Should Hollywood stay out of Politics?
On Jan. 8, Meryl Streep spoke out against President-elect Donald Trump and his rhetoric in a speech she gave at the Golden Globes Awards. Among the things she had to say about Trump, Streep emphasized an incident from his presidential campaign where he appeared to mock the disability of a New York Times reporter, Serge Kovaleski. Though Trump has denied this allegation, his overall behavior offered Streep enough material to criticize. Cameras panning the audience depicted most actors at the ceremony answering Streep’s speech with enthusiastic applause, commending her for speaking her mind with Trump’s inauguration less than two weeks away.
Streep’s speech, however, also drew criticism from Trump dissenters, who believed her comments were only widening the rift between those who support Trump and those who oppose him. Besides the President-elect, Streep also spoke disdainfully about football and mixed martial arts, topics that do not relate directly to Trump but rather the demographic that Streep assumes represents Trump’s supporters. Insulting a large body of America’s citizens was not a smooth move for the venerated actor, and perhaps demonstrates that Streep is out of touch with a large portion of the country. Many wish she had not used the Golden Globes and her prominent position in the film industry as a platform to voice her critiques of Trump. Meghan McCain, daughter to Senator John McCain, tweeted later in the evening, “This Meryl Streep speech is why Trump won,” because it alienates conservative voters from the liberal Hollywood community. Trump’s presidential victory was an awakening for many that “liberal movie people” do not represent everyone.
Not only did people scrutinize Streep’s words for their efficacy; they also questioned whether she ought to be commenting on political matters at all. Streep does not personally know Trump, nor is political expertise on her resume. Nevertheless, Streep remains worried about Trump’s predilection for “bullying behavior”: “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. And when the powerful use their position to bully others we all lose.”
Streep’s perception of reality may need adjustment, but if that is true, then so does Trump’s. He took to Twitter on Jan. 9 to criticize Streep, calling her “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood.” Streep currently holds the record for Academy Award nominations—19, which is seven more than her closest competitors—so if the President-elect can call Streep’s fame into question on social media, then she should be allowed to voice political concerns, especially considering Trump’s remarkably low approval rating, which averages at 40 percent, according to some polls.
Before Streep closed her speech, she mentioned the importance of the press. “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.”
I believe much of our nation’s strength comes from this right to speak freely on behavior that we see as unacceptable, which is why anyone should be able to speak up—whether that be politician, press or performer.