“I hate when celebrities get political,” he mused, 11 days away from the former host of “The Apprentice” being sworn in as president.
BuzzFeed has a transcript if you’re not up for watching the video. Apart from the usual complaint that most of the TV audience doesn’t want a political lecture during the escapism of yet another celebrity prom, Streep’s shots at football and MMA are gratuitous. An industry that focuses mainly on superhero movies now should maybe go easy on finger-wagging about highbrow and lowbrow art.
Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. If you kick ‘em all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.
They gave me three seconds to say this. 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. And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that — breathtaking, passionate work. There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart — not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. 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 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.
Focusing on Trump’s disputed mocking of the WaPo reporter is a weird move when there are so many objectionable things he’s said that aren’t disputed, starting with the “Access Hollywood” tape, but everyone has their own personal least favorite Trump-ism. (Here’s mine.) Nearly everyone present loved her speech, naturally. But not quite everyone:
— Jillian Sederholm (@JillianSed) January 9, 2017
The Times, knowing that Trump wouldn’t be able to resist being baited, dialed him up for a late-night interview to see if he had a reaction to Streep. He did, of course. He told them he never mocked the reporter for his disability and reminded them that Streep is a Hillary hack who spoke at the Democratic convention. And then he did what he usually does when he’s agitated:
Streep isn’t overrated, but ad hominem insults have been a staple of a life that saw Trump become a billionaire and then president of the United States. He’s sticking with what works.
Ben Shapiro asks a question that was on my mind last night watching irritated conservatives react on Twitter in real time to Streep’s attack: “Why do Republicans and conservatives care? Why do they still get upset when Hollywood leftists act like Hollywood leftists?” His answer is that Hollywood still represents us, at least in the sense that entertainment is part of the common culture, and therefore it’s annoying to see your “representatives” skew so reliably to one side. There’s some truth to that, although I’d compare it more to bad customer service. No one likes being called a dirtbag by someone with whom they do business. You fork over 15 bucks every few weeks to see the latest superhero slop, which goes to make these people spectacularly famous and rich, and so you expect them not to mock your basic beliefs to your face when they’re throwing one of their self-congratulatory parties on TV. You wouldn’t want to be lectured by your bank teller, you don’t want to be lectured by Streep.
But even that’s not a fully satisfying answer. Really, we shouldn’t get so annoyed when elite liberals act like elite liberals, as their influence has never been smaller. The same goes for the media bashing Trump. Never before during a campaign was the American press as overtly opposed to a presidential candidate as they were with Trump, and they lost. Their criticism may have done more to bind his supporters to him than it did to peel off undecideds. Streep’s speech is paint-by-numbers liberal potshotting of the sort we encounter online every day, yet the grumbling went on all night and will doubtless continue throughout the day on Fox News and talk radio. Partly that’s just business — outrage is the lifeblood of partisan entertainment — but even so, the uproar at the affront seems disproportionate. There’s some truth to this:
But maybe the business element explains more of this than we know. Let’s face it — part of the reason right-leaning viewers watch awards shows is to see who, if anyone, will go the Streep route in attacking the Republican hero du jour. That suspense will be a ritual for the next four years, starting with the Oscars next month, which will take place just 37 days after Trump’s inauguration. It could end up being a festival of Trump-bashing, which both sides will groove on for their own reasons. As with so much else in politics now, left and right are in yin-yang symbiosis over what annoys them.
Here’s Streep followed by Kellyanne Conway wondering why, if Streep cares so much about cruelty to the disabled, she didn’t say something about the Facebook Live torture last night. “Because Trump’s outlook and policies will have more of an effect on the country than one crime,” I assume Streep would say, but Conway knows how to troll effectively.