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Abigail Disney, the filmmaker/social activist grandniece of Walt Disney, has weighed in on Meryl Streep‘s scathing criticism of the animation legend, revealing that she has “mixed feelings” but ultimately “loved” the actress’ remarks.
On Jan. 7, Streep set off controversy during her National Board of Review presentation when she dubbed Walt a “bigot,” and called him a racist, sexist and supporter of anti-Semitism — points which have been disputed , to one degree or another, by some historians and people who knew the man.
On Friday, Abigail posted two Facebook statuses that left no doubt about her own views regarding her great-uncle, Streep and Walt Disney Pictures, the distributor of Saving Mr. Banks, in which Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney.
That morning, Abigail, whose grandfather Roy O. Disney was Walt’s older brother and co-founder of The Walt Disney Company, posted: “I hadn’t heard a word about this Meryl Streep/Walt Disney flap till this morning. Funny how no one mentioned it to me…. Like I was living in some kind of information bubble and nobody wanted to hurt my feelings or something. But if anyone is going to have mixed feelings about a cultural icon, wouldn’t it be a member of the family??? More than anyone else???
“And if you are going to have mixed feelings about a family member (and we all do) take it from me, you really need to be as honest as possible about those feelings, or else you are going to lead yourself into many a blind alley in life!! … Anti-Semite? Check. Misogynist? OF COURSE!! 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!! How much more information do you need? But damn, he was hella good at making films and his work has made billions of people happy. There’s no denying it. So there ya go. Mixed feelings up the wazoo.“
Abigail posted again 10 hours later: “I feel I have to clarify. I LOVED what Meryl Streep said. 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 her remarks you’ll know that’s exactly what she was getting at. She said exactly what I said about how in spite of it all, his vision was amazing and he brought joy to so many around the world. So I say Brava Meryl. I don’t believe in bashing for bashing’s sake but whenever we see a misplaced attempt at hagiography we need to speak our minds!”
The Walt Disney Company declined to comment on the Facebook posts. This is not the first time that Abigail has spoken out to criticize Walt or the studio he founded.
On Dec. 12, 2013, she posted to Facebook a note that included her thoughts on Banks and Disney in general: “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.”
Back in 2012, Abigail attempted to renounce her share of the profits from the Disneys’ investment in the Ahava cosmetics company, which is based in a West Bank settlement, stating, “I cannot in good conscience profit from what is technically the ‘plunder’ or ‘pillage’ of occupied natural resources.” When she found that she was legally unable to do so, she donated the investments and profits “to organizations working to end this illegal exploitation.”
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