Belfast Telegraph

No shame in dementia plot

By Lindy McDowell

I haven't seen Meryl's Maggie yet. But the one aspect of the coverage of the movie The Iron Lady that intrigues me is not what it tells us about Thatcherism, the Falklands, the strikes (miners and hunger) the poll tax, milk snatching, back-stabbing or even a woman's place in politics ...

It's what we learn about that enduringly taboo subject dementia. Or rather what we seemingly shouldn't learn ...

Critics of the movie which is said to skip along at a cracking pace over the historic milestones of La Maggie's reign, slate the focus given to the former PM's illness. One report I read even described this as "shameful".

Not having seen the movie, I'm not sure how this can be. What is shameful about showing the symptoms of a disease - a common disease - that affects many, many people?

Maybe the portrayal of how Margaret Thatcher is affected is not entirely accurate in terms of how she is personally affected. But believing her dead husband to still be alive? Talking to someone who isn't there? Being utterly confused and vulnerable? Those are common enough symptoms.

And unless you believe that a sufferer is somehow diminished because the disease involves losing their mental faculties, where is the shame?

Dementia is an illness. Not a judgment. And nobody sadly is immune.

That Margaret Thatcher suffers from it does not reflect on her legacy as a leader (whatever you make of that).

And using it as a cinematic device to flashback a subject's history is no different whatsoever from portraying her as suffering from any other life-altering ailment. We need to talk about dementia.

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