What Really Inspired *Those* Meryl Streep Posters

#SheKnew isn’t a nuanced critique of Hollywood, or Meryl Streep. It’s an alt-right artist’s revenge for criticism against Trump

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Meryl Streep She Knew: Meryl Streep wearing a black blazer at CPJ's annual International Press Freedom Awards on November 15, 2017 in New York City.

She’s a fixture in Hollywood, but not like this. Meryl Streep, 68, has become the target of much misplaced blame and anger after an alt-right artist plastered posters of the actor emblazoned with the words “She Knew” across Los Angeles. Though the images went up unsigned, street artist Sabo–who has been described as the alt-right’s Banksy–eventually identified himself, and admitted to working with two collaborators on the campaign, which features a 2012 image of Streep and Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

So, here’s our first problem. Not only does the former U.S. marine’s controversial work allege that Streep knew about Weinstein’s history of assault and harassment—something she vehemently denies—it also points the finger at her, rather than a man who has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 80 women.

This isn’t the first time the Oscar winner has been accused of knowing about Weinstein’s alleged behaviour. After it was reported that Streep would join the group of A-list actresses wearing black to the Golden Globes to protest harassment in Hollywood, Rose McGowan called the leading lady out on Twitter. “Actresses, like Meryl Streep, who happily worked for The Pig Monster, are wearing black [to the Golden Globes] in a silent protest,” she wrote. “Your silence is the problem. You’ll accept a fake award breathlessly [and] affect no real change. I despise your hypocrisy.”

In a statement, Streep responded: “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.”

Admittedly, it does sound unlikely that a powerful Hollywood icon like Streep could not know about Weinstein’s actions. But as Sally Field tweeted, that’s how the industry works.

One of those systems was a network of spies and private investigators that Weinstein paid to help him suppress any allegations of sexual harassment, as Ronan Farrow reported in the New Yorker. And while not every abuser employed former Mossad agents, systemic barriers that prevent women (and men) who have been harassed from coming forward, and discourage their peers from speaking up in their defence, have existed for a long time.

But there’s another problem with Sabo’s campaign. While his posters speak directly to a story that’s dominated headlines in recent months, he tells The Guardian it’s not Streep’s working relationship with Weinstein that inspired the images—it was her comments about Donald Trump. The right-wing artist, who considers leftism a “disorder,” says the posters are revenge against the actress because she has openly criticized the Trump administration. “She’s swiping at us so we’re swiping back,” he says. Sabo also believes Streep’s latest film, The Post, is being “used as a platform” to attack the U.S. president. Set in 1971, the film features Streep as Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, and follows the outlet’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers.

At last year’s Golden Globes, Streep was presented with the Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement, and used her time on stage to call out the Trump administration. In her speech, she described the polarizing politician as a bully and rallied the Hollywood community to protect journalists’ rights. Now she’s at the centre of a controversy that seems to be proving her point. Ultimately, Sabo defaced a photo of a living legend for profit (the posters are being sold on the Unsavory Agents–you read that right–website for $25) because she said things he didn’t like.

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