In a controversial speech on Jan. 7, Meryl Streep called Walt Disney sexist and suggested that he was racist, too. Now the movie mogul’s filmmaker/social activist grandniece says Streep was right.
Writing on her Facebook page just a few days after the speech, Abigail Disney says that she has “mixed feelings” about the man who gave the world Mickey Mouse.
“I loved what Meryl Streep said,” wrote Disney, whose grandfather, Roy O. Disney, was Walt’s older brother and co-founder of The Walt Disney Company.
“I know he was a man of his times and I can forgive him, but ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ was a brazen attempt by the company to make a saint out of the man.
“A devil he was not. Nor an angel. That’s the point and if you read all (of Meryl’s) remarks you’ll know that’s exactly what she was getting at.”
Streep made her remarks in honoring friend and fellow actress Emma Thompson, who portrays Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers in the Disney-produced movie, “Saving Mr. Banks.”
In her speech, Streep accused Walt Disney of “racist proclivities,” noting that he “formed and supported an anti-Semitic industry lobby.
“And he was certainly, on the evidence of his company’s policies, a gender bigot.”
She read a letter that Disney wrote in 1938 to a young woman applying for the training program in the company’s cartoon department.
“Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that task is performed entirely by young men,” Disney wrote.
“For this reason, girls are not considered for the training school. The only work open to women consists of tracing the characters on clear celluloid sheets with India ink, and then filling in the tracing on the reverse side with paint, according to the directions.”
“Anti-Semite? Check. Misogynist? OF COURSE!!,” Abigail Disney wrote on her Facebook page.
“Racist? C’mon he made a film (Jungle Book) about how you should stay ‘with your own kind’ at the height of the fight over segregation! As if the King of the Jungle number wasn’t proof enough!”
The Walt Disney Company declined to comment to the Hollywood Reporter about Abigail Disney’s comments, noting that it’s not the first time she’s had harsh words for her relative or the company.
THR noted that in another Facebook posting in December, she wrote that “what my family's business has done is to dumb down and middle-ify and oversimplify (ok, ok DISNEYFY) so much, and while that has rightly and admirably brought a lot of pleasure – joy even– to a lot of people who needed it given that life can be hard and pleasure hard to come by, it has also encouraged that most grim and American tendency to gloss over the untidy complexities of life, sometimes at great cost to the lived experiences of many others."
In her more recent Facebook musings, she reiterated that Walt Disney had “brought joy to so many around the world.”
“He was hella good at making films and his work has made billions of people happy,” she wrote. “There’s no denying it. So there ya go. Mixed feelings up the wazoo.”