Overrated or not, Streep’s speech has galvanising effect

Monday, January 09, 2017

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NEW YORK (AP) — Speaking in a hoarse voice that quivered with emotion, Meryl Streep silenced a boisterous Golden Globes crowd and sparked a clamour heard around the country, all the way to Trump Tower.


Streep’s impassioned speech against Donald Trump while accepting the Cecil B DeMille lifetime achievement award at Sunday’s awards has been heard like a battle cry in a left-leaning Hollywood that has been trying to reconcile itself to a Trump presidency it overwhelmingly didn’t vote for. Her speech has also further intensified the divide between Hollywood and Trump supporters, who call Streep another example of media elite on a soapbox.


Though Trump is yet to take office, the arts and the president-elect are increasingly on a collision course. Trump has criticised the cast of
Hamilton, which voiced its concerns about inclusion to Vice President-elect Mike Pence when he went to see the show on Broadway. Seeing political parallels in its story of underdog rebellion, some Trump supporters called for a boycott of the Star Wars film Rogue One. And now, following Streep’s remarks, he on Monday called the most decorated actress in Hollywood "overrated".


How the growing discord will affect the tenor in the arts for the next four years remains to be seen. But what was clear yesterday in the wake of Streep’s galvanising speech is that the clash is just getting started. In a night where the song-and-dance ode to musical
La La Land set a Globes record with seven wins, including best picture, musical or comedy, Streep’s speech had the largest impact.


"There has never been anyone like Meryl," applauded Ellen DeGeneres on Twitter. "I’ve never admired you more!" tweeted Sally Field. "Nearly without voice, her voice has never been so strong," lauded Sharon Stone. "Thank you, Meryl," wrote director Darren Aronfsky.


George Clooney at a screening yesterday in London defended Streep’s right to speak her mind: "It’s her right, and I support her right forever - as much as it’s everyone else’s right to say she can’t say it."


Political speeches at an award show — a little-loved, often ridiculed tradition — have seldom reverberated so strongly. Streep largely argued for empathy, inclusivity and the arts. And she claimed Hollywood wasn’t a bastion of elites, but "a bunch of people from other places". Streep didn’t use Trump’s name, but spoke directly about him.


"It kind of broke my heart when I saw it," Streep said of Trump’s mocking of a disabled reporter during the campaign. "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 modelled 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."


Early yesterday morning came Trump’s tweets. He called Streep, a longtime and outspoken Democrat who stumped for Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention and famously imitated Trump at a Clinton fund-raiser, "a Hillary flunky who lost big". He called the allegation that he mocked a disabled reporter "more very dishonest media".


The tweets provoked their own response. Soon, lists of other things that Trump finds "overrated" were trending. Author Stephen King called his comments about Streep "childish, churlish, petulant ... exactly why most Americans fear his presidency."

 

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