By Helen McBride
A week ago, Saturday Night Live paid tribute to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who passed away earlier that week. The SNL sketch featured Fred Armisen as Ian Rubbish, a Johnny Rotten type, whose dislike for the British monarchy and government inspired punk-rock gems. However, as we learn in this “documentary,” when Margaret Thatcher came to power, Rubbish’s reaction left his band, the Bizzarros, and fans scratching their heads. Expecting Thatcher to be “Rubbished,” Rubbish instead did a 180 and wrote songs praising Thatcher. What in world had come over Rubbish? Well we learn soon enough that his “love” for the Iron Lady developed because, wait for it, she reminds him of his mum. So there is no changing his mind. SNLs tribute reflects a myriad of responses to Thatcher’s death. Not surprisingly, the stormy reaction across Britain and Ireland over Baroness Thatcher’s death hasn’t escaped anyone’s attention. The decision to commemorate or celebrate her death in Northern Ireland in particular, was bound to produce a split in opinion. The relationship between Northern Ireland (and the Republic of Ireland for that matter) and Thatcher has always been tense. Recent revelations from former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson about Thatcher’s supposed mistrust of the Irish, and her equally naive and ridiculous Cromwellian solution to the “Troubles” (i.e. to simply move all the Catholics to the Republic) is just the latest in this deeply complicated relationship. Yet, the polarized responses to her death reflect not only her conservative policies that still influence British politics, but also reveal cultural norms and beliefs regarding gender and politics. Thatcher may have reminded Rubbish of his mum, but this reduced Thatcher to being a mum, not a politician, judged not for her (controversial) policies, but for her inability to fulfill feminine expectations.