Actress Meryl Streep — who holds the record for the most Academy Award nominations with 19 nods under her belt — weighed in on the controversy surrounding diversity in Hollywood during the Berlin International Film Festival.
Streep is the festival’s jury president, leading an all-white yet female-dominated panel. She dismissed questions about the very “vanilla” jury panel by saying, “we’re all Africans really.”
(Uhh … Come again?)
Meryl Streep introducing herself like: pic.twitter.com/ib8Yl8MZ1m— Anne T. Donahue (@annetdonahue) February 11, 2016
Initially, Streep started off on the right track saying she was committed to equality and inclusion “of all genders, races, ethnicities, religions.”
“This jury is evidence that at least women are included and in fact dominate this jury, and that’s an unusual situation in bodies of people who make decisions,” Streep said. “So I think the Berlinale is ahead of the game.”
However, she went a little off course when an Egyptian reporter asked whether she understood films from the Arab world and North Africa.
She admitted that she didn’t know much about the region but noted that she’s “played a lot of different people from a lot of different cultures.”
“There is a core of humanity that travels right through every culture, and after all we’re all from Africa originally,” she added. “We’re all Africans, we’re all Berliners.”
Her tone was described as humorous and she was referencing John F. Kennedy’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech with her comments, however, she has received mixed reviews about her choice to address a hot button topic with such nonchalance.
Some consider it “insensitive” to disregard the racial disparities in the entertainment industry that are evidenced by the very panel she was speaking on. Her comment that “we’re all Africans” can be interpreted as if she doesn’t see the imbalance because, in her eyes, we’re all the same anyway.
I'm hoping this is what Meryl Streep meant and just did a TERRIBLE job articulating it. pic.twitter.com/Evm7KxzROw— Brenden Dilley (@Hublife) February 11, 2016
"We're all Meryl Streep, really."— GAIL SIMONE (@GailSimone) February 11, 2016
--Said by no one, ever.
btw, shoutout to everyone who wants to agree with meryl streep but, yanno, doesn’t really wanna be called african. what a quote, man.— El Flaco (@bomani_jones) February 11, 2016
Since according to Meryl Streep we're all Africans I can't wait to see Wesley Snipes play George Washington!— Bougie Black Girl (@BougieBlackGurl) February 11, 2016
So Meryl Streep: "We're all africans" "I'm not a feminist because I love men"— Ethel (@Ethelmonster) February 11, 2016
WHO DROPPED MERYL STREEP ON HER HEAD
While it is not a bad thing to view everyone as connected and equal, it is a little naïve of Streep to dismiss the fact that people who look different on the outside are, indeed, being treated differently than those who look more like herself.
Furthermore, regardless of the belief that everyone’s roots are connected or the notion that mankind began in Africa, you can’t ignore the existence of cultural differences that can create a tough barrier between people if you don’t make a diligent and genuine effort to learn and understand.
Streep’s response almost comes across as if she thinks that because she’s played so many characters and believes we’re all the same, she doesn’t need to do anything more to understand some of the films she is tasked with judging, and if that is the case, she is sorely wrong.