J.K. Rowling, Margaret Thatcher both “Great Britons” So Says Morgan Stanley [JAB]

Thanks to our friends at HPANA.com we discover that J.K. Rowling has pulled double honors in winning both the Overall and Arts catagories of the Morgan Stanley Great Britons Awards for 2007.

According to the article in Telegraph.co.uk, Ms. Rowling qualified for double honors because:

A publishing phenomenon, JK Rowling has changed reading habits and patterns worldwide. The success of the Harry Potter books – the final novel in the series sold 11 million copies in its first 24 hours – has united a generation of children and parents in a genuine love of reading.

The judges felt Miss Rowling had transformed the world’s view of Britain and that her books are “brilliantly British”. That she also managed to top the best-seller list in France with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the first English-language author to do so, is a further testament to her global appeal.

Interestingly enough, Lady Margaret Thatcher received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the same ceremony.

Although John (the real professor) considers Lady Thatcher to be the prototype for Aunt Marge in the Potter series, can any HogPro suggest ways in which J.K. Rowling actually benefited from Thatcher’s legacy? Or possibly was harmed by the Anti-Thatcher policy changes that followed Lady Thatcher’s ouster. The wealth of polarized comments following the Thatcher link may provide grist for that discussion.


  1. Hindsight is always 20/20, is it not? I am in no position to elucidate Lady Thatcher’s leadership style during her PM days, nor evaluate the benefits/detriments of the same on others living in Great Britain as I am not scholared in British lifestyles, politics, or history. However, the postings found in the link you mentioned, JAB, are eye-opening…and not much different than the emotionally charged, polarized positions we find in American society today when citizens are asked to comment about the current and more recent past-Presidencies. The voice of opposition or support appears to be based on the lens and personal circumstance of the opinion-giver.

    Given that lens and circumstance are difficult to refute since they are, in truth, reality for the one speaking out, how then would we translate each construct (pro-Thatcher and con-Thatcher) into benefits and detriments in relation to JK Rowling’s HP characterizations? The answer would have to come from JKR herself, wouldn’t it? Was she writing Aunt Marge’s character out of personal experience or from observations taken from news accounts and historical references? Aunt Marge and the Dursleys have no problems abusing or taking advantage of others less fortunate than themselves. Was Rowling making commentary on the PM’s take-charge leadership style in relation to the Labor Unions of the day? If so, who would have been the Union leadership in HP?

  2. colorless.blue.ideas says

    Perhaps we should think of Aunt Marge as a caricature of a caricature.

    Ms. Rowling would’ve come of age during Ms. Thatcher’s prime ministership. It is probably no much of a jump to think that she obtained her impression of the lady prime minister more from the Guardian and Morning Star — both politically opposed to any and every Tory — than from the Financial Times and Telegraph.

    Needless to say, the portrait they would have painted would have been unflattering, and especially repellent to a postmodernist millieu.

    As for Ms. Rowling’s benefit, one could argue that all of Britain benefited from Ms. Thatcher’s ability to keep the British economy from imploding, not to mention other areas. Evenso, I suspect John G. is correct concerning the caricature.

  3. Arabella Figg says

    PJ, I absolutely agree with your first paragraph. Everything must be taken in context with hindsight and legacy. In this country many blame Reagan for the increase in homelessness. Yet there were economical and social factors at play; no single leader can be blamed, no matter how harsh the rhetoric.

    But, Rowling had personal experience of Thatcher’s policies and comments/attitudes about those on welfare, as she herself was on the dole for a period of time upon returning to England after her divorce.

    Yes, Aunt Marge was a caricature of Thatcher.

    And where is everyone these days? I miss reading the so-interesting responses from All-Pros.

    Fullatricks knows she’s not a caricature of everyone…

  4. Hi, Arabella! I’m back. I know I’m way behind in my HogPro reading, but I just learned that the fifty million cats are Arabella’s only, not Deborah’s. What a relief! I was wondering when the local Humane Society or Health Department was going to come knocking on your door. Still, keep the cat stories coming. Maybe someday I’ll borrow one of your oh-so-clever cat names for a real kitty of mine!

    I felt compelled to jump into this discussion when Ronald Reagan’s name was mentioned. According to my understanding of the problem of homelessness in the 1980s, there were some court decisions right around that time which made it very difficult to civilly commit individuals with serious mental illness. As a result, many people who were previously hospitalized were released at that time, unprepared to care for themselves. I don’t disagree in principle with those court decisions, but for some individuals, tragically, the result was life on the streets. It’s hard to blame Reagan for that, but many do. The problem of homelessness, which of course has many different causes, has since proven difficult for anyone of either political party to solve.

    I do agree that Aunt Marge is a caricature of Margaret Thatcher; however, I didn’t pick up on that when I read Prisoner of Azkaban. I think we all know what JK Rowling’s political views are; some of us may agree with her, some not. I’m just grateful that the Harry Potter books are not overtly partisan in tone. The grand themes of the Potter books reach well beyond the politics of our era.

  5. Arabella Figg says

    Oh, Mary N., it’s just great to hear from you! I agree, our abode sounded like a Humane Society raid project. If we had 50 million kitties, we wouldn’t need a roof. All those little warm purring “meatloaves” spread across our houstop would cut down the heating bills considerably.

    Regarding your remarks on the Reagan/homeless/mentally ill issue. The decisions on mental commitment actually began in the ’60s, in reaction to Frances Farmer situations. The plan was to integrage patients into communities with local systems to care for their needs, but this didn’t happen, due to funding,lack of resources, etc. Another change was that no one could be committed involuntarily for more than short periods, most not long enough to bring true stability.

    The ’80s saw the convergence of a recession and increasing poverty, disabled Vietnam war veterans with PTSD, seriously drug-damaged people (many mentally ill), and a mental health system spewing people onto the streets with no recourse or community help, etc. Adding to the problem is that once many of these patients are considered “stabilized” and “no danger to themselves or others,” (whether true or not) they’re released with no supervision and then quit taking their meds, leading to the retread of jails, triages, suicides and death, and emergency and psych wards, perpetuating the problem. Those who qualify for financial aid have no supervison on how the money is spent. My brother is bipolar/schizo and has made those rounds; he’s also spent SSi funds on drugs and gambling–your tax dollars at work. I can say through long, unhappy experience that our mental health system is a wretched revolving door and no help to the mentally ill; health professionals’ hands are tied. It’s downright criminal.

    Reagan’s big mistake was in treating this problem as if it either didn’t exist or was all lumped under “welfare queens.” His bootstrap philosopy and seeming personal disinterest distanced him and made him seem cold and uncaring. He also spent wads on bringing down the USSR, leaving little social services funding.

    When the weakest amongst us are left to flounder, it is a shame on our country. Until we put a realistic system in place, this problem will increase.

    If Rowling had been American, I’m sure we’d be seeing Uncle Ronnie visiting the Dursleys.

    Mrs. Fleasley wants to have serious catnip oversight…

  6. Thanks for your input, Arabella. It sounds like you are better informed on this issue than I am. I’m so sorry for your brother’s situation. I also am hoping for a solution to this human tragedy. It’s especially sad to see people on the streets here in the Nation’s Icebox. There are some wonderful private organizations in this area (such as Sharing and Caring Hands) that are making a real difference for many people. I have a feeling that whatever the solution may be, it’s not going to come from the federal government. (Yes, I know I’m betraying my biases!) I’ll keep your brother in my prayers.

  7. Arabella Figg says

    Mary, thanks for your kind words and prayers. My brother, 54, is currently stable (an 11-year old in an adult suit) and married to a Phillipino immigrant (long story) who is a good keeper. Bipolars tend to level off in their 40s, especially if they take their meds. Occasionally he has a bender, but not like it was.

    All this leads me to wonder about mental illness in HP, in both Muggle and WizWorld. How does Rowling present mental illness in her books?

    In WizWorld, we have strong examples of obsessive sociopath Tom Riddle; Neville’s parents and others tortured to madness by Death Eaters are kindly and well-taken care of at St. Mungo’s mental ward. But on lesser levels, I wonder about Argus Filch, who doesn’t seem to have all cylinders running, Kreacher, and Merope and her family. Snape has a history of abuse and depression, becomes a passive/agressive teen, then outright adult bully, motivated by obsessive love and hate.
    Muggle Petunia could be considered obsessive, and has a history of mental/emotional conflict and (likely) depression. Any other ideas?

    There flies little Flako, crazed with the zooms…

  8. What about Bellatrix? Does her bent toward torture-for-fun count? Not that I am equating mental illness with being evil. And would Sirius’s mother’s hatred of Muggles, Half-Bloods, and Blood-Traitors be an obsession-turned-mental illness?

    Ron used the adjective *mental* quite a bit to describe/explain behaviors different than his own…and then we see him becoming quite a head-case in DH when the trio was on the run and taking turns wearing the Horcrux necklace. Was JKR effectively telling us that what goes around comes around and that the very behaviors we abhore or fail to understand in others can be our ultimate downfall if we don’t accept that we can get caught up in them as well? (I’m thinking of the ever-popular phrase, “I’ll never do that!”)

  9. Arabella…what are *zooms*?

  10. hambrick91 says

    Arabella–Your idea brings fun memories for me! I majored in psych in college, and as part of my abnormal psych class we were required to take a major character from a classic piece of literature and “diagnose” him or her using the then-current DSM III-R (do I feel old, now!!) standards. I chose Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye for mine. I no longer remember Mr. Caulfield’s diagnosis, but I remember getting an A. 🙂 That was one of my favorite projects!! If I had it to do in this day and age, I’d probably choose Snape..or maybe Luna, who is one of my favorite characters, but doesn’t always seem to be firing with all her cylinders. 🙂

    On a completely different note…in one of your posts a few months ago, you stated that some piece of Harry Potter gossip going around was setting off your “meadow muffin detector” or words to that effect. I have to tell you, I laughed til I cried. My husband’s family is from the high plains of New Mexico where there are a lot of cattle–and those “meadow muffins”–what the locals call “the smell of money”–when the wind blows through the stockyards–lend a certain…pungency, shall we say, to the air! I emailed the post to my husband in Iraq, and we’ve had a lot of great IM’s lately about the “meadow muffins” of the Army Rumor Mill, etc. It may very well become part of the Hambrick Lexicon. Thanks for sharing!

    Hoping all the kitties are well…

  11. Arabella Figg says

    Sorry I’ve taken so long to respond on two points raised.

    PJ: First, yes, I think Bellatrix was certifiably insane and am doubtful this can be fully explained by her evil instincts. Perhaps her obsession, like Sirius’ mother’s, drove her to commit evil. And, Sirius said that everyone in Azkaban went crazy; he only survived because he spent most of the time as Padfoot.

    However, mental illness doesn’t just grow out of peculiar behaviors or prejudices, such as Ron’s. We must remember that wearing the locket had the same effect on all three wearers. I don’t feel Ron got or “deserved” his “comeuppance,” so to speak. But I certainly think this experience caused him to do some serious self-examination leading to a crisis which caused him to grow beyond his childish attitudes toward those weaker or different from himself.

    The “zooms” are when cats begin running crazily through the house, taking flying leaps. Outdoor cats get this exercise away from their people; indoor cats must accomplish this in full view. In our previous house, we had two floors and the divided stairs and individual steps were open (70s style). The cats we had considered this their own jungle gym, playing through, leaping through the steps, wrapping themselves around the steps and attacking each other, and flying from the living room through the bannisters and on through the dividing stair bannisters, barely touching the steps; chasing each other, ditto. It was hilarious.

    Hambrick91: I didn’t do this through a psych class, but I wrote quite a piece on Paul’s Case by Willa Cather. I think I’d take on Sirius Black or Petunia today. Interesting thoughts.

    I’m happy I gave you a good laugh! Heaven knows, you probably need one with your husband in Iraq (prayer ascending). I can’t claim to originate the term “meadow muffin” and can’t remember where I came across it. Possibly M*A*S*H. I loved “the smell of money”! In farming/ranching areas that would certainly be odiferously true.

    The kitties are great, thanks; gotta go scoop the Almond R–er, clay litter logs…

  12. Arabella: Your observations are noted and most appreciated. By the way…when I was growing up *meadow muffins* were called *third base* in our household; probably a reference to the fact my dad grew up playing baseball out in the fields with his buddies. Sliding was inevitable…hence the term *third base.* My own children still use the term.

    And now that you’ve described *zooms,* I recall our little terrier was a great piece of entertainment in our two-story home. One of us kids would hold him back at the top of the stairs and the other two would position themselves in the corner farthest away on the first floor and call out the dog’s name several times to get him excited…that little dog would literally skim the 12 steps, then circle through the rooms at top speed, negotiating doorways, tablelegs, and other obstacles with amazing accuracy. His downfall, though, was always the slick linoleum in the kitchen and sunporch…we were guaranteed a great cartoon-like attempt at regaining his footing once Spot started *sliding in the turn* coming off carpet onto the smooth surfaces. He would get his reward for job well done and we would have our moment of fun.

  13. keith wicks says

    For a Petition to seek the Truth in Thatchers role in the Saudi/BAE deal view, http://www.gopetition.com/petition/41746.html

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