Meryl Streep has been accused of performing in blackface in her upcoming Netflix film The Laundromat.

The Steven Soderbergh production revolves around the discovery of the Panama Papers, which revealed a global network of corruption, in 2015.

Streep plays duel parts – with the main role being a white American widow investigating the financial arrangements of her late husband.

But, at the halfway point, Streep performs a second role, playing an office worker in a Panamanian law firm specialising in offshore financial services, with bronzed skin, a false nose, a black wig, hip padding, and a Latin accent.

In Vanity Fair, film critic Richard Lawson described it as a “bizarre and rather galling unforced error, especially in an era of heightened consciousness about representation and appropriation.”

There’s a chance the sequence is supposed to be comedic, with Streep describing the film as “funny, the way it’s told, but it’s so deadly serious, the intent of the piece.” Even so, it’s a very weird choice.

The 76th Venice Film Festival – Screening of the film “The Laundromat” in competition – Red Carpet Arrivals – Venice, Italy, September 1, 2019 – Director Steven Soderbergh poses with author Jake Bernstein and cast members Meryl Streep and Gary Oldman. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

Still, Soderbergh certainly set out to make a fun film from a serious subject.

“The intention was to keep you entertained while we get into these issues,” the director said. “Scott Burns reached out to me and said, ‘Tell me if you’re interested.’ Jake’s book is a compelling, beautifully written retelling of how the story broke from the journalist’s side.”

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“I said, ‘Jake is going to be really important to the film, but I don’t want to make a movie about journalists uncovering a story. That’s been done multiple times, and done very well.’”

“Scott and I had each seen [Argentine Damián Szifron’s film] Wild Tales, a series of stories jumping around the globe, and Scott suggested something similar. I said, ‘That sounds like fun,’ which is not a word usually associated with such a topic.”

“It’s been funny to read some stories about the movie; people assume it’s ‘All the President’s Men.’ I always think, “Boy, are they in for a surprise.”

And, outside of the Vanity Fair review, the outrage does seem to be mostly confined to twitter.

There are no pictures of Streep’s secondary character online, so we’ll have to wait until The Laundromat drops on Netflix on 27 September to make up our own minds.



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