Meryl Streep can hold a tune, but she just displayed some remarkable tone deafness when it comes to Harvey Weinstein.
In the wake of Weinstein's downfall, Streep's status as the most admired woman in Hollywood yet also an enthusiastic collaborator with the disgraced mogul inspired endless questions about whether she was complicit in his abuse. Since October, the actress has made several public statements on the matter, credibly denying she had any prior knowledge of Weinstein's misconduct.
With awards show season set to kick off this weekend, Streep got more detailed in an interview with the New York Times published Wednesday. There's no question her insights are interesting, and Streep's combination of intellect, industry experience, and feminist credentials will make her heightened candor fodder for analysts.
In a conversation with Times reporter Cara Buckley and her co-star in "The Post," Tom Hanks, Streep shared how she digested the news of Weinstein's alleged behavior, maintaining she knew nothing about it. She also waded into her own experiences with sexual misconduct as a young actress, calling for forgiveness and refusing to name names in order to avoid "ruin[ing] somebody's mature life," and reflected on the movement's overall impact.
But when Buckley asked, "What do you make of the fact, though, that people are waiting for you to speak?" Streep's deflection was unbelievably tone deaf.
"I don’t want to hear about the silence of me," she responded. "I want to hear about the silence of Melania Trump. I want to hear from her. She has so much that’s valuable to say. And so does Ivanka. I want her to speak now."
That is just about the last thing anybody wants to hear from an actress who once jokingly referred to Weinstein as "God."
I believe Streep may have been truly unaware Weinstein was harassing and assaulting women, or at least of the extent of it. But even if that's the case, this is a time for Hollywood to humble itself, engage in serious introspection, and honestly admit to its own moral failures. Deflecting legitimate concerns about yourself to knock a political opponent is an exhibition in the exact flavor of Hollywood hubris that people have no taste for right now.
In an exchange later in the interview, Hanks and Streep discussed whether the expectation that actors comment on politics was out of place. "It’s great to be asked to step up because you know what, everybody should," Streep remarked.
That's a conflict. "It's great to be asked to step up," isn't the attitude she took moments earlier when rebuffing a question about people asking her to step up.
Parsing Meryl Streep's public comments may seem futile, but the powerful actress has never missed an opportunity to grandstand about women's rights, making her emblematic of the entire industry's credibility problem. It's easy for people with megaphones in Hollywood to lecture others about their beliefs (and to hold others to their moral standards) but so much more difficult for those celebrities to actually live by them.
A long awards show season stands between Streep and the warmth of spring. When it comes to recognizing the power of her own platform, she should consider a new approach.