Nightmare

January 8, 2012 § 2 Comments

Thatcher’s face, enormous on a passing bus: what could at first be taken to be a mole to the left of her nose looks, on further inspection, like the results of an air rifle.

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The obvious response: a biopic of Thatcher that includes the thoroughgoing economic misery she caused, the vileness & stupidity of her ideology, the class interests & manouvering by quasi-fascist groups that underpinned her rise to power (cf. Andy Beckett’s When The Lights Went Out). The obvious response to the obvious response: it’s not enough. To say that the biopic is an insufficient form (as Joshua Clover does, eloquently, here), for the representation of politics (& for reasons of the politics of representation) probably isn’t enough. Philip Matthews is partly right when he says that The Iron Lady is “a Thatcher film without Thatcherism”. Seeing the trailer in the cinema, I remarked to E. that they should just cut the crap & make Neoliberalism: The Movie instead. But what would that look like? Given that atomisation & individuation, the splitting of collectivities into (“poor, forked”) creatures living out their personal myths with their personal property, was the key political objective of Thatcherism, it would probably look rather like The Iron Lady. What means do we have to represent the real abstractions of history (aside, of course, from showing “the effect of real abstractions on real bodies”, as Evan Calder Williams says of the zombie film)? The historical cruelties of Steven Soderbergh’s 2-part Che biopic don’t suit someone who was in some sense an historic victor. The only satisfying answer (on which I’m working for my dissertation) I can think of would be something like Chris Marker’s Grin Without A Cat, or, probably for me, Sans Soleil: “the seizure of a memory as it flashes up in a moment of danger”.

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The irony that Thatcher has been given the humanisation denied many of the victims neatly excised from the movie – aside, of course, from Billy Elliot’s fuckwit scab of a father – has been largely lost on critics (with the exception of David Stubbs). But then ‘humanity’ itself is a fragile, contingent thing, & Thatcher’s project involved its active denial to the working class – in fact, perhaps, the finalisation of the wreckage of the human subject predicted by Adorno. (OK, maybe a bit melodramatic.) Or perhaps it isn’t ironic, that humanism should allow art to excuse the utterly inhuman enthusiast for a human nature recognisable only as the extension of reification: it’s simply proof of the dictum “man is the ideology of dehumanisation”.

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