The morning after Sunday night’s Golden Globes Awards, the Plugged In team was talking about two subjects—the powerful wind that was at that time gusting to nearly 100 mph in Colorado Springs and the aforementioned award ceremony. Regarding the latter, I told the team that I planned to write about actress Meryl Streep’s anti-Trump speech, the one that single-handedly upstaged the star-studded event, never mind that her diatribe had nothing to do with movies, actor’s and actress’s performances, or the arts in general. What bothered me was how Streep vilified President-Elect Donald Trump without applying the same standard of judgment to herself and her own industry.
I got approving nods from my teammates, only to find out with a bit of research that the column I had envisioned had already been written. Former CNN host, Piers Morgan, penning a column for The Daily Mail had beaten me to the punch.
And although I think Morgan nails it (despite not being known as particularly Plugged In-esque), I’m going to keep writing, assuming that many, if not most, of you this side of the pond haven’t read his piece.
If you missed it, here’s what Meryl Streep had this to say about Trump (sans his name):
But there was one performance this year that stunned me and sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective, and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter—someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back.
It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head, because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct, to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose. … We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call him on the carpet for every outrage.
Setting aside for a moment whether or not the Golden Globes was the right context to launch a politically-based rant against a President-Elect, I’d like to think for a minute about what Streep has perceptively observed here about how influence works in our culture, specifically how what she’s said also applies equally to the entertainment realm.
First, she stated that Trump imitated a disabled reporter. Morgan points out that Trump has made the same gestures when talking about fully-able bodied people (See here and decide for yourself.) So, perhaps, it’s not as clear cut as the actress thinks. Either way, however, Streep does have a point when she says that the president must treat all people with respect and dignity, and that someone (the press in this case) should hold his feet to the fire when he doesn’t. I agree with both of these things.
But where Streep missed it by a country mile is when she somehow failed to see how hypocritical she, by virtue of being a powerful person in the entertainment industry, actually is too. Yes, all presidents of the United States will be hugely influential! Yes, people are listening and watching. Yes, disrespect invites disrespect. But the very same thing holds true for Hollywood.
If Trump was mocking a man’s disability then I agree it was disgraceful. Let’s move to what Streep said next: ‘Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.’
At this point, I laughed out loud with incredulity. Not at the words themselves, which are laudable. No, it was at the hypocrisy.
You’d be hard-pushed to find an industry that encourages more disrespect and violence than Hollywood.
A place where rich powerful people make billions of dollars by regularly pandering to the lowest common denominators of sexism, racism, homophobia and misogyny. And happily exploit ever more hideous, graphic violence to make a fast, easy buck.
And seethe from every tinsel-encrusted pore with the very kind of nasty, power-based bullying that Meryl Streep claims to be so incensed by in Trump.
So great though her censorious words indisputably are, they would be perhaps better directed at her own back yard.
Regarding her own backyard, to cite one example of how this plays out in real life, I’d point out a glamorized pot-smoking scene in It’s Complicated, a film she starred in a few years back. I’ll excerpt from our review:
Both Jane (Streep) and Adam (Steve Martin) inhale long drags from the joint, getting goofily stoned. They both comment on how much more potent pot is since they last smoked it decades ago.
When I saw that film, I remember thinking to myself, I wonder how many people will start smoking marijuana because both Streep and Martin make it look so cool here?
Meryl, you’re a talented actress. And you’re spot on when you say that the rich and powerful have to be even more careful to treat people with dignity and honor. That said, you might also want to consider the log in your own eye before being so quick to try to remove it from someone else’s.