2/9/12 Update: Huge thanks to Melissa Silverstein for posting an expanded version of this piece on her Women & Hollywood Blog yesterday! Click here to download the whole thing (Meryl Streep+Terry Gross+Penny) as a pdf –> 12Feb08IndieWIRE
Meryl Streep at Barnard College Commencement (2010): “They professionally can’t hear us…”
Yesterday, Terry Gross broadcast an amazing interview with Meryl Streep on her NPR program Fresh Air. The context, of course, was Streep’s unprecedented SEVENTEENTH Oscar nomination, this time as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.
For years now, I’ve expressed concern about consistently rewarding Streep while simultaneously dissing the rest of the team (most especially when she works with women filmmakers).
At her 2010 presentation at the Barnard College Commencement, Streep expresses optimism, and I’m optimistic too, but meanwhile, it is what it is.
Here is a snippet of the whole Fresh Air interview:
GROSS: My guest is Meryl Streep… So I want to quote something else you said, and this was in the Barnard speech that you gave in 2010, that
“The hardest thing in the world is to persuade a straight male audience to identify with a woman character. It’s easier for women because we were brought up identifying with male characters in literature. It’s hard for straight boys to identify with Juliet or Wendy in Peter Pan, whereas girls identify with Romeo and with Peter Pan.”
What led you to that conclusion?
STREEP: I watch movies and I don’t care who is the protagonist, I feel what that guy is feeling. You know, if it’s Tom Cruise leaping over a building I, I want to make it, you know? And I’m going to, yes, I made it. And yeah, so I get that.
And I’ve grown up, well, partly because there weren’t great girls’ literature. Nancy Drew maybe. But there weren’t things. So there was Huck Finn and Spin and Marty. The boys’ characters were interesting and you lived through them when you’re watching it. You know, you’re not aware of it but you’re following the action of the film through the body of the protagonist.
You know, you feel what he feels when he jumps, when he leaps, when he wins, when he loses. And I think I just took it for granted that, you know, we can all do that. But it became obvious to me that men don’t live through the female characters.
GROSS: Do you think that women have that kind of double consciousness and men, you think, like, boys… don’t make that leap…
STREEP: Well, it has to do with very deep things, you know, because it might be that imagining yourself as a girl is a diminishment…But I don’t know, I really think there’s a difference between how men critics see things than how women tend to…
“There is only change and resistance to it and more change.”
BRAVA, MERYL STREEP 🙂