The Latymer School History Magazine - page 32

Two of these are Billy Elliot
(2000) and the Iron Lady
(2011). Billy Elliot is a coming
of age story of a boy in a
mining village in Northern
England who loves to dance,
however the context of the
miner’s strike adds emotion
and background to the story.
The film’s references to
Margaret Thatcher, the
treatment of ‘scabs’ (miners
who return to work during
the strike) and the effects of
coal shortages and
unemployment in a Northern
mining town are reminiscent
of actual events. It would
seem to hold some historical
accuracy when interpreting
events, however it is a
fictitious film and therefore
not an exact representation.
For example, a scene
showing miners protesting
violently and being met with
extreme force by riot police
is akin to the aggression
reported on by news outlets
at the time such as The BBC.
On the other hand, The Iron
Lady is a biopic of Thatcher’s
life, documenting real events
and how they happened; it is
on paper therefore more
historically accurate.
However, in reality, the film
holds a few inaccuracies that
question its quality as a
source. The portrayal of a
Labour MP as opposing
Thatcher when in reality he
didn’t, suggests that the
writer may hold some
political bias. Making the film
therefore a poor source for
analysis. The miner’s strike is
presented as harsh in both
films, which in reality it was.
Both show the severity of
Thatcher’s decision and Billy
Elliot portrays how the
miner’s would not accept
the closures. Such a view was
also made clear in sources
such as interviews with the
miners conducted by the
Guardian.
The Iron Lady almost
embodies the decision made
by Thatcher and shows a
human face behind the
choice, something lost in the
anger of the strikers with her
demonisation during the
protests. This is very
interesting to the viewers as
it offers another dimension
to the controversial events,
but the script doesn’t
suggest this ‘human face’ is
one that cares for the miners.
The emotion or lack thereof
shown by Thatcher in the
Iron Lady suggests to the
audience that the decision
was brutal. The theme of
brutality and injustice runs
throughout Billy Elliot. Billy
Elliot is an emotive film,
showing the audience how
hard and upsetting lives
were for the miners on strike,
attempting to gain justice,
and generate support for
their cause. The Iron Lady, on
the other hand, is much
more representative of the
events as it is a biopic
focuses on the history of the
event and Thatcher’s choice,
rather than from the
perspective of the miners.
For Thatcher it was a political
decision for the benefit of
the economy; Billy Elliot
however highlights how the
decision was an emotional
ordeal for the miners.
In the film the Iron Lady,
Thatcher is showed as
relentless in her actions
regarding the closure,
suggesting that the protests
would not sway her. A
turning point in the film Billy
Elliot is the father’s decision
to return to work, to afford
Billy’s dance school. It seems
that the father has almost
accepted defeat, perhaps in
response to the idea
presented in the Iron Lady of
Thatcher not backing down.
In the end though the father
doesn’t go back to the mines
and they work on other
means to get money, this
suggests to the audience
that even in extreme
circumstance and the need
for income is great, the strike
should not be broken. This
once again causes the
audience to empathise as it
shows the strikers courage
and strength in not backing
down.
In my opinion, Billy Elliot
gives more of an insightful
and emotional presentation
of the strike and makes the
audience believe that it was
justified; but the Iron Lady
shows the politics behind the
strike without removing the
tough image that is cast
around Thatcher and her
execution of the closures.
The Iron Lady shows a
human face behind the
decision, rather than just
some sort of unseen power,
however fails to remove the
mean image surrounding
Thatcher. As a biopic, the film
is reflective and therefore
highlights the politics behind
her decision. As an emotive
film, Billy Elliot removes the
politics as a factor and simply
looks at the hardship
experienced by the strikers,
especially during a very cold
winter. It shows the strike as
difficult and a challenge to
maintain, but also shows the
unity of the miner’s in
standing up for what they
believe in making the
audience feel more
compassionate towards the
characters and the miner’s
on strike.
I prefer Billy Elliot’s
interpretation as it presents
the event in a much more
emotive fashion. Focusing on
a normal family’s experience
during the strike is
something, which I as a
viewer find more relatable,
rather than the seemingly
detached actions of a
politician.
32
Did you
know…
Harold Wilson
PM from 1964
to 1970 and
1974 to 1976
closed more
mines than
Thatcher.
Did you
know…
Jamie Bell –
who plays
Billy Elliot, is
also a
prominent
gay rights
activist.
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