Meryl Streep darkened her skin & tried a ‘thick pan-Latin accent’ in ‘The Laundromat’


I watched the trailer for The Laundromat a few weeks ago and I was basically like “???” the entire time. The basic gist is that Meryl Streep plays a widow who is investigating why she didn’t get an insurance payout from her husband’s fatal boat accident. What she soon discovers is that she got scammed by a shady insurance company, a company which was part of the shady Panamanian law firm at the center of the “Panama Papers” scandal, which involved shell companies and massive tax fraud/tax avoidance schemes and money laundering. From this Vanity Fair review of The Laundromat:

Trying to guide us through all this are Antonio Banderas (looking fab) and Gary Oldman (lugging around a heavy German accent), dual Virgils pointing out various appalling aspects of an inferno of grift and greed. They’re playing the lawyers Fonseca and Mossack, who ran the Panamanian law firm at the center of the scandal, but they hover over the film with more omnipotence than that. The device would be useful if only Burns hadn’t written these narrators so confusingly. They speak in coy aphorism and metaphor, when the whole point of a movie like this is to tell it to us straight—or straight with a twist, at least.

Soderbergh is a bit too hepped up on funny ideas to keep his focus throughout. The film is divided into what I guess you could call vignettes, each highlighting a different aspect of all this wealth malfeasance. They’re pretty much all too archly pitched, though, each too preoccupied with their individual stories to tether themselves to the larger narrative. We travel to China, California, Lake George (Lake Arrowhead plays the part), Nevis, and Panama. The movie goes all over the place, attempting to map the world of this thing but really just chasing its idea into abstraction. Which is the opposite direction of where it should be going.

[From Vanity Fair]

Okay, so that explains the roles played by Antonio Banderas and Gary Oldman, and I think I generally get the gist. And Meryl plays a widow in Miami. Except she also plays a second role and it’s BAD?

Oh yes: Meryl Streep is in this movie, and for a portion of it, she’s a delight. She plays a widow trying to track down the shadowy insurance company that screwed her out of a settlement from the boat accident that killed her husband; what she finds is a maddening house of cards. It’s a lark to see this bucket-hatted lady of a certain age poke at the rigging, and I wish Soderbergh followed through on her journey. But like most else in the movie, she’s eventually forgotten when something new pops up.

Which doesn’t mean Streep leaves the film. No: in fact, she shows up as a different character, wearing prosthetics and putting on a thick pan-Latin accent. This is a bizarre and rather galling unforced error, especially in an era of heightened consciousness about representation and appropriation. It’s not a huge role, but any one scene of Streep essentially playing Agador Spartacus’s mom is a scene too many. That ugly bit makes the unpleasant suggestion that this is all just a joke for Soderbergh and crew, richies who can’t help themselves to a little non-P.C. in-crowd chuckle while—yes, yes, of course, we don’t mean to laugh—doing the good work of telling poor people how they’re being screwed.

[From Vanity Fair]

Oh. So Meryl thought it would be cool to play a Latina caricature too? And Steven Soderbergh was like, “this is what I want”? Gross. Apparently, when the film premiered at TIFF this week, there were a handful of critics who saw how problematic that sh-t was, but their criticism was overlooked, especially when it came time for media availability. Yikes.


Photos courtesy of Netflix.

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49 Responses to “Meryl Streep darkened her skin & tried a ‘thick pan-Latin accent’ in ‘The Laundromat’”

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  1. Kitten says:

    Ugh!!!! Et tu, Meryl? Oh god WHY?

    I guess you just can’t take the white out of white women.
    I keep waiting for that day when we FINALLY get it and that day just never seems to arrive. Sigh.

    • Christina says:

      You yanked the words right off of my keyboard, Kitten. Et tu, Meryl? Et tu?

      White folks in Hollywood apparently know much better than I do about what hurts me and my family and my people.

      Folks can justify til the cows come home. No more Meryl Steep or Soderbergh movies for me until there is an apology. There won’t be one without bias, so no more of these idiots. Attending an Ivy doesn’t make you smart, as the college entrance scandal has taught us.

      Coppola is rereleasing The Cotton Club. The investors in the 1980s fought to significantly reduce the scenes with Black people. It was a beautiful looking but weak film. Now we know why: the White investors thought that there were too many black people and too much dancing. It’s upset Coppola’ for all these years, so he recut the film and added the Black folks back so that the movie is about the lives of the people who made the Cotton Club an institution.

      I’m so tired, and so angry, and so sick of having to say this shit over and over…

      • Kitten says:

        Holy sh*t I did not know that about The Cotton Club. Wow. Great on Coppola though.

        I cannot imagine your level of exhaustion. I try to do my part to speak up in predominantly white spaces because I know how tired POC are, having to do all the labor all the damn time.
        We need to do so much better for y’all. Sigh.

      • Ann says:

        Check out Jennifer Aniston’s latest photos. They are offensive too IMO, but she probably won’t get called on it.

      • Ally says:

        For a second, I thought you were saying that Sofia Coppola was remaking The Cotton Club, which would have meant adding in even more white characters and making them all blonde.

  2. Fiona says:

    They’re giving Meryl an award at TIFF this year, kind of like a lifetime achievement award so people are probably trying to ignore the problematic portions of this film so that TIFF doesn’t look silly

    • Carol says:

      Well good because she deserves it. She is one of the best actors these days, men or women. But I have to say, including Streep as a second character in the Laundromat, a Latin one wearing prosthetics, is such a weird decision on Soderbergh’s part. Putting aside the fact that that role could have been played by any fine Latin actress, from a filmmaking perspective, I could only assume it would take viewers out of the movie and into “is that Streep?” mode. Weird choice.

      • Nic919 says:

        I saw it at TIFF and basically the character seemed familiar but you didn’t know it was Streep for sure until right at the end. It’s unfortunate because the main character she plays is quite good and this really detracts from it.

  3. Valerie says:

    Uh… Fuck that. Meryl, however overrated she is, should really know better.

    • Char says:

      She can now pair up with Scarlet Johansson and play trees.

      • Valerie says:

        LOL perfect. I just saw Marriage Story a few days ago, and I was underwhelmed as usual by her performance. I guess she was *good* but not the best in the cast by any means. Adam Driver was awesome.

  4. Cee says:

    Well, this is disappointing and depressing. Would have never expected this misstep from her.

    • Lilah casting says:

      She did say we are all Africans once in an interview Wich sounded dismissive, I don’t remember Wich interview it was for i guess they were asking her about equality .

  5. Case says:

    This is an unpopular opinion, but I don’t find Streep to be all that great. I mean, she IS great in her roles, but never loses herself in it. I can see Meryl Streep in every role she plays.

  6. Goldie says:

    This is disappointing, but actually not that surprising to me. Meryl’s been making a lot of ignorant comments over the past few years.

  7. ME says:

    Do non POC never learn?

  8. Buttsie says:

    Cotton Club is one of my all time faves. Meryl Streep gave a standing ovation to Roman Polanski, over and out for me after that.

  9. Grant says:


  10. Jadedone says:

    Ugh I’m mad that they did this for many reasons. 1. The obvious reason, cast a Latin woman in the role and dont cosplay. 2. The Panama (and paradise) papers are a huge deal and these culprits have 100% gotten away with tax evasion while the rest of middle class suckers pay up. I’m mad that the take away will be about Streeps cosplay (it deserve sto be pointed out) and not forcing governments to go after these crooks.

  11. not so gullible says:

    Meryl ‘Weinstein never molested me, I had no idea he was a creep’ Streep. This is no surprise – something happens to great thespians after 60 – they start to over act and become caricatures of themselves. She was god awful in Pretty Little Lies, she needs to go away.

  12. VintageS says:

    I was done with Meryl when she applauded Roman Polanski.

  13. kerwood says:

    Meryl Streep is a brilliant actor, probably one of the best of her generation. But nobody ever said she was the smartest person on earth.

    I know that Meryl is going to catch hell for this, but this is ALL Soderbergh, a man who received critical acclaim for ‘Sex Lies and Videotape’ back in the day simply because he WASN’T Spike Lee. That was the year that Spike released ‘Do The Right Thing’ a CLEARLY superior film, but nobody wanted to give him his props so everyone carried on about SL&V as if it were ‘Citizen Kane’. Which film are people STILL talking about?

    Anyway, nothing happens on a film without the director’s approval. This is Soderbergh call and HE should be the one that’s dragged for it. But, as usual, it’s going to be the actor who gets the blame.

    • Original Jenns says:

      Um, we can drag both. I’m pretty sure if Meryl Streep says she’s not going to be a part of his racist schtick, the powers that be will side with her. And if they didn’t, I’m pretty sure the public would fall at her feet if she said that’s why she bowed out of the film. That’s her privilege to use and she declined to use it because she didn’t care about cartooning a Latina.

      • Valerie says:

        Yep. I drag everyone involved in the decision. Meryl isn’t some green little actor without influence. She could’ve spoken up; she could’ve refused.

      • kerwood says:

        Union rules state that an actor is required to do what the director tells them. There’s a complaint process an actor can go through and there are exceptions made for things like nudity and sexuality, but a director is pretty much God on set.

        I have no doubt that Meryl probably never gave the implications of darkening her skin a second thought. White actors have been doing it FOREVER. And considering the way most films are made there probably weren’t many people of colour either in the cast or working behind the scenes. So there probably wasn’t anybody to point out how fucked up this was.

        This is why Black people make such a point of issues like ‘Oscars So White’. Other actors of colour (not all) kept quiet because they thought it was a ‘Black thing’. But it’s clear that if it can happen to Black people, it can happen to ANYBODY. Actors of other races need to join with Black actors in their struggle, instead of sitting back and hoping to reap the benefits.

  14. Mia4s says:

    I have a feeling that Meryl comes from the Scarlett School of “I should be able to play any tree”. Yuck.

    Whatever, keep damaging that legacy Meryl, keep on keeping on. 🙄

  15. Stacy Dresden says:


  16. lis says:

    love love love Meryl, but, they couldn’t find an actual Latina actress for this role?

  17. Jamie says:

    Well, this is really disappointing and gross.
    But reading her character described as “Agador Spartacus’s mom” took me out.

  18. Annie says:

    When are they going to learn that that stuff is not just tacky and disrespectful, it’s very unimaginative and lazy too. What’s the point? Every movie ruins itself the minute you have a white person playing an ethnic caricature.

    And yes. Only racists find that stuff funny.

  19. Chaine says:

    I feel like this is what happens when you have no POC included in your creative team.

    • Original T.C. says:

      That was my first, second and last thought. I bet there were no POC’s on the creative team to point out this mess. Some White people really do believe the world belongs to them and they can screw everyone else over. It just takes a second to time about the feelings of people outside of your group.

    • kerwood says:

      Precisely. It’s unfortunate, but it seems that unless there are people of colour there to say, ‘that’s racist’, racism is okay.

  20. phlyfiremama says:

    Oh good grief. WTAF. I am so ready for that bloviated windbag to stop running her mouth off, and for the world to wake up that MARGINALIZING POC is an archaic paradigm that is in the death throes of society going forward. This is just so fundamentally disgusting, but typical for Hollyweird: just keep recycling the same tired tropes with the same tired faces and that’s it. Lather, rinse, repeat.

  21. ans says:

    Might have worked in Angels in America … but probably not here. Yeesh.

  22. rosamund12 says:

    Does anyone know why she was cast in a second role in the same film? That’s unusual, and there must be some sort of dramatic reason for this. Has anyone here seen the film?

    • Nic919 says:

      Basically her fictional Latina character represents the John Doe who actually leaked the Panama papers. Since the main character she plays in the movie got screwed over by the fake insurance company, there is some motivation for her to get evidence to take down the law firm behind the corruption. That said it was not necessary for Meryl to be this Latina character. It could have been anyone to play this John Doe whistleblower and I don’t think it would have really affected the story overall.

  23. DaisySharp says:

    I honestly had to read this twice. Holy hell. Though, I do find her to be quite the fool, this is really something. I mean, this is Scarjo territory and she is sporting about an 78 IQ.

  24. GR says:

    Dammit Meryl – wtf is wrong with you?!

  25. Vanessa says:

    I’m still pissed at Meryl about her comments re feminism. This just adds to my rage.

  26. Molly says:

    Why not get a Latina to play a Latina…..

  27. Marianne says:

    I havent seen the film so I have no clue about the accent….but I cant tell that she has any prosthetics on or that her skin has been darkened.