its spice, if I may so put it; it is of interest only because she is still alive.
If her condition is as depicted in this film, she could not have given her consent to it (advance consent is no consent, in my opinion). If, on the other hand, she is not as depicted in it, it is a gratuitous piece of fiction.
It is cruel, degrading and unseemly to exhibit to the idle gaze of millions of strangers (as the makers of the film must hope) a famously self-controlled woman, who took particular and almost fierce care of her appearance in public, grovelling on the floor in a blue flannel dressing-gown, in the grip of a degenerative disease. This is not Richard II[I]: it is Hello! Magazine with the tact removed.

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