Politics and Plastics: “The Iron Lady” and “Mean Girls”
The very first female prime minister of England and the bitchiest girl in school show that the struggles of a woman in a man’s world aren’t easy. I have a strong Irish Catholic background, and growing up in my house meant an inherited disdain for Maggie Thatcher. She ruled the north of Ireland with an iron fist…and didn’t she kill Bobby Sands? So without really watching The Iron Lady (2011), I decided to group it with Mean Girls (2004). It’s the closest this Irishman can get to writing a patriotic rebel song.
In Mean Girls, Cady (Lindsay Lohan) moves to suburban Illinois from Africa, only to find navigating through American high school more treacherous than anything the jungle has to offer. Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) and her friends are the “mean girls” — not in the sense that they alienate rivals or shoot into a crowd of unarmed protestors. These bitches steal your boyfriend — and they smile while they do it.
Numerous instances of the teenagers acting (or dressing) like wild animals build to an explosive riot, in which all the girls battle against one another.
When Cady glimpses the world she has helped create, she remarks that it is “full-tilt jungle madness.” By the end of the movie, Cady learns to work with the other girls and to express her feelings of anger appropriately, which leads to a “girl utopia” for the cliques, with everyone getting along pleasantly. Mean Girls stresses that though high school girls are volatile, beneath that meanness there is strength and empathy.
Mean Girls also makes political innuendo by referring to the meanest girl of all, Regina George, as a “dictator,” or as “Julius Caesar.” In The Iron Lady, Meryl Streep plays a senile Maggie Thatcher. As a silly narrative device, Streep’s Thatcher hallucinates her lost husband and reflects on rise to the top of British politics.
Thatcher main struggle in life is to find her voice in a world of men. When she first walks into the offices of politics, her clothes and high heels are contrasted by a sea of three-piece suits; this scene culminates with Thatcher being the only woman in the break room. Her consultants try to get her ready for political battle, and Thatcher details her struggles:
An unflappable ideologue, Maggie is shown to be uncompromising and without empathy throughout the movie, but is also shown to be unafraid to back down from conflict to improve the nation. In other words, chances of her stealing your boyfriend are pretty slim. Unless your name is Nancy…
The Iron Lady is a terrible movie, with intense overacting and ridiculous dialogue. Mean Girls, however, provides great commentary on the lengths women go to hurt one another at the expense of meaningful dialogue; but in the end, when the power struggles dissolve, there is hope. Sure, it’s a stretch to pair of these movies together, but I did it anyway.