Meryl Streep's viral Golden Globes speech loses its sheen with its blinkered view

Pradeep Menon

Jan 11, 2017 12:22:11 IST

Meryl Streep’s stirring, emotional speech at the Golden Globes may have been the best thing to find its way onto ‘soc-med’ this week, but there’s a precise point in there when, if you pause to think about it, her whole message begins to unravel.

It’s when she says, “Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. If you kick them all out, you'll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.” Mull over it, and you’ll see where the problem lies.

Meryl Streeps viral Golden Globes speech loses its sheen with its blinkered view

Meryl Streep. AFP image.

It’s not even worth getting into the ‘who gets to decide what is art’ debate. But when you consider that NFL (she presumably meant American football) still draws the highest per game attendance for spectator sports, while MMA’s rising global popularity is unquestionable, you realise that this is precisely why the Left-liberal narrative comes across as biased, elitist and agenda-driven – because it simply doesn’t consider the will of the people at large, while presuming to know what’s best for them anyway.

While clearly segregating Hollywood from an assumed lowest common denominator that watches MMA, she perhaps forgot that entertainment combat sport has consistently been a feeder for Hollywood. She may not have considered, for instance, that Batroc in Captain America: The Winter Soldier was played by Georges St-Pierre, an MMA superstar; or that some day, MMA might give Hollywood it’s next Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. (Not to forget that MMA displays a racial diversity that Hollywood should consider trying to emulate.)

The legend that she is, Meryl Streep’s message was piercing and heartfelt; but when she tells Donald Trump that if someone on a public platform says or does something, it filters down and gives everyone permission to say or do the same thing, she forgets to do the same. As an incredible artiste and public personality herself, her message has to be worded so that its intended target audience assimilates it.

Streep's speech made every Left-liberal across the world go mushy with joy, but what good does that do? Is it helping change the message and the narrative to include those on the opposite side of the ideological fence? Not so much.

Hollywood enjoys privileges that few others do. No matter what happens, no one’s going to kick Sarah-Jessica Parker, Amy Adams, Ryan Gosling or even Dev Patel out of the country. Yes, celebrities in the US enjoy more freedom of speech than those in India, which is what gives Streep the privilege to speak out the way we can only dream one of our own could. But if that message comes across as inconsiderate towards those who don’t enjoy Hollywood’s privileges, then it is counter-productive.

It's easy to vilify Donald Trump, and left to his own devices, the man might just self-implode and save America and the world from himself anyway. But he's is also the democratically-elected leader of America (and the Free World, they’d like to believe). He travelled to the *whitest* parts of his country, spoke to their hearts and won them over.

To make a real difference, the liberal front will have to win those people back without presuming that they *know* what’s best.

Meryl Streep had famously said in 2015 that she isn’t a feminist, but a ‘humanist’. So loved is she globally, that ‘humanist’ became a catchword for everyone, including Chetan Bhagat. Yet, her comment also was self-defeating, because she clearly didn’t understand the full weight of the feminist movement before she said that. Hence, she ended up normalising the hatred for the word ‘feminism’.

It is this duality in her public statements, that reminds us of what the Alt-right accuses the left liberals of – hypocrisy. It isn’t really hypocrisy, because there’s a difference between normalising Donald Trump’s personality and normalising anything else, but that’s what it will look like, and that’s what a Trump supporter is going to take away from it.

Yes, it’s time that people on a public platform speak out. But Meryl Streep’s speech reminds us that what you say and how you say it are extremely important, over and above the larger message that you’re trying to give out.

Otherwise, a public personality will only end up doing more harm than good. It was only the way Meryl Streep ended her speech that gives us a hint of what the world needs more of. As she choked up and quoted Carrie Fisher - ‘take your broken heart, make it into art’ - she truly showed us some hope.

Updated Date: Jan 11, 2017 12:32:46 IST