I’m no expert on entertainment law, but I’m beginning to think it’s illegal for any Hollywood awards show not to allot at least 15 minutes to honoring Meryl Streep. The longtime actress must have a trophy case at home stuffed fuller than anything Tom Brady has ever amassed. Last night’s Golden Globes, naturally, was no exception, as Streep was lauded with a lifetime achievement award.
Streep used her time at the podium to give a heartfelt and gentle denunciation of Donald Trump, which brought the predictably liberal Hollywood audience to its feet. She boasted that those in the sponsoring Hollywood Foreign Press Association “belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now.” “Think about it,” she said, “Hollywood, foreigners, and the press.”
She then tackled accusations that Hollywood was a secluded enclave, pointing out that its success stories come from all over the world. “So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners,” she said, “and if we kick them all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.” Streep’s remake of “The Manchurian Candidate” was not the arts either, but no matter—she moved on to lamenting Donald Trump’s attacks on a disabled reporter and romanticized the press’ role in holding the president-elect accountable.
Streep’s soliloquy was out of touch, not particularly insightful, devoid of any attempts to understand what’s driving Trump’s supporters, self-congratulatory, supercilious, insulated, a bit precious, and fetishistic of a journalistic age gone by. But how exactly does that set it apart from what The New Republic regularly publishes? How does that make her any different from your average political journalist who lately seems to think that opining, and especially opining against Trump, is his sacramental obligation? The only difference between Streep and most Washington scribes is that she’s wealthier, more elegant, and has through her acting at least tried to slip on the shoes of middle-class Americans.
Otherwise, the similarities are so numerous that if you reflect on them long enough Streep’s and Dana Milbank’s faces start to blur together into one deeply disturbing creature. Like Hollywood, Washington is filled with people who come from other places, many of them hardscrabble, and then lose themselves in a decadent culture. Like Hollywood, Washington exists inside an urbane bubble, one it constantly tries to deny. Like Hollywood, Washington’s primary impulse in recent years has been to thunderously stampede for the cameras, the CNN small screen rather than the shimmering silver screen, but still vain and self-aggrandizing, earning it the sobriquet “Hollywood for ugly people.” And like Hollywood, Washington seldom seeks to understand small-town America except as a facsimile that advances its own political agenda.
Streep’s sneer about football might grate, but Washingtonians level similar putdowns of red America all the time, and in fact consultants and journalists like Rick Wilson and Kurt Eichenwald respectively have said far worse. No one walked away from Streep’s speech having changed his mind or gleaned some new perspective on the world, but the same can be said of every Jonathan Chait column ever written. At least Streep was dignified, and it must be conceded that her critique contained some truth, even if it was delivered from five million miles up. I’d rather listen to her talk about Trump than, say, Matt Yglesias.
It’s a strange political climate in which conservatives lap up the stained glass-shattering cartoon opinions of a commentator who openly admits she doesn’t read books, and then turn around and tell an accomplished auteur to shut up and sing. As our official media grows more ensconced and our national conversation becomes more democratic, why shouldn’t Streep dabble in politics occasionally? I’m certainly less worried about her address last night than I am about this:
T-minus 11 days until that guy inherits the nuclear football.