Such was the crowning achievement of a wonderfully successful career cocooned amid the entertainment Left. There was the short marriage to Watergate-famous Carl Bernstein and the early movie "Silkwood" (1983), directed by Mike Nichols and starring Meryl Streep battling an Evil Corporation. Ephron's divorce from Bernstein was novelized in the best-selling "Heartburn" (1983), which in 1986 became another Streep and Nichols collaboration that also starred Jack Nicholson. Even after Ephron's segue into comedy, the odd political barb poked through. In "Julie & Julia" (2009), Ephron's final movie with Streep as Julia Child, Julia's discordant character of a father is a rich, Republican McCarthyite. The character of Julie, meanwhile, is admonished by her Democrat boss that a Republican would have fired her.
Such is the lingo of the entertainment Left, for whom invoking McCarthyism, mean-spirited Republicans and other stock villains is like breathing. "I forget how white they are, and mean-spirited, and thin-lipped," Ephron wrote of Republicans in 2008 at Huffington Post. In a 2010 list of things she would not miss (dry skin, bad dinners), Ephron included: "polls showing that 32 percent of Americans believe in creationism" and Clarence Thomas.
Clarence Thomas? In 1996, Ephron warned Wellesley graduates: "Understand: Every attack on Hillary Clinton for not knowing her place is an attack on you. Underneath almost all those attacks are the words: Get back, get back to where you (women) once belonged ... Any move to limit abortion rights is an attack on you -- whether or not you believe in abortion. The fact that Clarence Thomas is sitting on the Supreme Court today is an attack on you."
The world that crowned Ephron with laurels was a dark, dark place -- if only these college-educated young women could see it: "What I'm saying is, don't delude yourself that the powerful cultural values that wrecked the lives of so many of my classmates have vanished from the earth. Don't let the New York Times article about the brilliant success of Wellesley graduates in the business world fool you -- there's still a glass ceiling. Don't let the number of women in the workforce trick you -- there are still lots of magazines devoted almost exclusively to making perfect casseroles."
Aha! In Ephron World, there was no place for the nonfeminist female. Rom-coms were fine, so long as the female lead was sufficently "liberated" from Republicans, Clarence Thomas and abortion hang-ups. In fact, maybe such re-education was what was really behind Meg Ryan's big moment in the deli, in front of all those people.
And America laughed.