I am a massive fan of Meryl Streep. By which I mean, I could watch ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ on a loop, just to hear her glossy, meticulously articulated words of utter devastation. She is, simply, the greatest and there is no denying that.
But what fuelled me to write this article, are her comments in her speech at the Golden Globes, after receiving a lifetime achievement award. On the surface, a speech about empowerment, the need for the arts, and the importance of freedom of speech, is courageous and definitely frequently needed. Whatever your political allegiance, there is no denying that these concepts and ideals are integral to a sensible society. Yet, a lot of Streep’s speech also stunk of what, for the point of this article, I am going to call ‘Hollywood’s Demoralising Problem’.
Clinton lost the election for many reasons, good and bad, but one that is key to me, is that Americans from the middle of the country were over the condescending and at times patronising, demoralising nature of politicians. Their self superiority became too much for many and this spurred some voters away from the polling booths or towards the candidate that consistently opposed such perspectives. You may think Trump is selfish or arrogant, but to many, he connected and was relatable. He was the underdog up against the establishment and seeing such a challenge was fulfilling for many. I don’t support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton even though I was once one of her biggest supporters. When she first announced that she would run for President, I was in Indonesia and was so elated with the news, I went and purchased her book. But reading it, I felt the sense that this woman just had a higher view of herself than she did of everyone else. I didn’t finish the book because I felt as if I was being talked down to and made to feel less relevant to the political rumblings of the world. I was made to feel insignificant, as if her challenges were more important than mine, whatever the scale. Clinton’s achievements are immeasurable, but as I read that book, I began to lose faith in her as a people’s representative, because it felt as if she only represented those who shared her own views.
I’m not from America, but I expect that is the way many began to feel about Clinton throughout the election, and how she lost. It is this condescending nature that continues to thrive in Hollywood, which often uses its power to declare itself for causes and for opinions. That’s absolutely fine, and I have no problem in actors, actresses, directors etc providing their thoughts and preferences. But they have to remember that they entertain and inform people from many different walks of lives. Streep stated in her speech that without film and TV, there would only be football and MMA. It is such a statement that really threw me, as while I agree neither are seen as generally the definition of art, both mean a lot to people and like art take practise to perfect. Think of all the young children who dream of being football stars, or to copy the fighting styles of many in films. Our dreams stem from our individual values, passion and love, and to tell people that football and MMA are below Film and TV, as Streep’s speech implied is simply wrong. It makes many think that their aspirations do not represent what is correct and right, but can be stomped upon and made to seem undesirable to those living the good life.
Hollywood stars need to be activists as their platforms give them voice and sway. But they also need to recognise the vast array of opinion out there in the world. Champion a cause, rally behind a leader or voice your views, but don’t do it in a way that pushes others down or highlights your own sense of importance. Your work is meant to symbolise our worlds, our themes, our ideas, and cinema is at a point right now where it is overflowing with incredible thoughts, so why can’t the actors reflect this in their speeches.
Maybe Streep never intended to be condescending and belittling, but she must realise that in a world of constant social connection and incredibly powerful think-tanks online and within other forms of conversation, her words are going to reach further and further. Don’t judge how people live their lives and what is superior. Include everyone and realise that as public role models, your audience is not limited to those with the same passions as you.
Would love to hear feedback and your own views and rebuttals. I have a lot more to say on this issue and other elements of her speech, but I want to have a discussion rather than simply saying my thoughts. So if anyone wants a conversation about it find me on Twitter @Dreamofopinions, or comment below 🙂