It doesn't matter which side of the fence you're on.
Celebrities using award shows and other public appearances as political platforms is certainly nothing new. So when Meryl Streep gave her acceptance speech upon receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 2017 Golden Globes, it was a pretty much a given that she would use at least a portion of her allotted time on live television to address the current political issues of the day: namely Donald Trump's upcoming presidential inauguration.
I respect Streep's choice to express her political opinions and I recognize the authenticity of the concerns about which she intended to give voice.
What troubles me — as someone with liberal values, a liberal mindset, and a wish/hope to see equal treatment of human beings of all races, religions, sexual orientations, genders, creeds, nationalities, abilities and disabilities, etc. — is the lazy reliance on black and white thinking she displayed, as well as the hypocrisy such all-or-nothing thinking relies upon in order to sustain its blindly adhered to messages.
Unlike an award for Best Actress, the Cecil B. DeMille Award is not given as a surprise.
Ms. Streep had ample time to prepare the speech she knew for a fact she would give. Within that time she could have had her words fact-checked, edited and/or modified as necessary. She even began by acknowledging the fact that she would be reading her speech. All of that is fine.
Except that her speech was laden with hypocrisy, biased examples, sensational innuendos and faulty reasoning — all of which were entirely unnecessary in order to make the points she seemed to want to make.
But she did get people's attention, right?
I have watched her speech carefully several times now and have read the full transcript. I even watched it while reading the transcript once to be sure I wasn't missing anything.
Here are seven statements I find deeply concerning in light of what they reveal about the current tensions within U.S. society.
1. "All of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments of American society right now. Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners and the press."
Hollywood, foreigners and the press. These are the most vilified segments of American society right now? Really?
How about black men? And black women?
How about the LGBTQ community? (They do get jobs outside of entertainment. Just FYI.)
How about the mentally disabled and the homeless?
I'm sure there are more classifications to pull out of the vilification hat ahead of Hollywood and the press, if not foreigners, so please save the victim status. We ALL deserve empathy and protection based on the fact that we are fellow human beings. No need to vie for the title of most hated in order for that to be said.
2. "Amy Adams was born in Vicenza, Veneto, Italy, and Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem. Where are their birth certificates?"
Last I heard, none of the actors Streep mentioned are currently running for an elected office, so the implied reference to the controversy surrounding President Obama's birth certificate — no matter how ludicrous or prejudiced it may possibly have been — is completely gratuitous and off-base.
I assume each of these actors' past, present and future employers have made sure to obtain whatever proof of citizenship or work visa their well-paid and highly trained legal departments required. Whether or not that assumption is true does not affect the American public, as we do not employ these actors the way we employ our elected officials.
Apples, please meet Oranges. You should get to know each other.
3. "Amy Adams was born in Vicenza, Veneto, Italy, and Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem."
Yes, I am aware this is a partial repeat of quote number two, and that is specifically because this sentence was so concerning to me, especially in light of quote number one.
In listing off multiple actors by their state or nation of origin, Streep repeatedly mentioned not only the region where each of her foreign-born colleagues is from but the country as well.
- Amy Adams, Vincenza, Veneto, Italy
- Ruth Negga, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
- Ryan Gosling, Canada
- Dev Patel, Kenya
Natalie Portman, Jerusalem?
Last I checked, Jerusalem was not its own sovereign nation. It is a city within the State of Israel. The future of that status may be hotly debated, but at least for today, it is part of Israel proper. And Streep seems to have conveniently forgotten that.
Kind of like how this past week most major media outlets sort of forgot to mention that four people were killed and 17 more wounded in Jerusalem when someone driving a massive truck plowed through a crowd of pedestrians on a popular outdoor promenade and tourist spot.
Have any of you seen an option to make a temporary Facebook profile picture supporting Jerusalem? Because my app seems not to be eligible for that particular update.
So anyhow, yes, let's make sure we stand up for foreigners and sing the praises of the diversity among our fellow actors' nations of origin ... as long as we don't overtly point out the Jews in the room.
4. "Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners, and if we kick them all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts."
Wow. This statement was entirely unnecessary, fundamentally incorrect and strikingly judgmental.
"I'm a lifelong fan of your work but also a lifelong martial artist who happens to promote mixed martial arts around the world.
The global sport of mixed martial arts celebrates male and female athletes from all around the world who work years tirelessly honing their craft and yes — art. They come from every country and every walk of life. We at Bellator support them and honor their skill.
Please be my guest at the LA Forum on January 21st and you will see that Mixed Martial Arts is truly artistic — which will feature fighters from all over the world competing at a world class level."
Lest anyone somehow say that world-class fighters competing is hardly artistic, let's take a moment to remember that Streep's remarks were made at an awards show in which entertainment professionals from all over the world were competing at a world-class level to see who will be deemed the best in their representative categories.
So, basically, samesies.
5. "They gave me three seconds to say this, so. An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us and let you feel what that feels like."
I am intentionally keeping Streep's statement about her "three seconds" here because to me this is yet another prime example of the way people of her stature use hyperbole and victim status as a means to gain sympathy and attention as mentioned in number one. Of course, I do recognize she didn't mean a literal three seconds, but the "poor me" message is the same as if she did.
More importantly, her definition of an actor's job strikes me as terribly bizarre and self-serving for a woman known for her vast portfolio of roles with accents. Ask just about anyone what it is that makes Meryl Streep such a great actress and you will be hard pressed to get a single response that doesn't laud her impressive ability to shape-shift her speech.
However, not all actors would define their role as she does, and to call entering "the lives of people who are different from us" so others can empathize the ONLY job of an actor is just ludicrous.
In 2016 Carrie Fisher, who Streep closed her speech by quoting, said, "I'm not really one of those actresses like Meryl Streep. Those actresses travel outside themselves and play characters. And I'm more of an archaeologist. I play what I am. I dig what I can. It's a character that's not too far from myself, except I don't have any laser guns."
Actors have lots of different jobs, and they don't have to define whether or not they did them correctly according to Meryl Streep's standards.
6. "Disrespect invites disrespect."
Which is why I have been troubled and saddened to no end by the endless stream of articles and posts on social media ripping apart anyone and everyone who even looks like they may possibly have voted for Donald Trump since November 2016. White women have been disparaged at an astonishing rate, simply for the accident of birth that they are white women.
There currently appears to be no room for middle ground in discussions held on either side of the fence. You must agree with all tenets and assertions of your party in full or you are obviously one of "them." The other.
There can be no coming together if BOTH sides merely attempt to bully each other into full surrender on each and every issue.
7. "We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call them on the carpet for every outrage. That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in our Constitution."
Yes, and here Streep offered yet another example of why all of the above MUST be called out as the hindrance toward open communication it is.
A "principled press" does not and should not mean a press corps that agrees with everything the left ever says and does. It means, among other things, a press corps that is willing and able to report the truth fairly and accurately.
Fair is as subjective a term as they come, but accuracy can most often be accounted for.
So let's do humanity a much-needed favor and hold everyone — including ourselves — accountable for accuracy and respect, even (and perhaps especially) when addressing the most painful issues against our most difficult opponents in times as fraught with conflict as these.
Watch Meryl Streep's full acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 2017 Golden Globe Awards below.