My Thoughts On The Meryl Streep Controversy...

So, people keep asking me what I thought about Meryl Streep's comments about Walt Disney that she made when presenting an honor to Saving Mr. Banks star Emma Thompson at the National Board of Review Awards Gala on Tuesday.  As she presented the honor, she took a few moments to call Walt Disney a "gender bigot," a racist and indirectly called him an Anti-Semite (by saying he supported an Anti-Semitic group).

I'll start off by saying that I'm not deluded enough to think that Walt Disney was a saint.  I read an incredible biography on Walt entitled Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler that did a great job in trying to separate man from myth.  Walt was every bit the visionary, but, he was also human.  And, he was a human living in the time that he lived in.

Instead of trying to repeat some of this, I'm just going to link to this well written statement from the Walt Disney Museum that debunks several of the accusations about Walt Disney.

The point is that Walt Disney might not have been perfect and I respect the Walt Disney Museum for also acknowledging this.  Could he have been sexist or racist?  Sure.  But, one has to look at the time and what people's beliefs were at the time.  This is not to say sexism, racism and so on is excusable, but, with all due respect to Ms. Streep, who is one of my favorite actresses, it is unfair to single Walt Disney out for what was common at the time.  And before somebody cries foul, I am one who thinks its impossible to be devoid of all the "isms."  People who refuse to believe they have racist, sexist, homophobic, and so on feelings are deluded.  We are, by nature, xenophobic and, sadly, these thoughts pervade the transoms of our mind.  I, being a Filipino American gay man who's worked for women's rights organizations, cannot say I'm not racist or sexist or even homophobic to a certain point.  But, it's our commitment to not give into the "isms" and learn from and own our mistakes that help us try to be better people.  And, while Walt Disney might have exhibited some of these qualities, I do believe he did try to do right.

I have to admit that Ms. Streep's comments came at a strange time.  I respect her for wanting to defend women, people of color and people of different religious backgrounds, but I do question her timing.  But, in the end, I don't think Ms. Streep's statements will have a large impact on Walt Disney's enduring legacy nor will it have an impact on her career.


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