On Tuesday, when Meryl Streep got on stage at the National Board of Review Awards Gala, the audience was probably expecting a thoughtful, short, congratulatory speech. She was presenting actress Emma Thompson an award for her role in the movie "Saving Mr. Banks". Streep read a beautiful poem to honor her friend, but she also took a few minutes to blast American business magnate and animator, Walt Disney, calling him an “anti-Semite” and a “gender bigot”.
Some in the audience were a bit taken aback when she described the man as having “racist proclivities”. According to the LA Times, Streep described Disney as a man born in his time, and was also part of an anti-Semitic, anti-communist group that consisted of big names such as Ronald Reagan, John Wayne, Clark Gable and others. The group was officially known as the "Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals".
In her rebuke of Disney, Streep also quoted late Disney animator Ward Kimball by saying “Disney didn't trust women or cats."
Disney biographer Neal Gabler concluded that “He (Walt Disney) willingly allied himself with people who were anti-Semitic, and that reputation stuck. He was never really able to expunge it throughout his life."
On Thursday, Today.com highlighted a tweet by the Walt Disney Museum, an organization dedicated to the animator. The tweet fires back at Streep by linking to an insightful blog post by former Disney animator turned blogger, Floyd Norman.
Norman entitles his blog "Sophie's Poor Choice", referencing a film for which Streep won a Best Actress Oscar in 1982. In his blog post, Norman acknowledges that women in the 30’s and the 40’s weren’t provided with equal employment opportunities as men but that by the 50's that inequality had diminished greatly. However, he also pointed out that talented women were employed at Disney and that some of the women who worked there told him "they'd never had a better job". He also mentions that there were Jewish and African-American workers too, and that Disney recognized that talent had no color or ethnicity.
Hey @officialMStreep! Want the real truth about Walt Disney? Visit the museum and we'll give you a tour. Or, you know... Google it. 🙂
— Walt Disney Museum (@WDFMuseum) January 8, 2014
Image via YouTube