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Meryl Streep Said, “We’re All Africans, Really,” In Response to Question About Her All-White Film Festival Jury

According to this really disappointing report from the Associated Press, Meryl Streep just put her foot in her mouth in the worst way. When responding to a reporter’s question about the all-white panel at the Berlin International Film Festival, Streep–the jury’s current president–dismissed concerns about diversity, saying “we’re all Africans, really.” You hear that? That’s a record scratch.

Streep specifically said, “There is a core of humanity that travels right through every culture, and after all we’re all from Africa originally. Berliners, we’re all Africans really.”

It gets a little bit worse from there. Streep believes that the jury’s already “ahead of the game” because it’s comprised of mostly women. That may be the case, but as folks have said, and as I said yesterday, things might be getting better for women in Hollywood, but that really only applies if you’re white. You can’t just add white women to a roster of anything and call that diversity.

What’s more, after being asked by an Egyptian reporter if she understands the types of films coming from the Arab world and North Africa, Streep admitted she didn’t know much about the region. But she did say, “I’ve played a lot of different people from a lot of different cultures.”

These responses have a strong undercurrent of “all lives matter” running underneath them. It’s the same type of logic, and you can see it in the language she uses: “core of humanity,” “every culture,” “we’re all from Africa,” everything.

Moreover, her comment about playing “a lot of different people from a lot of different cultures” is kind of insulting. It’s reductionist in the worst way. To think that you can understand the entirety of a culture, with all its depth, its complexities, and its nuances, just because you’ve played a character from that culture–a problem in and of itself, by the way–is just so exceedingly ignorant it’s staggering.

Streep doesn’t seem to exactly grasp the gravity of the situation, and clearly doesn’t understand what’s wrong with the jury she’s presiding over. In that way, she ended up personifying everything that’s wrong with Hollywood and the greater film industry today. If the status quo prevalent in Hollywood today had its own voice, it would be saying exactly what Streep just said. There is no progress here, especially not when you have someone in power be so unaware of the central issues at play.

That’s just it: today’s Hollywood (and non-intersectional feminism) is a white woman patting herself on the back for opening the door for other white women while trying to speak for cultures she can’t possibly understand.

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Jessica Lachenal is a writer who doesn’t talk about herself a lot, so she isn’t quite sure how biographical info panels should work. But here we go anyway. She's the Weekend Editor for The Mary Sue, a Contributing Writer for The Bold Italic (, and a Staff Writer for Spinning Platters ( She's also been featured in Model View Culture and Frontiers LA magazine, and on Autostraddle. She hopes this has been as awkward for you as it has been for her.