Monday, January 9, 2017

A Reel Opinion: Let Them Speak

The stormy political climate of 2016 has spilled over the levee and onto the once clean-slate of 2017, and it happened in the most unexpected place. At this past weekend’s 74th Golden Globe Awards ceremony, actress Meryl Streep, during her acceptance speech for the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille Award (the Globes’ equivalent of a lifetime achievement award), used her time to make a few comments on the recent actions of America’s President-elect, Donald Trump. Speaking from the heart in just over six minutes, Streep spoke politically and with common sense; politically she addressed Trump’s immigration stance, and with common sense when she spoke of anti-bullying and preventing violence…with the latter point aimed at Trump’s mocking of a handicapped journalist.  

Streep was not alone in her attacks (for lack of a better term),  on Trump. Actress Issa Rae threw some direct jabs on the Red Carpet, and host Jimmy Fallon also got a few shots in during some of his monologues. Using awards shows such as the Globes, or the Oscars, as a platform to sound-off or raise awareness is nearly as old as the format itself. Legendary names such as Marlon Brando, George C. Scott, and Clint Eastwood have done so in the past. It’s a natural place to do so; after all, awards shows such as the Globes are broadcast worldwide, only happen once a year, and a chance to speak even during a short time on stage ensures a message would not get lost in a sea of social media postings. Critics may not like the stage Streep chose to voice her opinion, but if worldwide TV is not the place, then where is? And when?

Streep has her supporters, but she also has her critics and a fair amount of internet trolls. The negative opinions range from the ignorant to the hypocritical; staring with “she has no right to speak her opinion” (of course she does, she has the same 1st Amendment rights as anyone), to Hollywood people being too far removed from middle-class America to be relevant (wrong again; Hollywood may have rich people, but every film has thousands of hands and middle-class laborers to make them happen). But the ultimate irony lies within Streep getting blasted on social media; people using a worldwide platform to express an opinion about someone who used a worldwide platform to express an opinion.

The most ignorant comments of them all say some sort of noise about movie stars and movies only having one job; to entertain. This could not be further from the truth. Movies are meant to entertain, sure…but they are also meant to inspire and illuminate, and there’s no law that says that should be restricted to the screen. Streep also spoke about protecting the arts, which may seem self-serving, but a society without art is no longer a society; even cave-men figured that out a long time ago. Perhaps the most disturbing part of this is the want from her critics to separate those who can and can’t express an opinion, and if that ever happens for real, America fails. Because of the time and place Streep chose to speak, she may be remembered for it above everything else she’s done; but maybe that was the point…to be remembered for something other than gold. In a way, Streep speaks for anyone who felt a need to speak out or to address a wrong, and maybe more of Hollywood, which gets criticized for living in a bubble, will raise their heads. So let them speak, for they live in this country too.  
See Meryl Streep's entire speech HERE

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