Meryl Streep: 'I didn't know' (Update: 'She knew' posters in LA)

Over the weekend, Rose McGowan blasted Meryl Streep on Twitter. Her tweet has since been deleted but she wrote, “Actresses, like Meryl Streep, who happily worked for The Pig Monster, are wearing black @goldenglobes in a silent protest. YOUR SILENCE is THE problem. You’ll accept a fake award breathlessly & affect no real chance. I despise your hypocrisy. Maybe you should all wear Marchesa.” In response, Streep wrote a lengthy letter which she gave to Huffington Post claiming she didn’t know about Weinstein’s behavior:

It hurt to be attacked by Rose McGowan in banner headlines this weekend, but I want to let her know I did not know about Weinstein’s crimes, not in the 90s when he attacked her, or through subsequent decades when he proceeded to attack others.

I wasn’t deliberately silent. I didn’t know. I don’t tacitly approve of rape. I didn’t know.  I don’t like young women being assaulted. I didn’t know this was happening.

A bit later, Streep slips into the plural but I think she’s still talking about herself:

HW needed us not to know this, because our association with him bought him credibility, an ability to lure young, aspiring women into circumstances where they would be hurt.

He needed me much more than I needed him and he made sure I didn’t know.

Finally, Streep describes her efforts to contact McGowan:

Rose assumed and broadcast something untrue about me, and I wanted to let her know the truth. Through friends who know her, I got my home phone number to her the minute I read the headlines. I sat by that phone all day yesterday and this morning, hoping to express both my deep respect for her and others’ bravery in exposing the monsters among us, and my sympathy for the untold, ongoing pain she suffers.

McGowan’s response to this was another tweet expressing amusement:

But she also claimed she had never accused Streep of knowing about Weinstein’s behavior:

So maybe at this point, you’re thinking: Who cares? Why should anyone care what these two actresses think or say about one another? Well, here’s why this story interests me. Meryl Steep is the most celebrated actress of her generation. She has been nominated for 20 Academy Awards and 30 Golden Globes, more than anyone else. She is the grand lady of Hollywood and someone who, not unlike Harvey Weinstein, wears her progressive politics on her sleeve. She’s the female equivalent of Steven Spielberg, i.e. a massive talent who is both very wealthy and beloved in Hollywood.

And then there’s Rose McGowan, someone who had some real success in Hollywood but who also became a victim of it. She’s dubbed her effort #RoseArmy and it’s intended to be a scorched earth campaign against sexual assault and hypocrisy, which in case you haven’t noticed, is a huge story right now. It has made Rose McGowan one of Time’s Person of the Year award winners. Suddenly the insurgent who was ignored for decades has a lot of power at her back. And remember it’s even worse than it sounds because the person who (allegedly, but I believe it) raped McGowan and the person who helped Streep’s career is the same person: Harvey Weinstein.

So you have the symbol of Hollywood elitism and success in a showdown with someone who seems ready to burn it all to the ground because she’s (understandably) furious. In short, this is a clash of the titans: power and privilege versus victimization and rage. And this weekend was, to extend this mythological metaphor, the release of the Kraken.

In this battle for position, Streep desperately wants to be on the same side as the insurgents but, so far, they aren’t allowing it. And the hinge point of that is one question: Did she know? That’s why Streep is writing the letter above which repeats three times that she didn’t know and which emphasizes that she never went to Weinstein’s hotel room or his house. She’s even claiming that Weinstein intentionally kept her in the dark because his association with her gave him credibility (which is probably true).

So the question now is whether, at some point, McGowan will place a call to Streep and this battle will resolve into a love fest. Or will McGowan continue to go scorched earth against one of Hollywood’s leading lights, i.e. will she pull her own head out of a bag and turn the Kraken to stone?

Anyway, that’s why I find this story so interesting. It’s a clash between two immensely powerful forces. No matter how it turns out, I expect this will all be the subject of a film someday.

Update: These posters apparently showed up in LA this week: