Clay Cane: Streep's Golden Globes speech reveals fallacy of Hollywood as 'elite'
Trump's response to Streep shows his self-obsession and dislocation from reality, he writes
Editor’s Note: Clay Cane is a New York City-based journalist. He is the author of the forthcoming “Live Through This: Surviving the Intersections of Sexuality God, and Race.” The opinions expressed here are his.
Donald Trump’s response to Meryl Streep’s now-viral speech at the Golden Globes last night is precisely why her remarks are so paramount.
Trump’s reaction – calling Streep a “Hillary lover,” telling the New York Times he wasn’t surprised that “liberal movie people” attacked him, and ultimately, the next day, going on a Twitter rampage tweeting that Streep was “one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood” – revealed just how self-obsessed and out of touch with reality our President-elect is.
Calling Meryl Streep an “overrated” actress is like calling Aretha Franklin an overrated vocalist. Last week Trump was out to get Arnold Schwarzenegger, this week it’s Streep. Yes, this is our new normal – and Trump isn’t even president yet.
This is terrifyingly ironic. Trump and his supporters have dismissed Hollywood as the “elite” and out of touch with “real” Americans, which is laughable because Trump personifies elitism. Conservative commentators like Laura Ingraham pounced on Streep right away, trying to paint her as wealthy and delusional. “Meryl is a millionaire, famous and lives a grand life!”
But why doesn’t this same argument work for Trump? Streep isn’t trying to be the leader of the free world. She is a phenomenal actress and deserves the accolades she has received.
Many actors and actresses come from the American heartland; they aren’t born and raised on a movie studio lot. Sarah Jessica Parker, as Streep said in her speech, was raised in a small town in Ohio. One of eight children, she fought for her aspirations to be an actress and eventually became one of the most iconic faces on television as Carrie Bradshaw in “Sex and the City.” This is not an example of the elite.
I don’t know why any “real” American would shun “Hollywood types” to believe that a millionaire corporate executive will advocate for them. I trust millionaire corporate executives even less than politicians, because they are the ones who will fire you and you’ll only see their name on a memo.
Also, money and fame don’t make everyone socially and politically incognizant. Many people who break through in Hollywood start from nothing — not with a $1 million loan from their daddy like some people. Actresses like Viola Davis, who won a Globe last night for her performance in “Fences.” Davis, who Streep described in her speech as being born in her grandparents’ home on the Singleton Plantation in South Carolina, clawed herself up from the bottom because she was bold enough to believe in her wildest dreams.
Donald Trump never had to dream this big. He was born with a cushion of lifetime privilege.
How audacious is it for anyone to criticize Meryl Streep, who has won acclaim for giving voice to characters ranging from Holocaust survivors to Margaret Thatcher, for speaking from her conscience?
I was grateful she used her fame, which she has done for years, to urge people to wake up (and to support a free and independent press while they’re at it). But in Trump’s America, anyone who has a critique of him is automatically overrated and untalented. What will happen when people who aren’t as protected as Streep use their free speech over the next four years?
We are in a cultural war of ideology, a war in which no one wins. So-called opinions are being confused with oppression. Putting politics above women’s health is not an opinion. A doctor refusing to treat someone who is openly gay is not an opinion. Potentially driving millions of people out of their communities because they match a Muslim or undocumented “profile” is not an opinion – it’s not even constitutional.
This is what you call oppression. This is America’s potential future. We will all be affected – Democrat, Republican or Independent.
Ironically, the 2016 election could be a plot for a Golden Globe-nominated movie in and of itself: bombshells caught on tape, appearances by former mistresses and hacking by international enemies. I am sure Danny Strong, who wrote HBO’s “Game Change,” about the 2008 election, is writing the first draft of the screenplay in his head already.
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But this is not a movie. January 20 marks the beginning of Trump’s America. The road ahead will be arduous. Not even a great screenwriter could predict the possible twists and turns of the next four years.
That said, if there is one line from Streep’s speech that I hope Trump will not reject, it is her call for “the responsibility of the act of empathy.” Without empathy, Trump’s America could be the most repressive, dangerous and unstable we’ve seen in modern times.
But I hope I’m proven wrong about that. As the Trump presidency approaches, I am still hoping for a happy, Hollywood ending.