Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson are almost definitely two of the most fabulous creatures in Hollywood.
And when they are put into close proximity with each other, it only makes sense that the most fabulous and feminist and anti-Hollywood conversations are had.
Like this week, when the pair appeared on stage together and Meryl complimented Emma by calling her a “rabid, man-eating feminist”. And then Meryl called out Walt Disney for being a racist and a sexist. And then Emma spoke at length about the benefits of menopause during the middle of winter. And then she slyly propositioned the director of Fruitvale Station, 27-year-old Ryan Coogler.
On Tuesday night Meryl Streep was presenting the best actress award at the National Board of Review awards, which went to Emma Thompson for her role in Saving Mr Banks. Thompson plays author P. L. Travers as she goes head-to-head with filmmaker Walk Disney (Tom Hanks) during production for the adaptation of her beloved children’s novel, Mary Poppins.
Here’s how it all went down:
First, Meryl Streep asks the audience whether they would like the short version of her speech, or the “long, bitter, more truthful version.” The audience is overwhelmingly in favour of bitterness. Hooray!
Then, Meryl calls out Walt Disney for sexism and racism… Despite the fact that Emma Thompson has just won an award for starring in a film that presents him as neither a sexist nor a racist. Because she tells it like it is.
Some of his associates reported that Walt Disney didn’t really like women. Ward Kimball, who was one of his chief animators … said of Disney: ‘He didn’t trust women or cats.’
Next, Meryl calls Emma a saint:
Ezra Pound said, ‘I have not met anyone worth a damn who was not irascible.’ Well, I have: Emma Thompson. Not only is she not irascible, she’s practically a saint … She’s a beautiful artist, she’s a writer, she’s a thinker, she’s a living, acting conscience.
Emma considers, carefully, what the fuck she is putting into the culture. Emma thinks: Is this helpful? Not will it build my brand? Not will it give me billions? Will I get a sequel out of it, or a boat? Or, a perfume contract?
Meryl then celebrated that Emma is a “rabid, man eating feminist” and read out a sexist letter that Disney sent to a wannabe – female – animator in 1938.
And I’m going to read it here in Emma’s tribute because I know it will tickle our honoree, because she’s also a rabid, man eating feminist, like I am.
Dear Miss Ford,
Your letter of recent date has been received in the inking and painting department for reply. 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. 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.
And THEN, Meryl read out a poem that she called “an ode to Emma. Or, what Emma is owed.”
Emma Thompson, in her speech, said that she was “nauseous with gratitude”, but also praised the gift of menopause on such a cold night.
It’s such a cold night, you know, it’s the only time I’ve been actively grateful for the menopause. There have been moments when I’ve been entirely comfortable. And then they pass.
And then she called out Hollywood for (usually) not providing many fantastic roles for women.
Um, I’m sure I had something to say, but I’ve been rather scuppered by Miss Streep’s extraordinary gift to me. Normally on occasions like this I like to complain, loudly and at length, about the dearth of roles for women, but actually this year they seem to have behaved like buses in London, where you wait for hours for the right one, and then suddenly seventeen come along at once. And so it has been. You know, Meryl and Julia and Octavia and Lea and the Kates, both Blanchett and Winslet, it’s been an extraordinary year for women’s roles.
And as to how she thinks she managed to beat such capable actresses (because Emma Thompson has a lot of love and respect for her fellow actresses):
I can’t think what gave me the edge; it must have been the perm. Which was a great sacrifice; it meant no sex, of course, for months on end. And then only with animal noises accompanying it.
And she also thanked the producer of Saving Mr Banks for producing a film “about a 60-year-old woman which wasn’t about her being a wife or a mother. When does that happen? Never. Extraordinary.”
And as her closing statement:
I’ve taken my heels off as a feminist statement really, because why do we wear them? They’re so painful. And pointless, really. You know, I really would like to urge everyone to stop it. Just stop it. Don’t wear them anymore. You just can’t walk in them, and I’m so comfortable now. But much love to you all. Thank you so very much.
So, here’s to heels coming off, and more leading roles for women in Hollywood, and supporting your fellow women, and calling out sexism where we see it – even if that means “long, bitter, more truthful version” of what you need to say.
Thanks for the feminist magic, Meryl and Emma.