Oscar Politics? Meryl Streep Trashes Walt Disney As a Bigot

Variety reported that at a recent Hollywood dinner, Meryl Streep offered a speech of praise to fellow actress Emma Thompson  — with phrases like “she’s practically a saint” and “she’s a beautiful artist” – and she then trashed Walt Disney as a “gender bigot” and a supporter of an anti-Semitic group.

Over at Forbes, Scott Mendelson is reading the tea leaves, and implying that Streep was engaged in some unsubtle Oscar politicking against Thompson’s role in Saving Mr. Banks, the how-Disney-made-Mary-Poppins movie:

It is perhaps a leap to believe that Ms. Streep intentionally set out to trash Walt Disney in a publicized speech with the implicit intention of harming Ms. Thompson’s Oscar hopes and thus raising her own chances of securing a nomination, with the side effect of boosting The Weinstein Company’s August: Osage County‘s box office as it expands this weekend. But Oscar season is one rife with politics and skulduggery, one where how a film is perceived morally is as important as how its perceived critically...

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.

The end result is the same: Meryl Streep boosts her Oscar hopes by appearing to be speaking truth to power (assuming what she says is in fact true) while Emma Thompson’s Oscar hopes are lessened by highlighting the knottier sides of her movie, and thus her credibility for starring in it. I like both Saving Mr. Banks and August: Osage County and think both films are just a bit better than their current critical reputations. But both Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson have something to gain, financially and professionally, by having their films or at least themselves as participants in this year’s Oscar race. Streep’s gain is Thompson’s loss, which makes the timing of these comments (in a speech allegedly honoring Emma Thompson) particularly troubling.

Dave Swindle at PJ Media is exploring how these critical accusations against Disney were started, and whether they reflect long-standing ideological or personal agendas.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis