Its not like they have anything to prove. They are two of the most accomplished, popular American cultural icons. Yet Meryl Streep and Madonna have now in circulation two movies notable not only for their weakness, but for promoting reprehensible right wing figures. And both movies have been nominated for Academy Awards.
"W.E.", Madonna's ill-advised, poorly reviewed, mishmash biopic brings back the Wallis Simpson-Prince Edward romance of the 1930's that caused Edward to abdicate the throne of England. Or was that the real reason? Madonna doesn't even get her feet wet in considering Simpson, shuffling and buffering the "romance" with a modern parallel that makes little more sense than Eddie-Wallis debacle.
So let's refresh the events. Simpson had been married twice before her royal involvement, had a swirl of ex-lovers and a rumored terminated pregnancy from Count Galeazzo Ciano, later Mussolini's son-in-law. She had worked the night clubs and very possibly the brothels of Hong Kong as an "escort." According to the head of the Metropolitan Police Special Branch, she was having an affair with a used car salesman while she was hooking Edward. According to other royalty (the ex-Duke of Wurttemberg), she had an affair with Nazi Ambassador Joachim von Ribbentrop, as well. So much for her fairy tale romance with Edward.
Yet the movie's pandering promotionals and pot boiling posters sell this tawdry hook-up as a dream romance: "Their passion brought down an Empire." While this is certainly not the case, many in the British government did fear that if Edward had assumed the throne, it may very well have brought down England. Just like the Academy Award winning Best Picture "The King's Speech," "W.E." glosses over Prince Edward's unabashed pro-Nazi sentiments and Simpson's right wing dalliances.
Edward and Wallis maintained high praise for the Nazi rulers of Germany, applauding their accomplishments while befriending their high officials. Many thought Simpson might have been a Nazi agent. FBI files indicate the depth of her Nazi sympathies. Wallis and Edward were married at Chateau de Conde, lent to them by Charles Bedoux, who worked for the Nazis during WWII.
Perhaps most embarrassing was their 1937 high profile visit to Nazi Germany where they were entertained by Hitler at Berchtesgarden. Hitler praised Wallis, telling all that she would have made a wonderful Queen of England. Wallis clearly shared Hitler's racism, referring to Blacks as "lazy, thriving niggers" and Asians as servant "Boys."
Compared to Wallis Simpson, Margaret Thatcher is even more difficult to romanticize. In the "Iron Lady" celebration, Streep excells in an otherwise unwatchable film. Forget for a minute that she is portraying the woman who devastated the working class and impoverished millions by breaking unions, selling off state enterprises, de-regulating large sectors of the economy, attacking Argentina over old colonial overreach and pandering to the racist policies of the National Front while supporting the apartheid policies of South Africa.
Giving Thatcherism another platform, humanizing her as an individual, just lends aid and comfort to one of the most vicious right wing lions. Glossing over the hardships that she visited on the working class and further concentrating wealth in Britain's Ruling Class, turns a deaf ear to current issues as well as papering over the problems of the past. The gauzy, foolish flash backs and poorly written script only fool those with little knowledge of history.
As Madonna and Meryl less than gracefully exit the back stage door, thankfully we have many talented, politically active young actresses like Scarlett Johansson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Charlize Theron, Anne Hathaway and others breathing life into roles that provide examples of how to change our society for the better.