the iron shady

What to make of the Iron Lady? The entire phenomenon of Margaret Thatcher as societal vehicle. It does recall, somewhat cynically, Guy Debord and The Society of the Spectacle. Here, an ideology is created through publicity. That is, publicity is ideology. We had an invention of Margaret Thatcher and this has trickled down to a film legacy, a film production of debatable merit, that serves as an incredible marketing vehicle for conservative name brands. In fact, the film continues a trend of sophisticated product placement.

---How Green Was My Valley. 1942. ---Life is hard in a Welsh mining town and no less so for the Morgan family. Seen through the eyes of the family's youngest, Huw Morgan, we learn of the family's trials and tribulations. 1941's Best Picture Academy Award winner.--- Read More:

One can even conjecture that the entire Iron Lady opus is about advertising and promoting merchandise. It is the total power of money over any artistic and aesthetic considerations which have to bend and submit to its service. An extension of of how money values permeate the arts, robbing them of critical distance and independence. At end, is the canon reinforced of conservative ideology whereby money values, finance, is completely favored over labor values. This is not new. It probably began when Rockeller and J.P. Morgan invested in film studios in the Depression and doled out sentimentality and kitsch as manna for the poor laboring classes. The kind of idiocy that gave How Green Was my Valley – green the color of money- over Citizen Kane.

Artistically, this gives  money the ability to create art value where there is but questionable merit and little intellectual horsepower. Art as a slave to market forces. Quantified from its inception, created and planned like a new product introduction. There is always a doubt today as to what makes a Mike Kelley or Paul McCarthy or Jeff Koons so special, such a status and fetish object that theoretically may be fascinating, but, follows the trail of Breton and Duchamp in floating so-called banal objects as expensive works of art, immortalized as the summit of civilization’s values. There is a certain perversion in reveling in this junk culture where advertising and empty rhetoric are so embedded in our behavior.

---Behind every great Iron Lady is a great purse. As any fashionista worth her salt knows, every bag tells a story -- and the bag you choose to carry speaks volumes about who you are. Margaret Thatcher knew this, and used it to her own political advantage. The Asprey bag Thatcher favored is featured in the poster for the film The Iron Lady, starring Meryl Streep, but the rigid leather piece was far more than just an accessory for the former British prime minister. It was a weapon.---Read More:

from an interview with Donald Kuspit in 2010 ( see link at end):

DT: Well, yeah, before the art world completely destroyed itself – before it imploded. I remember you saying back then that the art world was like a jet without a pilot. It had powerful force but had absolutely no steering to determine its course.

DK: The pilots are now people like Saatchi who invent whole movements.

---There is more to this kind of antagonism than meets the eye. Before he got into the art game, Saatchi and his brother Maurice created a celebrated poster, "Labour Isn't Working", which played a significant part in Margaret Thatcher's election. Much of the cultural elite, particularly the Left-leaning arts bureaucracy, still hasn't forgiven him. "We must never forget," said one icy curator, "that he scuppered the Labour Party." So while the mainstream big beasts of the arts jungle, notably Sir Nicholas Serota, the director of the Tate (revealed last week to be on a taxpayer-funded salary of at least £160,000) are hailed as visionaries, Saatchi continues to be sniffed at. Even the artists whose names he made are happy to have a sneer at his expense: "He only recognises art with his wallet," wrote Damien Hirst in the introduction to a book.--- Read More:

DT: They have hijacked the plane.

DK: Yes. There is a book you should read called Supercollector: A Critique of Charles Saatchi by John Walker and Rita Hatton. It’s really worth looking at. I did a revi

f it years ago when it first appeared. Walker is a sometime artist and admits that the book is sort of Marxist in orientation; but what he and Rita Hatton have done is an absolutely brilliant piece of investigative reporting and documentation of the Saatchis from the very beginning and with artist’s comments about what it is like dealing with them; just well researched like you’ve never imagined….

---But it’s the hatred of Lady Thatcher which drips from every page of the script once she had become Prime Minister which is hard to stomach. The film even manages to crack a sick joke in the immediate aftermath of the Brighton bomb - an assassination attempt by cowardly terrorists on the elected British PM. Her economic achievements are trivialised and there is no attempt to explain why she had to take on and beat the miners in 1984. But even ignoring the fact the directors clearly loathed everything the Lady stood for, the Oscar is not justified on artistic grounds. Streep is not acting, she is mimicking. Yes she looked the part, which is why the film rightly won the Oscar for best make-up. And she sounded like Lady Thatcher too. But while it is a clever impersonation that’s all it is. Read more:

DT: I’m going to want to read this.

…DK: Walker also did a first rate little book about media and art. He has a very smart mind and as researcher is very perceptive. The book on Saatchi is just incredible. Sacchi got where he is through advertising. He invented Margaret Thatcher. Walker documents this.

---Thatcher once described her handbag as the only safe place in Downing Street, and it became a symbol of her style of government. An Asprey style which she famously owned for over three decades fetched £25,000 at auction in June 2011, and was bought by an unnamed Cypriot who is understood to have been a student in Britain during Lady Thatcher's tenure as prime minister.---Read More:

DT: Yes, he ran the ad agency that put Thatcher on the map.

DK: Whatever you may think of Thatcher, Saatchi understood the connection of art and advertising in a way that even Warhol didn’t – the connection of art and publicity. Did you ever read from the series I have on, A Critical History of 20th Century Art?

DT: Yes. I’m about three quarters of the way through.

DK: I have a whole section on publicity. Henri Lefebvre wrote Publicity is the Only Ideology of our Time. It is the quote heading one of the chapters. He’s a French sociologist and very brilliant. He wrote the book Everyday Life in the Modern World. But Saatchi knew how to take over publicity, just like Damien Hirst does. Read More:


Time piece maker Jaeger-LeCoultre supplied photos of Meryl Streep accepting a Golden Globe award for The Iron Lady while wearing one of its wrist watches.

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I have a degree in psychology and I can tell you that overt and subliminal messages in films and TV shows are very powerful tools in advertising. This is especially true in the DVR/download world we live in where people often skip traditional commercials.

If you need further proof of the proliferation of product placement, you need not look any further than the upcoming Bond film Skyfall. James Bond commanded $45 million in product placement funds, that’s about a third of the film’s production budget.Read More:

Charles Saatchi:The thrust of my question to him was: if all of the studios produce 20 movies a year, but only three of them make substantial profits, five of them do OK, and the others are financial flops, what useful guidelines did his research provide? Three out of 20 hits didn’t appear to be a glittering track record for the benefits of pre-testing.

He explained one thing very clearly. “Each multiplex has screens allocated to each studio. The screens need filling. Studios have to create product to fill their screen, and the amount of good product is limited. So you have to go on creating films even if there is only mild enthusiasm for the project, in order to protect your multiplex screen allocation moving over to a competitor studio.”

It would be indiscreet for me to pass on other revelations he gave me about the dismal strike rate that Hollywood achieves. But at least I now knew the answer to a question that had often puzzled me – how did that film ever get made? Read More:

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One Response to the iron shady

  1. Inès Ortega (Clauni) says:

    Meryl Streep said in her acceptance speech that most important award relating the film was for make-up, but her acting was excellent, too, it always is, much more in former films when she was nominated but did not win (during 17 years).

    But, to me, Viola Davis and Michelle Williams performances were even better. But it was about time to award M.S. already, after so many nominations. This film has several flaws and several good moments, it is not a one piece work of art as great films are.

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