By Melissa Platero, CCNN Writer
Actress Meryl Streep can say whatever she wants, and that is not a bad thing. During her nine minute presentation speech at Tuesday night’s National Board of Review Awards Dinner, she voiced a somewhat unpopular opinion of the late animated film legend, Walt Disney. Streep was presenting actress Emma Thompson with the organization’s Best Actress award for her performance as Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers in the film Saving Mr. Banks. In the midst of praising fellow actress Emma Thompson, Streep voiced her true opinion of Mr. Disney. Why did her blunt words about him distrusting women and being racist strike such a deep nerve?
First of all, this Hollywood queen likely researched a great deal of detail about the man and I believe her credibility is unquestionable. Streep is a well-studied actor who does her homework inside and out. I mean, there’s a reason she has seventeen Academy Award nominations, three of which she won, not to mention a laundry list of Golden Globes and other awards! That doesn’t happen unless you know your craft, which can sometimes mean wiping the dust from a few graves if it means playing a real life character better.
Without contradicting her accusations of racism and sexism, the Disney family responded by saying, “He was not a perfect man nor did we expect him to be. Like most of us, he continued to grow as he moved through life and in time he recognized women could compete alongside men. He knew that talent had no color or ethnicity and he judged people by their ability to do their job and do it well… Hardly an American to be vilified. Walt Disney deserves to be celebrated.”
Okay, I understand the Disney family wanting to preserve the hardworking legend’s reputation, but his reputation is not at stake. He is, of course, a man who rose above multiple challenges for many years to pursue his dream, and he expected the same of others. However, Streep calling the kettle black is hardly an offense, nor does it somehow make him a cartoon villain. There are multiple inside sources who can confirm the man’s behavior towards women. Mr. Disney did have little tolerance for women doing what he believed to be a man’s job. For example, to an aspiring female animator, he once responded “Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing cartoons for the screen, as the task is performed entirely by young men.” In my opinion, this doesn’t make him a bad man, and it does not diminish his great achievements. It was a different time. A time where women had to work ten times as hard to sit in a respectable position with somewhat respectable pay. This is no secret to the fifties era in which Mr. Disney was raised.
The Walt Disney museum also responded on twitter, expressing “Hey @officialMStreep! Want the real truth about Walt Disney? Visit the museum and we’ll give you a tour. Or, you know… Google it. :)” – really people? You insult her intelligence, and after her long, well-earned insider career in the movie industry, you expect us to believe she has not done her homework before making such fiery remarks? Whoever hired the museum’s Twitter person needs a tour of their own… out of public relations. Maybe they can Google the following question: “Is everything you read on the internet true?”
So, I say, way to go Streep! Here’s to a strong woman who would have given Mr. Disney even more trouble than Travers does in Saving Mr. Banks!
Images courtesy of National Board of Review.