I’m Not an African, I Just Play One In the Movies

The controversy over race and the Oscars has made its way to Berlin, where a film festival is in progress. It happens that the festival judges are all white, so one of the judges, Meryl Streep, fielded some questions about diversity.

Streep, who heads a festival film panel for the first time, had been asked by an Egyptian reporter whether she understood films from the Arab world and North Africa.

She admitted she didn’t know much about the region, but had “played a lot of different people from a lot of different cultures.”

Seriously? She can only understand African and Middle Eastern films because she is an actress, albeit not one who has played a North African? So, can North Africans who aren’t actors or actresses understand Star Wars? Casablanca? Twelve Years a Slave?

The 66-year-old three-time Academy Award winner added: “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.”

Is she saying that race is irrelevant to appreciating art? I hope so, but it isn’t clear. This is, maybe, the liberal’s understanding of universal humanity: we are all Africans!

It would have been nice if Streep had said, “This race and gender s*** is all nonsense,” but of course she didn’t do that. Instead, she sought refuge in feminism:

Streep added: “This jury is evidence that at least women are included and in fact dominate this jury, and that’s an unusual situation in bodies of people who make decisions.

“So I think the Berlinale (the film festival) is ahead of the game.”

The Berlin film festival jury

The Berlin film festival jury

In logic, a reductio ad absurdum serves as refutation. Our current obsession with race and gender is as absurd as it gets, but somehow it keeps rattling along as though no one noticed.