Losing One’s Self: The Depiction of Female Dementia Sufferers in Iris (2001) and The Iron Lady (2011)

  • Eva Adelseck


Two recent biographical films depict the decline of two famous women who are suffering from Alzheimer’s: Iris (2001), a biopic about British novelist Iris Murdoch, and The Iron Lady (2011), a biopic about former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. This chapter analyses the filmic portrayal of Iris Murdoch and Margaret Thatcher and examines the depiction of autonomy and dependency in the different stages of their lives. It argues that the tension between their untypically independent younger selves and their highly dependent older selves provides the dramatic power of these two films. It examines the effects this dichotomy imposes on the way of narrating Alzheimer’s Disease and contrasts the two approaches taken in the films.

Works Cited

  1. Beauvoir, Simone de. 2012. Das Alter, trans. Anjuta Aigner-Dünnwald and Ruth Henry. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag.Google Scholar
  2. Capp, Rose. 2013. Dementia on the Silver Screen. The Gerontologist 53 (1): 172–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. DeFalco, Amelia. 2010. Uncanny Subjects: Aging in Contemporary Narrative. Columbus: Ohio State UP.Google Scholar
  4. Donnelly, Gabrielle. 2016. ‘I wouldn’t be young again for anything’: Jane Fonda says she loves being old… and she still looks like herself. The Daily Mail Online, June 23.Google Scholar
  5. Doyle, Patrick, and Robert Rubinstein. 2014. Person-Centered Dementia Care and the Cultural Matrix of Othering. The Gerontologist  54 (6): 952–963.Google Scholar
  6. Eakin, Paul Ian. 2006. Narrative Identity and Narrative Imperialism: A Response to Galen Strawson and James Phelan. Narrative 14 (2): 180–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Freud, Sigmund. 1928. Fetischismus. Almanach der Psychoanalyse 1928: 17–25.Google Scholar
  8. Gullette, Margaret M. 2004. Aged by Culture. Chicago: Chicago UP.Google Scholar
  9. Iris. 2001. United Kingdom/United States of America: Miramax.Google Scholar
  10. Lacan, Jacques. 1956–1957. Le séminaire-livre IV, la relation d’objet. Paris: Le Seuil.Google Scholar
  11. McCall, Leslie. 2005. The Complexity of Intersectionality. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture & Society 30: 1771–1800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Mulvey, Laura. 2009. Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. In Visual and Other Pleasures, ed. Laura Mulyey, 14–30. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  13. Sontag, Susan. 1978. Illness as Metaphor. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar
  14. The Iron Lady. 2011. United Kingdom/France: 20th Century Fox.Google Scholar
  15. Wearing, Sadie. 2013. Dementia and the Biopolitics of the Biopic. Dementia 5: 315–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Zeilig, Hannah. 2014. Dementia as a Cultural Metaphor. The Gerontologist 54 (2): 258–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ManchesterManchesterUK

Personalised recommendations