It’s been weeks since the announcement of the disappointingly white Oscar nominations spurred the ongoing work being done to address the problem of diversity in Hollywood, yet some of L.A.’s publicists still seem to have forgotten to brief their stars on how to talk about this whole diversity thing. This morning provides perfect evidence as to why these publicists need to step up their game: it is being reported that Hollywood’s single favorite white woman, Meryl Streep, had spoken stupidly during a press conference at the Berlin Film Festival, where she is the president of the jury.
News feeds were covered in headlines touting, simply, that Meryl had claimed that “We are all Africans, really,” sans context. This is similar to what happened with Kristen Stewart at Sundance, only there was no missing piece of video to blame; this was simply willful omission. Anyway, the full quote, courtesy of Variety:
“(Equality) of genders, races, ethnicities, religion,” she opined. “This jury is also evidence that women are included and can even dominate – that is unusual in bodies that make decisions. We are all Africans, we are all Berliners.”
And now, I will attempt to manclarify this statement (as opposed to mansplain it): this is removed from the context. It’s important to know that this was said in Berlin, which is also where President John F. Kennedy made his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in 1963 in order to show his support for the citizens of West Germany who had recently been subjected to the construction of the Cold War-defining Berlin Wall. The parallel is perhaps rocky at best, but the sentiment is clear: Meryl was not saying that she is an African, or that she had experienced any kind of oppression equal to that experienced by black actors; she was saying that she was in total support of their cause. Given the climate in Hollywood, it was still a stupid thing to say. However, she did not commit a Charlotte Rampling.
Additionally, Meryl spoke on her experience running a jury, of which she has none. “I have no idea how to run a jury. But in the end I have two votes and (the other jury members) only have one each.” Obviously, Meryl was in a goofy mood, which is not necessarily the best mood for approaching the subject of Hollywood’s lack of diversity.
Anyway, on to the next one. The Academy Awards ceremony is set to take place on February 28.