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Check Out The Big, Round Hairy Cojones On Meryl Streep As She Rips Disney A New One

By Joanna Robinson | Celebrities Are Better than You | January 8, 2014 | Comments ()


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If you watched Saving Mr. Banks over the holidays and neglected to read Amy Nicholson’s rather scathing indictment of the way in which that film whitewashed and downright rewrote Disney culture, well, I suggest you rectify that error immediately. It’s one thing to honey over history in the service of a tidier plot or more compelling story arc. It’s another thing when those alterations (or, if you prefer, lies) are entirely self-serving. In light of the facts about the collaboration between PL Travers and Walt Disney, Saving Mr. Banks (or the story of how Mary Poppins was made) as told by the Disney corporation, comes off as a long commercial for the ameliorating and miracle-working affect of a syrupy Disney film. (I say that as a huge and life-long fan of that particular spoonful of cinematic sugar.) Old Uncle Walt is whitewashed and PL Travers vilified in a way that can’t help but feel deeply sexist.

Enter Meryl Streep. Meryl f*cking Streep who basically mounted the stage of the National Board of Review Awards and said all the things I said above only more charmingly, more pointedly and, well, more Streepishly. It’s astonishing and refreshing for a visible person like Streep to take such a strong, anti-corporate stance in a town built on genuflection. It’s doubly surprising given that Meryl just completed Into The Woods for Disney. But she Streeptaciously acknowledged her Disney affiliation all the while taking the man DOWN. She did so in the context of a speech honoring Emma Thompson and before you call Meryl out for hijacking something meant to honor Emma for her own soap boxy agenda, read all the way to the end. This lady can be both endearingly political and completely gracious. She has the Streepacity for both. Let’s hear it for Meryl Streep, who is all out of f*cks to give and for Emma Thompson who earns every drop of praise that’s heaped upon her.

I’m not the prize winner. It’s so weird! This is a very late night, and we have Spike Jonze — twice — coming up, so I want to say to you, I have a short, sweet, kind of funny version of this tribute to Emma Thompson, and I have the long, bitter, more truthful version, so I would like a vote — and I’m serious! I’m happy to do just the short one. I’d love to do the long one. [Lots of applause, one audience member hollers, “Go for it!”] Anybody want to leave? Go now. I guess that’s the long one.
Some of [Walt Disney’s] associates reported that Walt Disney didn’t really like women. Ward Kimball, who was one of his chief animators, one of the original “Nine Old Men,” creator of the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, Jiminy Cricket, said of Disney, “He didn’t trust women, or cats.” And there is a piece of received wisdom that says that the most creative people are often odd, or irritating, eccentric, damaged, difficult. That along with enormous creativity comes certain deficits in humanity, or decency. We are familiar with this trope in our business. Mozart, Van Gogh, Tarantino, Eminem … Ezra Pound said, “I have not met anyone worth a damn who was not irascible.” Well, I have — Emma Thompson.
Not only is she not irascible, she’s practically a saint. There’s something so consoling about that old trope, but Emma makes you want to kill yourself because she’s a beautiful artist, she’s a writer, she’s a thinker, she’s a living, acting conscience. Emma considers carefully what the fuck she is putting out into the culture! Emma thinks, “Is this helpful?” Not, “Will it build my brand?” Not, “Will it give me billions?” Not, “Does this express me? Me! Me! My unique and fabulous self, into all eternity, in every universe, for all time!” That’s a phrase from my Disney contract. I’m serious! “Will I get a sequel out of it, or a boat? Or a perfume contract?”
Ezra Pound said, “I have not met anyone worth a damn who was not irascible.” Though he would say that because he was supposedly a hideous anti-Semite. But his poetry redeems his soul. Disney, who brought joy, arguably, to billions of people, was perhaps … or had some racist proclivities. He formed and supported an anti-Semitic industry lobbying group. And he was certainly, on the evidence of his company’s policies, a gender bigot. Here’s a letter from 1938, stating his company’s policy to a young woman named Mary Ford of Arkansas, who had made application to Disney for the training program in cartooning. And I’m going to read it here in Emma’s tribute, because I know it will tickle our honoree, as she’s also a rabid man-eating feminist like me!
“Dear Miss Ford, your letter of recent date has been received in the inking and painting department for reply. 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. For this reason, girls are not considered for the training school. The only work open to women consists of tracing the characters on clear celluloid sheets with India ink, and then, filling in the tracing on the reverse side with paint according to directions.”
When I saw the film, I could just imagine Walt Disney’s chagrin at having to cultivate P.L. Travers’ favor for the 20 years that it took to secure the rights to her work. It must have killed him to encounter a woman, an equally disdainful and superior creature, a person dismissive of his own considerable gifts and prodigious output and imagination. But when we sit in our relative positions of importance and mutual suspicion, and we cast judgment on each other’s work, we’re bound to make small mistakes and misconstrue each other’s motives.
Which brings me to awards season. Which is really ridiculous. We have made so many beautiful movies this year, and to single out one seems unfair. And yet, it’s a great celebration, and I’m so proud to be here, in this group of artists. Nobody can swashbuckle the quick-witted riposte like Emma Thompson. She’s a writer. A real writer. And she has a writer’s relish for the well-chosen word. But some of the most sublime moments in Saving Mr. Banks are completely wordless. They live in the transitions, where P.L. traverses from her public face to her private space. I’m talking about her relentlessness when she has her verbal dim sum, and then it moves to the relaxation of her brow, when she retreats into the past. It’s her stillness. Her attentiveness to her younger self. Her perfect alive-ness. Her girlish alertness. These are qualities that Emma has, as a person. She has real access to her own tenderness, and it’s one of the most disarming things about her. She works like a stevedore, she drinks like a bloke, and she’s smart and crack and she can be withering in a smack-down of wits, but she leads with her heart. And she knows nothing is more funny than earnestness. So now, “An Ode to Emma, Or What Emma is Owed”:
We think the Brits are brittle, they think that we are mush

They are more sentimental, though we do tend to gush

Volcanoes of emotion concealed beneath that lip

Where we are prone to guzzle, they tip the cup and sip

But when eruption bubbles from nowhere near the brain

It’s seismic, granite crumbles, the heart overflows like rain

Like lava, all that feeling melts down like Oscar gold

And Emma leaves us reeling, a knockout, truth be told


Ladies and gentlemen, the entirely splendid Emma Thompson.

(via Vulture)



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  • historyshowsus

    Seriously?? You think it is "refreshing" for her to take an anti-corporate stance?? Have you been living under a rock. She is practically a socialist. ALL she ever does is rant her anti capitalist crap.
    How can hearing the same old saw over and over be "refreshing"?
    You're a disgrace to journalism and guilty of the very thing you excoriate Disney over.
    What a nit-wit the both of you are.

  • Sally Strange

    Ironic that Streep's feminist rant is framed as giving her metaphorical male biological characteristics.

  • Jennifer Chan

    Why in the world does this give Streep cojones? Can only people with cojones - aka balls, be smart, funny, wicked and tough? C'mon - great speech by Streep, nice try at framing it, do better next time.

  • BlackRabbit

    No one should have expected this film to be evenhanded given that Disney created it, but I do have one issue with Streep's Ode to Emma: "Ezra Pound said, “I have not met anyone worth a damn who was not
    irascible.” Though he would say that because he was supposedly a hideous
    anti-Semite. But his poetry redeems his soul." No, it really doesn't, Ms. Streep. You can read and enjoy his work, but it does not erase and you should not forget his hateful opinions and actions-the same, of course, is true for anyone, including Disney.

  • androphiles

    Why does it do any good to keep Ezra Pound's anti-Semitism in mind? His poetry will outlast all memory of him as a man. I don't have to remember his opinions to be against anti-Semitism or any other form of prejudice or tyranny. I don't have to think, either before, during, or after attending a performance of a Wagner opera, of his anti-semitism, his wife-stealing, his selfishness or any other negative aspect of the man. His music contains all of him that I need to know; the same is true of Ezra Pound's poetry or Roman Polanski's movies or any other artist's creation. I can and do deplore anti-semitism, wife-stealing, pedophilia and all the other sins of which some of our greatest artists have been guilty and still admire the legacy of humanity they left us. In "The Picture of Dorian Gray" Oscar Wilde has a character say "The value of an idea has absolutely nothing to do with the sincerity of the man who expresses it." Art is still art, whether it's created by a saint or an anti-Semite.

  • BlackRabbit

    By that logic you'd buy one of Gacy's paintings if you liked them, and also put money in the pocket of other horrible people. An interesting POV, but not one I can support. Or perhaps I'm misunderstanding.

  • androphiles

    Are Gacy's relatives, or whoever might profit from my purchase of his art, seeing as he can't himself, all "horrible people," to be blamed for what he did? The idea is nonsense on its face.

  • Maddy

    I still haven't seen Saving Mr Banks (it only came out in Australia today) and I really want to even though I've heard that Tom Hanks is a very 'Disneyfied' Disney. I love how Meryl basically called them on it without taking away from Emma Thompson's awesomeness.

  • Az

    Mr. Disney? YOUR MOM'S A TRACER.

  • Debra Kessing

    I adore both of these women and I have no more words except "thankyou Ms Robinson & Enlow"

  • Cathy O'Shea Strickland

    What a bunch of ass kissers. She's an idiot who can't place a man's life and work in the context of his time. In 50 years Streep will be criticized by another idiot who takes her opinions and actions out of context.

  • I think maybe part of the issue is: Disney Corporation won't even talk about Walt Disney in context.

    And then: what's the proper context for Antisemitism?

  • Yes, because agreeing with her will grant us personal access. Oh, wait... we don't know her personally and will never see her and simply happen to admire her and enjoy her lovely speech, with some parts of which we might agree.

    Many people did many objectionable things simply because there was no roadblock due to the "context of their time." That doesn't mean they weren't assholes for doing those things. It means they had enough cover and/or status that no one called them on it.

  • Cathy O'Shea Strickland

    I guess she's an asshole then. There's no greater cover in the US than being a Hollywood liberal...

  • firedmyass

    I wish you'd lead off your initial post with the phrase "Hollywood liberal" so that I wouldn't have wasted the time reading the rest of your words.

  • She's an asshole for talking about things Walt Disney actually did and expressing her disapproval thereof? By that rubric, we're all assholes at some point, including you. So yay, we found common ground!

  • Nat

    That woman. I just can't even.

  • **I AM** NotTheOne

    Brilliant

    *off to watch "Angels in America"....again.

  • Bob Genghis Khan

    Ehh. Margaret Thatcher wasn't exactly a saint either, but you don't see people piling on Streep for that Oscar bait.

  • "He formed and supported an anti-Semitic industry lobbying group." [citation needed]

  • ERM 275

    You think people need to add citations to speeches? How about you use google instead.

  • Sigh, whoosh was the sound of a joke going over your head. (Note: it was a Wikipedia joke.)

    I would like actual proof of such an industry group ever existing, instead of yet another rumor of Disney's anti-Semitism being trotted out as "fact."

  • Sally Strange

    Oh, it was supposed to be a joke? It failed then.

  • JoannaRobinson

    "Gabler posits that the charges stemmed less from personal behavior and more from Disney's association with the very anti-Semitic Motion Picture Alliance, which the CEO founded after a particularly bitter labor dispute in 1941. Even if he wasn't personally anti-Semitic, Gabler allows that Disney "willingly, even enthusiastically, embraced [anti-Semites] and cast his fate with them." -- http://www.vulture.com/2013/12...

  • Thanks, that is much more helpful then! (I actually did try to find more information on such a thing using Google just now, but every single result in the first few pages was just a news article about Meryl Streep.)

  • Sally Strange

    So it WASN'T a joke. Make up your mind!

  • (And now after reading about the Motion Picture Alliance, there's a lot of interesting big names in there: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M...

  • JoannaRobinson

    You mean just like Gary Cooper (super duper)?

  • Haha yeah that one jumped out, but then even like John Wayne and Clark Gable, Reagan (although that one is not so unexpected), Barbara Stanwyck, etc.

    I don't pay a lot of attention to actor/actress eulogies or whatever, but have the rest of the members also been painted with an "anti-Semitic" brush? Are they also remembered has having been a part of this association? (More of a general wondering, I guess.)

  • John W

    Hey Streep is from Jersey, she'll cut you...

  • semiotheque

    "Will no one rid me of this meddlesome Streep?"

  • DeaconG

    And deep inside the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the animatronic preserved Walt stirs...

  • HJ

    Well that was fabulous.

  • Pippa_Laughingstock

    I want her to be my mom and best friend at the same time, because if she were my mom she wouldn't ever be allowed to get sick of me and as her friend we could drink and be man-eating feminists.

  • Well after reading that I have to say:
    Dustin, quit holding out! Accede to Meryl's pleading: give her that Pajiba column she's been asking for for ages. You know she'd fit in.

  • Nadiney

    Oh my word. It's just so great. It's SO great. I don't know what else to say. It is SO FUCKING GREAT.

  • emmalita

    Meryl Streep has been one of my heroes for decades. I aspire to be as good and intelligently forthright a human being as Meryl Streep.

  • BiblioGlow

    Wow. That was a truly amazing speech.
    I don't really have anything else to add, except goddamn it, Streep, stop making the rest of us look like terrible human beings. That goes for Thompson, too.

  • Meryl Streep has never been a human being. She's a more evolved, fabulous species. Perhaps she evolved from us, perhaps she's from StreepWorld. Part of her absolutely graceful value to this planet is that she is so very centered and mature, and mostly lets her work speak for her. So when she brings the real Streep, it's all kinds of awesome, with the emphasis on awe.

    I make way too much money, but I'd walk away this minute to tend to her affairs and soak it in every day.

  • linnyloo

    I adore both of these people.

  • When I came up with the name of my column which has become the category for all celeb posts, I meant it as a joke and still do. But in the cases of Streep and Thompson, they ARE better than us and that is FACTUAL.

  • selucius

    I especially appreciated how you smurfed Streep's name into so many Streepjectives.

  • e jerry powell

    Streeperlatives.

  • JoannaRobinson

    Yeah good job, Court.

  • Thanks, I worked really hard on this one.

  • Green Lantern

    It was Streeptastic.

  • e jerry powell

    Streependous.

  • onegapingmaw

    Streepacalifragilisticexpialidocious.

  • Yocean

    ALL the upvotes!!

  • e jerry powell

    It was bound to end up there, contextually.
    ;-)

  • Wow. Somebody's gonna get a nice drunken Seven Minutes In Heaven with Emma Thompson at the Golden Globes.

  • bastich

    Hopefully they're not feeling under the weather when this happens, otherwise they might catch a bad case of streep throat.

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