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What The Crown Fans Really Think About The Portrayal Of Margaret Thatcher In Season 4

The fourth season of Netflix's acclaimed series The Crown brings the British royal family crashing into the 1980s. And with the new decade comes the introduction of two towering figures in modern British history. One is the young Princess Diana (Emma Corrin) and the other is controversial former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson), aka the Iron Lady.

Thatcher in particular is a tricky historic figure to portray, as she was notable for her distinct voice and mannerisms. Reviews for season 4 of The Crown have been glowing, with many critics hailing Gillian Anderson's take on Thatcher as one of the highlights of the season; even series lead Olivia Coleman agrees. However, that doesn't mean the praise has been unanimous. For instance, Scott Bryan from the BBC's Must Watch podcast declared, "Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher is the best impersonation I've seen of Thatcher in any comedy or drama." Meanwhile, elsewhere at the BBC, Will Gompertz said the Sex Education star "flounders badly as the Iron Lady," and that the performance is "close to unwatchable."

That schism has also been true of fan reactions posted on The Crown's subreddit. Users there have been sharing their impressions of Anderson's portrayal of the first female Prime Minister in British history, and the consensus has been ... that there is no consensus.

Some fans found Gillian Anderson's performance as Margaret Thatcher to be grating

Although most critics lauded Anderson's performance, not everyone on Reddit was as convinced. In a thread entitled "I'm hardly a Thatcher fan, but must she always be portrayed as a caricature?", those who didn't care for the performance shared why they weren't won over by this particular interpretation.

User u/IThinkImGonnaLikeIt said they felt that Anderson was the weak link in the cast, writing, "She plays Thatcher very old and slow, and the voice is so strained. Thatcher wasn't like that all the time, especially at the start of her premiership."

Another person highly critical of the performance was Redditor u/jesskay888. They wrote, "I found Gillian Anderson to be almost unwatchable. Her voice always sounds strained. I can't stand it." Meanwhile, user u/SplakyD jumped in to say, "I was expecting so much, but I'm sad to say that I'm terribly disappointed in this portrayal."

For some, the problems they had with Anderson's work were very specific. User u/puncheonjudy summed up an issue several commenters had with the portrayal when they explained, "I'm only on episode 2 but I think Gillian is channelling later era Thatcher in these episodes, with the lower tone of voice and slower mannerisms. Really she should be slightly more shrill in these episodes set in the early-80s."

However, even in their criticism, u/puncheonjudy still concluded, "Regardless I think she is [portraying] her really well." And they weren't alone. Despite there being a good number of dissenters from the popular critical opinion, there were still many fans on Reddit who found Anderson's Thatcher to be a bracing and truthful portrayal.

Others thought Gillian Anderson nailed her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher

Even though not all fans of The Crown were enamored with Anderson's take on Thatcher, many Reddit users wrote in to praise her work. In the same thread, user u/megatrongriffin92 argued, "I don't really see it as a caricature. The hair's a little bigger but that's about it. 4 episodes in, it's a pretty good performance."

Meanwhile, Redditor u/chestertoronto gave one of the highest compliments possible for Anderson's acting. They wrote, "The best part of the performance is within 10 minutes I forgot it was Gillian Anderson. That's how good it is."

In a separate Reddit thread titled "Performance of a lifetime (Gillian Anderson)," user u/mihaelakoh exclaimed, "I loved Gillian in x-Files and other movies, but her role of Margaret Thatcher I consider her best work ever, she brought her to life with such passion and such accuracy that several times I forgot that I'm not watching Iron Lady herself."

Why it can be difficult to objectively judge Gillian Anderson's portrayal of Margaret Thatcher

In the midst of the disagreement about Anderson's performance, some commenters shared their insights as to why there is a split in opinion in the first place. In the thread questioning if Anderson's performance was cartoonish, user u/mystique79 criticized Anderson by saying, "The real Thatcher was far more energetic than Andersons portrayal and, I'd say, charismatic." However, they also added of Thatcher in real life, "She was always so strange and dominant, I think it actually often was on the verge of theater /satire."

Several other fans also noted that for all the accusations of Anderson laying it on thick, the real-life Thatcher was almost a caricature of herself. In response to criticism of Anderson's vocal affectations, user u/megatrongriffin92 said, "See, I think the accent is pretty spot on." This caused user u/GavinShipman to chime in and say, "I wonder if people realise Thatchers voice was mocked throughout her life. It did sound pretty terrible on the ears, even after she 'changed' it."

According to Redditor u/Embarassed_Tackle, the issue isn't just that Thatcher was a bit over-the-top in real life, but also that she's such a recent figure in history that it's hard to judge a dramatization of her objectively. They compared her performance to another Prime Minister's portrayal on the series by writing, "There's so much modern memory and tape of Thatcher that there will always be critics. John Lithgow did what I would consider a stereotypical Churchill but nobody remembers him so it's a 'revelation' when he apes the guy."

Either way you feel about it, you must admit that Anderson's intense performance got people talking, and it likely has The Crown fans eager to see what the final seasons have in store.