Gay Struck: Michael Thatcher as a gay pin-up
Could Maggie have deliberately planned her funeral to shine a spot light on her favourite grand kids?
As Britain’s chattering classes caught Amanda fever on Wednesday, with bloggers comparing Thatcher’s striking granddaughter "Mini Thatcher" to everything from Pippa Middleton to Tolkien’s elf queen Arwen, gay men were looking one along the pew it seemed.
Tom Oakley, a part-time writer and digital detective, used the internet tool Storify to track a frenzy of tweets from gay men crushing out on 24-year-old Michael Thatcher yesterday. While some tweeters cautiously highlighted Michael’s good looks, aware of the sensitive context, others were surprisingly blunt and candid.
For some the objectification of Michael became a slanted form or protest against the late Iron Lady, with one user saying “This is a fitting rebellion, finding Thatcher’s grandson attractive!”
Sadly, however, it seems the man is not for turning. Although little is known about the private life of Texas-dwelling Michael (beyond the Christmas-letter-esque facts that he was a high school football star and that he grew up in some kind of luxurious Cape Town mansion) he is believed to be heterosexual.
Hopefully if Michael Thatcher learns about this social media storm he won’t be too perturbed. He might even find it all a bit flattering and choose to view his new gay pin-up status as an eccentric keepsake from his trip to England, a touch of fun amid the overpowering cyclone of yesterday’s events.
If he does intend to enter politics then he should certainly know that having the gay gaze behind you is always a help not a hindrance, as Thatcher’s old buddy Reagan probably found out at a young age when starring in those awful cowboy movies.
The Michael-snatcher game raises two bigger questions though. Firstly, is it ok to letch on a mourner at their grandmother’s funeral? And secondly, is it hypocritical of the gay community, who are often very vocal in their support for feminism and objection against sexism, to then happily sexualise and objectify straight men?
The 2005 film Wedding Crashers brought funeral flirting into mainstream pop culture as the leading characters played by Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughan start checking out a widow at a wake, but it’s actually nothing new. The refined beauty and dignity that attaches itself to mourners is well-documented in literature and is a repeated motif that we’re used to seeing in period dramas: the handsome new bachelor in town throws a dazzling smile at the recently-made widow as her veiled eyes meet his across the sunlit aisle, organ pumping away.
It’s no surprise either that during a high-profile televised funeral bored viewers are going to start scanning the screen for eye-candy. We’ve become quite greedy with our BBC funerals. If there’s no Elton John smashing out a tune then we at least want a close-up of Victoria Beckham trying not to shed any Rimmel tears.
Poor Amanda and Michael were hands-down the best-looking attendees in the televised editions of Wednesday’s service. Not that competition was tough with the likes of John Major and a puffy-eyed Sam Cam lining the second row, not to mention those intermittent shots of Cherie Blair singing, looking like St. Paul’s was at risk of being swallowed by her. Panning shots of the congregation at Thatcher's funeral reminded me of the geriatric banquet scene in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I think John Sergeant probably qualified for the first time in his life as one of the most glamorous guests.
As for the second question, man-on-man sexism, we can look to Germaine Greer for some kind of answer. I took away from her 2003 book The Boy that we should celebrate male beauty more in mainstream culture and that for now pointing at boys and saying “Yeah. I’d do him” is still fine. You see the objectification of men is a way of disrobing the still existent sense of superiority that men as a group unduly award themselves.
And so yes, perhaps eyeing-up Michael is a protest.
In making Michael Thatcher a gaudy gay sex icon the gay community are celebrating their on-going quest for equality, and within that their victory in completely unpinning the lurid straight-jacket of Thatcher’s Section 28.
But as everyone has been saying of late, we think we’re free of Thatcher now but we are in fact of her design. One cannot help but wonder whether this sudden leap in profile for Thatcher’s grandkids was a deliberate move on the late Baroness’ part?
In asking her grandchildren to take the leading roles in her funeral, it’s as if Thatcher was promoting them from beyond the grave. Her carefully designed funeral orders trained a global spotlight on her spawn that will now enable them to open political doors. Along with the rackety pearls and shoulder pads Thatcher’s grandkids are inheriting some priceless heirlooms and that includes her most prized-possession: an all-encompassing media magnetism that took her decades to develop into a fine art.
There’s no smoke without fire, and so the gay community’s social media Twitter titters in fact point towards a bigger machine that is now at work, the emergence of Thatcher’s pedigree grandchildren. Roses that are growing all but literally from her ashes.