27 December 2018

Mrs Thatcher's self-awareness

Julian Barnes, discussing Margaret Thatcher's The Downing Street Years:

'She can see, for instance, that she was the most feted and fetishised of modern Prime Ministers but not that she was also the most loathed. She was loathed in a personal as well as in a political way, since her perceived character - domineering, mean-spirited, divisive, unheeding - seemed to inform and infect her policies. That character is amply on display here. She is contemptuous of Tory wets and Tory grandees. She is contemptuous of the Tory tradition that she supplanted, referring at one point to the "thirty-year experiment" of "socialism" in postwar Britain: as far as one can follow her chronology, this clearly includes the Conservative governments of Heath, Douglas-Home, Macmillan, and Eden, and possibly that of Churchill. Special spite is reserved for two of her main adjutants, Nigel Lawson and Geoffrey Howe, neither of whom could finally stomach her. Howe's resignation speech prompted a challenge to her leadership, ensuring, to her eyes, that "from this point on [he] would be remembered not for his staunchness as Chancellor, nor for his skillful diplomacy as Foreign Secretary, but for this final act of bile and treachery. The very brilliance with which he wielded the dagger ensured that the character he assassinated was in the end his own". As for the real Opposition, try this for superciliousness: "Mr Kinnock, in all his years as Opposition leader, never let me down. Right to the end, he struck every wrong note".

Monocularity at home, cecity abroad. Alan Clark reports a comment that Mrs Thatcher made to civil servant Frank Cooper two years after she had been made leader of the Opposition. "Must I do all this international stuff?" she asked, and when he replied, "You can't avoid it," she pulled a face. Cooper also recalled that '"during that period she and [Cooper] had met Reagan and Carter, and she was astonished at how stupid they were. "Can they really dispose of all that power?", etc.' She grew to enjoy motorcade acclaim, of course, and the banquets chez Mitterand, while never seeming to suspect that when you are applauded in Eastern Europe it does not necessarily mean more than a public snub to the local leaders. She is sure that "the beliefs and policies which I ... pioneered in Britain" have helped "to remould world affairs". She cannot conceive that the Falklands expedition might be viewed elsewhere not as an early start on the new world order but as the last twitch of an imperial past. She is much happier with distant sheikhs than with European democrats. She imagines that her obstructive, nagging, bullying attitude to Europe was taken as a sign that Britain was walking tall once more. She thinks that if you insult people you gain their respect'.

- Julian Barnes, 'Mrs Thatcher Remembers', from The New Yorker, November 1993, quoted in Barnes, Letters from London, 1995, 227-8.  

See also:
Blog: Thatcher in office, 10 June 2013
Blog: Anticipating the funeral of Margaret Hilda Thatcher, 14 April 2013
Blog: 'This Monty Python, is he one of us?', 8 October 2010

10 December 2018

The dearth of movies written about women and for women

In 2013 women constituted just 10 percent of the writers working on the 250 top grossing films. If the remaining 90 percent of working screenwriters are too lazy to write a movie from a woman's perspective, then the result is what we see now: an absolute dearth of movies written about women and for women. Amy Pascal, Sony's then co-chairman, said, 'You're talking about a dozen or so then female-driven comedies that got made over a dozen years, a period when hundreds of male-driven comedies got made. And every one of those female-driven comedies was written or directed or produced by a woman. It's a numbers game - it's about there being enough women writers and enough women with the power to get movies made'.

Not that studios especially want these female-driven movies anyway: they want franchises, and romcoms and female comedies aren't seen as blockbuster material. 'Studio executives think these movies' success is a one-off every time,' Nancy Meyers, who wrote and directed Something's Gotta Give and It's Complicated, said. 'They'll say, "One of the big reasons that worked was because Jack [Nicholson] was in it," or "We hadn't had a comedy for older women in forever". According to Melissa Silverstein, editor of Women and Hollywood, 'Whenever a movie for women is successful, studios credit it to a million factors, and none of those factors is to do with women'.

Romcoms aren't heart surgery, but they - at their best - explore and explain the human heart, and that's why great ones are so great and terrible ones are so very, very terrible. This is also why it feels like such a shame that studios simply think they're not worth their time any more. To be fair, writers as wise and funny and fair as [Nora] Ephron - and Austen for that matter - don't come along every day. But things have reached a pretty pass when film trade publications admit that When Harry Met Sally wouldn't even get made any more.

- Hadley Freeman, Life Moves Pretty Fast, London, 2015, p.110.

See also:
Blog: Highlander vs Ladyhawke, 15 March 2018
Blog: The remarkable impact of My Forgotten Man, 1 May 2016
Blog: 'Hey, did you see the grosses for Gandhi 2?', 3 February 2014