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2017 Golden Globes: Meryl Streep vs. Trumpland

Although vocal problems prevented Meryl Streep from speaking directly to the press backstage after accepting her Cecil B. DeMille Award, her on-stage speech has already provoked reaction from Donald Trump and his supporters.

As predicted, Streep addressed the growing xenophobic, anti-Hollywood and anti-California rhetoric, first alluding to Hugh Laurie’s acceptance speech for his Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or TV film win. Laurie had mocked the press, commenting, “Thank you, first of all, to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for this amazing honor, I suppose made more amazing by the fact that I’ll be able to say I won this at the last‑ever Golden Globes. I don’t mean to be gloomy. It’s just that it has the words ‘Hollywood,’ ‘foreign,’ and ‘press’ in the title. I just assume I won. I also think that, to some Republicans, even the word ‘association’ is slightly sketchy. But thank you to them. Thank you also to the many, many people who gave me this wonderful, extraordinary, once‑in‑a‑lifetime opportunity. So I accept this award on behalf of psychopathic billionaires everywhere.” 

Streep noted, “You and all of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners, and the press.”

Streep then asked, “But who are we? And what is Hollywood anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places. I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey. Viola was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina, came up in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Sarah Paulson was born in Florida, raised by a single mom in Brooklyn. Sarah Jessica Parker was one of seven or eight kids from Ohio. Amy Adams was born in Vicenza, Venento, Italy. And Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem. Where are their birth certificates? And the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,” She noted that Gosling is Canadian, Dev Patel was born in Kenya but raised in London. “So 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.”

Although she didn’t mention president-elect Donald Trump directly, she compared his public performance with the actors in the room, saying, ”there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that, breathtaking, compassionate work, but there was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hook in my heart not because it was good. It was, 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, and I saw it, and 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.”

Streep seemed to be referencing Trump’s alleged mocking of Serge Kovaleski. Trump had referenced Kovaleski’s September 18, 2001 Washington Post article after being criticized for his statement on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” that large Arab populations in New Jersey were “cheering as the World Trade Center came down.” Kovaleski’s article only states that “law enforcement authorities detained and questioned a number of people who were allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops while they watched the devastation on the other side of the river.”

Trump had claimed, “I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering.”

The Washington Post fact-checked the report, quoting both authors who assert these celebrations were never confirmed or substantiated. Snopes has tackled this issue and Fox News have also covered this issue.

Trump responded to Streep in three successive tweets, “Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn't know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a Hillary flunky who lost big. For the 100th time, I never "mocked" a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him "groveling" when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!”

Monday morning (January 9, 2017) Kellyanne Conway also defended Trump stating that Streep “is inciting people’s worst instinct” and oddly compared the president-elect to four Chicago teenagers who were arrested for torturing a special needs  victim on Facebook Live. Conway tweeted, “I didn't hear #MerylStreep use her platform to give a shoutout to the mentally challenged boy who was tortured live on FB.”

Streep actually stated, “Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose." After reminding the press of its duties, she added, “That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedom in our Constitution. So I only ask the famously well‑heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists because we are going to need them going forward and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.”

Streep also understood that as an actor, she lives a privileged life. “Once when I was standing around on the set one day, whining about something, you know, we were going to work through supper or the long hours or whatever, Tommy Lee Jones said to me, ‘Isn’t it such a privilege, Meryl, just to be an actor?’” Yet even actors have duties, she commented, “We have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy. We should all be very proud of the work Hollywood honors here tonight.”

Streep, who played a character loosely based on Carrie Fisher in the 1990 movie “Postcards from the Edge,” for which Fisher wrote the screenplay, adapting it from her own semi-autobiographical book of the same name and who, more recently, sang Fisher’s favorite song at a memorial for Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds, ended her speech saying, “As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia said to me once, ‘Take your broken heart. Make it into art.’”

Streep has won eight Golden Globes (“The Iron Lady,” 2012; “Julie & Julia,” 2009; “The Devil Wears Prada,” 2006; “Angels in America,” 2004; “Adaptation,” 2002; “Sophie’s Choice,” 1983; “The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” 1982; “Kramer vs. Kramer,” 1980) out of 30 nominations. She also has three Oscars (“The Iron Lady,” “Sophie’s Choice” and “Kramer vs. Kramer”) and two Primetime Emmy Awards (“Angels in America” and “Holocaust”). 

The topic of Donald Trump and a divided America in need of diversity was a topic on the minds of inquiring journalists and awards recipients alike. 

Later in the program, backstage facing the press, Donald Glover, who won Best Actor in a TV series (Musical or Comedy) for “Atlanta,” commented, “I think, honestly, right now we live in a time where things are very divisive. I think Meryl Streep was speaking on this, that we all have a lot of responsibility.” Glover concluded, “So I think human joy is super important. It doesn't come from computers. It just comes from belief. Acting, making music, all that stuff is believing in something that maybe someone older doesn't truly believe, but when you see it in a child, it makes you believe it again. Because we forget how innocent and beautiful we were. I think it is our responsibility to make magic again. Because I think a lot of the shit that's happening is bullshit.”

Golden Globe winner director Paul Verhoeven (Best Foreign Language Motion Picture for “Elle”) was asked backstage about Trump and responded, “Because with the attitude he displays with people that are put in positions at this moment and all the different departments ... I am very scared with this presidency. I mean, it could turn out to be different than I think, I certainly hope so, but certainly last four months has not changed my opinion about what this.”

On the impending Trumpland USA, Viola Davis told the press backstage, “I will, believe it or not, remove Trump from the equation, because I identify it as bigger than him. I believe it is our responsibility to uphold what it is to be an American, and what America is about and the true meaning of what it means to pursue the American dream. I think that America in and of itself has been an affirmation, but I think that we have fallen short a lot, because there is no way that we can have anyone in office that is not an extension of our own belief system. So then what does that say about us? I think if you answer that question, I think that that says it all.” 

Race and justice were also on the minds of the people behind “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” in the backstage comments to the press. Sterling K. Brown, who nominated for playing Christopher Darden, noted, “Unfortunately, it is not that surprising because the show is more relevant than what it should be. You would think in 20 years’ time in this country that things would have progressed to such a place where you look back and be like, ‘Oh, how interesting that was back then,’ but back then is what's happening right now. And so the fact that a primarily African-American jury in Los Angeles could find fault with the police department is not that surprising. We have gotten a lot of ocular proof over the last two years of police misconduct, an institution that is supposed to protect and serve, and a lot of people don't always feel protected or served. And so I think it's because of all the things we have been able to see that there's a  level of understanding that people may not have had 20 years ago, when that jury made that decision that they did to acquit.”

Winner for Best Actress in a TV series (Musical or Comedy) for “Black-ish,” Tracee Ellis Ross accepted her Golden Globe saying, “This is for all of the women, women of color and colorful people whose stories, ideas, thoughts are not always considered worthy and valid and important.” Ross noted in her comments to the press backstage that her character on “Black-ish,” Bow Johnson “is a strong woman with a full life whose story is not told through her husband, and that really is something that I identified with.” Ross noted that “I think it is not since 1983 that a black woman has been in this category,” making her the first black woman to win in over 30 years—the last one being Debbie Allen for “Fame.” On that honor added, “I think my shoulders got a little heavier and I got a little taller all at the same time.”

Jana Monji

Jana Monji, made in San Diego, California, lost in Japan several times, has written about theater and movies for the LA Weekly, LA Times, and currently, and the Pasadena Weekly. Her short fiction has been published in the Asian American Literary Review.

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