Meryl Streep Slams Walt Disney While Honoring Walt Disney Film -- Wait, What?

Meryl Streep Walt DisneyWhen I think of rabble-rousing actresses making headlines for their controversial statements, I instantly think of Meryl Streep, don't you? I mean, it's hardly surprising she's currently under fire from media organizations and the Disney family for her speech at Tuesday’s National Board of Review awards gala, given her history of public outbursts and extreme --

Okay, I'm kidding. Meryl Streep, beloved by all, is about the last person I expected to see being accused of "Oscar season mudslinging" this morning, but apparently some are questioning her motives for slamming Walt Disney for his alleged racism, sexism, and anti-semitism ... particularly since she chose to do so at the same time she was honoring Emma Thompson for her performance in Saving Mr. Banks.


On Tuesday Streep was presenting fellow actress Emma Thompson with the National Board of Review's Best Actress award, toasting her fellow actress and longtime friend with the comment that Thompson "considers carefully what the fuck she is putting out into the culture." Streep then took a bit of a side turn and focused on Walt Disney, played in Saving Mr. Banks by Tom Hanks. She described Disney as a "gender bigot," accused him of supporting "an anti-Semitic industry lobbying group," and quoted a letter allegedly sent by Disney's company to an aspiring female animator:

Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that task is performed entirely by young men.

There are, of course, all sorts of conflicting accounts on what sort of man Walt Disney really was, and I have no idea if he truly had sexist and anti-Semitic views. To me the issue isn't necessarily about the truth of Streep's words, but her choice of timing: why create negative connotations around the exact film she was honoring her friend for appearing in?

Forbes theorizes that Streep had some serious ulterior motives for her speech, since both she and Thompson may be in the running for Oscar nominations this year:

It is easy to read the reiteration of Disney’s various sins in this Oscar season context as an implicit criticism of Saving Mr. Banks and by-proxy Ms. Thompson for taking the role in the movie. Ms. Streep surely knew that the anti-Disney portions of her speech would be the ones to make headlines, trumping any and all nice things that she had to say about Ms. Thompson. A more cynical reading would be that the speech was tantamount of sabotage, an attempt to tarnish the reputation of one film so as to help the prospects of another. Whether by accident or design, Streep’s speech did perceptive harm to Saving Mr. Banks and its participants’ Oscar chances during a speech intended to honor one of those participants. (...) It would no different than Viola Davis giving a toast of Meryl Streep in January 2012 where she scathingly criticized the conservative politics of Margaret Thatcher.

I don't think I can quite climb on board the conspiracy train with this one, but I do think it was an incredibly poor decision by Streep. If she felt that strongly about Disney, she should have bowed out of the awards ceremony and shared her opinions at another time. And if she really wanted to walk the walk, maybe she shouldn't have accepted a role in in upcoming Disney film Into the Woods.

Whatever Streep's reasons were for rebuking Walt Disney in such a public manner, I don't think she deserves any accolades for her brave words. I'm feeling equally dismissive of the other statement she made, which was that the awards season is "really ridiculous." Here you go, Emma! Congratulations for this completely stupid award you got for appearing in the movie with that racist gender bigot! Boy, with friends like that, who needs movie critics?

What do you think about Meryl Streep's statements against Walt Disney?

Image via mostribus84/Flickr

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