Today, Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Baroness of Kesteven and co-inventor of soft-serve icecream died, age 87—and people got opinions.
I’m 25, which means I was a toddler when she was ousted as Conservative Party leader in 1990. I’m not going to give a critique of her leadership or politics; I’m completely unqualified! Sure, I’m leery of the conservative side of politics (is anyone surprised?) but it’s impossible not to be impressed by her.
Celebrity culture is a strange thing. The public feels like it owns the identity of a famous individual, and therefore has the right to pick over their every utterance and action. It’s true that celebrities are active in the public sphere and need to expect a certain level of public scrutiny. It is, after all, part of the job. But I start to get uncomfortable when people’s identities become commodified, leading others to believe they own part of those identities. I think this accounts for the strange grieveing process we go through upon the death of a public figure; we think we have a stake in that person’s life, and so are entitled to act the ways we do.
Margaret Thatcher had a profound influence over many people’s lives, so I’m not surprised there is so much chatter surrounding her death (not to mention, this post makes me a contributior!) Perhaps there are folk who really are entitled to make comment so soon after her passing. Then again, perhaps not.
It just gives me something to think about. If my favourite politician or actor or YouTuber (!) died tomorrow, what would my reaction be? And what does that mean in terms of the way I treat public figures when they are alive?
As always, your thoughts in the comments are welcome.