Was Meryl Streep Correct in Calling Walt Disney a ‘Bigot’?

Meryl Streep sent men to Hollywood with her January 7 appearance at the National Board of Review Awards, where she attacked Walt Disney is a man who “has some racist inclinations” and “supports an anti-Semitic lobby group and [was] a person who is obstinate about sex”. Streep, who is starring in Disney’s big-screen adaptation Go to the forestto be released next Christmas, already on hand to present a best actress trophy to Emma ThompsonWho is the player? Mary Poppins author PL Travers opposite Tom Hanks‘Walt Disney in please save Mr. Banks.

A startled awards consultant said, “I thought, ‘Oh, oh, she doesn’t have to. “She’s giving Emma Thompson an award for a movie that feels like a love letter to Disney! But she’s Meryl Streep – she can say whatever she wants.” One male member of Streep Academy said: “What a silly woman! How the hell did she say that? Pick a dead guy she doesn’t know. “

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While Streep’s comment spread like wildfire, industry observers doubt any reputation was seriously damaged in the process. “Her movie [August: Osage County] It won’t be nominated for best picture anyway,” said the awards adviser, so Streep likely didn’t hurt its chances. Please save Mr. Banks – which CHEAP Award Analyst Scott Feinberg ranks as the leader for best picture, actress (Thompson), supporting actor (Hanks) and scores – much more to lose. But according to a female Academy member, Streep’s anti-Disney comments won’t harm the Disney film either. “I am a big fan of Mrs. Streep, Mrs. Thompson and that old anti-Semitist Mr. Disney, and I am a Jewish feminist,” the voter said. “I’ve known for a long time that my idols often hold values ​​that are very different from mine and up to a point, I’m fine with that. It won’t stop me from voting for anyone in Please save Mr. Bankssure.”

In fact, that’s part of Streep’s point. While praising her friend Thompson as a “crazy, cannibal feminist” fellow, she argues that art can redeem an artist who harbors prejudice, and Disney, for all his flaws, have “brought joy, so to speak, to billions of people”.

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“This wasn’t her intention, I’m sure, but what Streep has done fits very well with the film’s positioning strategy,” said. David HajduColumbia University Film and Music Scholar. “The Disney Company did it, with the encouragement of Disney real estate, to help advance the Disney brand by showing that Walt Disney is a real person, not just a logo that represents the blandness and cheers of industrialization. To be a real person, you must be flawed, and Meryl Streep reminded us how profoundly flawed Walt Disney was as a human being. A misogynist? You bet. An anti-Semitic? That too. In terms of Disney corporate strategy, Streep was right to the script. “

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Spokesmen for Streep and Disney were unavailable for comment. However, some Disney experts CHEAP consult argued that Streep was unfair to Walt. Here is their response to Streep’s three allegations against Disney:

Racism? Although Disney shared the racial insensitivity of his day – thinking it would be funny, for example, if there was a black centaur girl eating watermelon in Fantasia He also tries to be sensitive. Disney biographer Neal Gabler notes in Walt Disney: Victory of the American Imagination that he sought input for his live-action/animated film, Songs of the Southfrom NAACP official Walter White and other leaders and removed some offensive phrases and words like “dark” from the script.

Sex discrimination? Streep quotes the Disney animator Ward Kimballwho said, “He doesn’t believe in women or cats,” and she reads from a 1938 letter from Disney informing a female job applicant, “Women do not do any creative work related to the preparation of cartoons for the screen, as that task is performed entirely by young men. For this reason, girls are not considered for training schools. women consisted of marking characters on glossy sheets of paper with Indian ink, and then, filling the mark on the reverse side with paint as directed.”

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But women really stopped animating and were limited to drawing and inking all over Hollywood in the 30s. One animation expert said: “It’s an industry-wide practice. “However, there are some women who work at [Disney] in creative capacity during that time, mainly story development. In 1941, Walt told the male artists who were working on Dumbo, “If a woman can do a good job, she is as valuable as a man. Women artists have every right to expect the same advancement opportunities as men, and I honestly believe they can ultimately contribute something to this business that men never or can. ” Retta Scott became Disney’s first female animator in 1942 Bambiand in the 40s and 50s, Mary Blair is the art supervisor and color stylist for Saludos Amigos, Three Caballeros, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan.

In 1959, Disney wrote: “Women are the best judges of anything we come up with. Their taste is important. They’re the theatergoers, they’re the people who pull the men in. If women like it, then follow the men.”

Anti-Semite? Some scholars argue that it may be the most misunderstood aspect of Disney’s legacy. Gabler wrote in 2009. “It would be unfair to label him an anti-Semitic,” Gabler wrote in 2009. “There is no evidence in the Disney Vast Archives of any receipts. Walt’s anti-Semitic comments or actions.” He hired a Jewish man, Herman “Kay” Kamenas his sales manager, and he once said that the Disney office in New York “has more Jews than the Book of Leviticus.”

Disney awarded the New York City Jewish Orphanage, Yeshiva College, and Jewish Home for the Elderly, and was named Man of the Year by the Beverly Hills Lodge in B’nai B’rith. 1955.

So why do it? Snow White animator Art Babbitt and David Hilberman thinks Walt is anti-Semitic? Gabler and other experts say that, while Babbitt and Hilberman’s allegations are difficult to prove or disprove, they were deeply angered by the 1941 animators strike. Disney believed that he was a great boss, in a way he was and the strike also left him with bitterness, believing it was incited by the communists to his detriment.

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Streep was right to note that Disney had joined the anti-communist, anti-Semitic MPA – the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of the American Ideal. Other major studio heads have avoided the group, but Disney is either politically naive or ready to fight its anti-Semitism to advance the cause against communism.

Douglas BrodeProud Jewish author of Multiculturalism and the Rat: Race and Sexism in Disney Entertainment“There is no solid evidence that Disney ever wrote or said anything anti-Semitic in private or in public. His films feature many great Jewish actors in the widest variety of roles imaginable, more than any other studio during Hollywood’s golden age, including movies. run by Jewish film magnates. Finally, there is no evidence of anti-Semitism through negatively portrayed Jewish characters. Disney, remember, was the first filmmaker to cast a Jewish actor, Ed Wynnas Santa Claus, in Newborns in Toyland. We should give Disney the benefit of the doubt. Such attacks, including the recent one by Ms Streep, constitute a repetition of an unfounded malicious rumor about anything that can be taken as fact. “

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