It’s January, so you know what that means—it’s officially the beginning of awards season. Over the next couple months, the stars of the biggest films will be even more inescapable, talking about their movies and other important issues!
For instance, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks just stopped by the New York Times on their campaign trail on behalf of The Post. They discussed journalism, former Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, and, of course, the subjugation of women that lies at the heart of Hollywood. And their responses do have me a little worried that the future of the #MeToo discussion throughout awards season will be more reductive and cautiously vague than it should be.
When asked what she made of people who were waiting for her to say something about Harvey Weinstein when the news first broke, Streep’s response seemed a little misplaced:
I don’t want to hear about the silence of me. 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.
The silence of the Trump women regarding the #MeToo movement is absolutely loaded in light of Donald Trump’s own open and nauseating misogyny. It’s obviously more than reasonable for Streep to call them out, but feels like a deflection given that the question was specifically about Weinstein and Hollywood. She did go on to address sexist culture in Hollywood “back in the day” (she didn’t get into specifics), discussed being slapped in the face by Dustin Hoffman on the Kramer vs. Kramer set, and called for forgiveness. And that’s when Hanks stepped in with this great take:
I know that I have participated in crude humor worthy of a baseball locker room on a set. And that’s bad words, and a degree of stupid sexuality in the confines of the circus. I was asked by Diane Rehm on NPR if I had ever been aware of this type of sexual predatory behavior. And I said: “Well, it’s easy to say no. I mean, I’m oblivious to an awful lot of this. But I’d be a fool to say that it’s never happened on some job I’ve had, because I’m not in every office.”
On the one hand it’s extremely smart for Hanks to be straightforward and “come clean” about ways he may have participated in the culture of sexism. On the other hand, it’s strange to watch him approach these questions with such extreme caution. It seems like the men in Hollywood have one job this year: to not pull a Matt Damon and completely fuck it up. But the stakes are much lower for them, since they’ll be praised for merely being honest about taking part in sexism in almost the same way women are for surviving it.
Of course Streep stepped in and responded:
There shouldn’t be the idea of a locker room. The payload is unloaded on women, because that’s the last group it’s kind of O.K. to demean, degrade.
Hanks went on:
I would claim that I was never knowingly complicit, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t oblivious. You know what’s oddly liberating about this is that we would go off and make movies that have absolutely nothing to do with any of these topics, but journalists bring them up, you know?
Um, it was journalists (and brave survivors) who finally took down Harvey Weinstein and set this conversation into motion, so I’m just a little confused! While I agree that it’s unrealistic and potentially dangerous to assume all celebrities can have a nuanced and informed discussion about any given topic and that sometimes we expect too much from them, members of Hollywood should be engaged in the topic of pervasive sexual harassment in their own industry. Hanks then seems to backtrack somewhat, acknowledging that journalists asking about the issue isn’t off topic given the issues presented in The Post, saying: “We made this movie about 1971, but it really is about 2017. There’s no reason not to get involved in what this overpowering discussion is about.”
Award season press circuit fatigue is real—every interview is pretty much the same and not every interview is going to be a gem. But here’s hoping that the topic of sexual inequality and harassment in Hollywood doesn’t become just another reductive talking point.