True confession: I did not care much for Meryl Streep’s speech

Streep used an award ceremony to slam Trump in a very nice little speech — you can read it online, with all the good points (and there were many) highlighted — and the right-wingers, including our very presidential president-elect, are in a fine high snit over it. However, it left me unenthused, even while agreeing with much of it, for a couple of reasons.

  • This is the least of my concerns, but I’m not a Streep fan. What can I say, that self-indulgent Mamma Mia left me scarred.

  • We are about to inaugurate a nightmare president, a creepy horror whose appointments and policies ought to terrify us, and yet again the media welcomes this speech as the kind of superficial celebrity-on-celebrity spat that they love so well. It is a distraction. Look again at that speech: it’s chewing out a bully for being a bully, which is a fine thing, but it says nothing about the politics or the effects of those politics.

  • What bugged me most, and is probably going to be used by Trump voters to dismiss it, is how vain it was. It was all about how wonderfully diverse actors are, and how many of them are immigrants or from other countries, and it was designed to make all those actors feel damn good about themselves, and also to encourage a little self-pity that Donald Trump is targeting them.

    But all I could think as she praised the diverse backgrounds of these well-known actors was that this was not the best group to highlight. Everything she said is also true of college professors and scientists, and we don’t get pampered and spoiled and paid big bucks to churn out a single project. It is also true of, for instance, farm workers, who are black and brown and white and most definitely do not get paid a wage that allows them to live a Hollywood life style. When the camera panned over her audience of famous people dressed in tuxes and designer gowns that probably cost more than most of us make in a year, what I heard was a woman mourning the threat to her privileges. It somehow resonated less than, for instance, the threats to shut down Planned Parenthood, to deny people health insurance, the sabre-rattling threats to foreign nations, the imminent looting of our country’s wealth by billionaires. Hollywood A-listers will get through the next four years just fine…the rest of us, maybe not.

  • That elitist snipe at football and mixed martial arts was not helpful. It’s one thing to praise the virtues of the patricians, another to disparage the pleasures of the plebs. Someone who starred in Mamma Mia does not get to sniff at low brow popular entertainments and sports.

But I cannot deny that she made legitimate points, and every group, rich or poor, that is going to be damaged by this presidency ought to speak up, including actors. I’m just worried that, once again, the Democrats are going to promote the support of a tiny elite while ignoring the concerns of, say, labor, and are just going to enhance the idea that liberals are out of touch. And, of course, this is all our media have been talking about for the last day.


  1. says

    Honestly all those actors and celebrities can go f**k themselves. Rich, spoiled bastards that think they know better than the rest. They could all take a very long walk off a short pier for all I care.

  2. Sonja says

    I agree that the football comment made me cringe a little, she was definitely speaking from her perspective. But please don’t fall for this right-wing talking point of elites vs. “real” Americans.

    If you listen to sleazy Trump advisor Roger Stone for example, he simply replaces the word “Democrats” with “elites” and “Republicans” with “voters” when he speaks. That’s all this is about — through propaganda they have successfully convinced even Democrats to think we have abandoned the middle class.

    The truth is that Obama and the minority Democrats in Congress have pushed policies that would help working people, but since they haven’t had control for 6 years, have been blocked the majority Republicans.

    Someone sitting in an ivory tower should be careful of calling Hollywood the elites — to these propagandists, you’re just as “out-of-touch.”

  3. says

    I agree that the Democrats have done much to support the poor and middle class, and that’s why I think it does us no favors to highlight the perspective of highly paid actors and us ivory tower types. The Streep speech will be used as propaganda by Republicans to continue to promote the idea that Dems are all about the elites.

  4. Sonja says

    I agree that we can often throw them some softballs, but the Republicans will use anything and everything as propaganda. Remember, “they didn’t build that”? They used a vague pronoun reference for propaganda.

  5. tomh says

    @ #1

    Rich, spoiled bastards that think they know better than the rest.

    What does that even mean? She thinks Trump shouldn’t be president, and that’s thinking she knows better than “the rest”? Or perhaps actors shouldn’t voice opinions since some of them are rich? Or what?

  6. starfleetdude says

    I agree that the Democrats have done much to support the poor and middle class, and that’s why I think it does us no favors to highlight the perspective of highly paid actors and us ivory tower types.

    If you’re going to internalize the stereotype the Republicans have harped on for decades, you’re not doing anyone any favors. Streep’s take on Trump was spot on, and good for her to say it rather than remain silent out of fear of what the Big Bad Right might say.

  7. Elladan says

    PZ @ #3: The thing is, the Republicans and Trump have an effective propaganda engine working, and literally everything will be used one way or another to further their goals.

    Just to take your point to the conclusion, the following people need to shut up to avoid being caricatured by the Trump hate machine: those elite actors, college professors, scientists, union leaders, politicians, professionals of any kind, anyone from the middle class, anyone who lives in a city…

    I mean, I get your point: we shouldn’t look to Hollywood celebrities for anything in our politics. But the reason is because they have no actual qualifications other than being famous. Should we look to experts? Hell yes!

    But seriously, this is my point: it doesn’t matter what you do, at all, to the alt-right/Trump propaganda machine. Anything that you do, or that any leftist does, is going to be caricatured, used in propaganda against you, and dismissed. Anything.

    The only solution is to build up our own communications avenues, (sadly) including our own propaganda engine, and talk to people that way. We’re far, far past the point where there’s any use to worrying about whether a public misstep in messaging could be used against us: everything will be used against you, true or false, whether you say it or not.

  8. whywhywhy says

    Big concern for me is that instead of concentrating on the conflicts of interest and poor vetting of the Trump appointees, we are discussing a short speech about Trump. There was nothing new in the speech and it did not address true policy or potential issues regarding the push by Republicans to get the appointees approved. The battle right now is in Washington to limit the damage and this speech did not help.

  9. multitool says

    Come on, how rich are *most* actors?

    Do parents beg their children to become actors for all that easy acting money and job security?

  10. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    All I heard from Streep was the following:

    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.

    Which is exactly what is going on more frequently these days. Even without directly citing Trump a their example, instances of violent, and/or verbal bigotry are escalating.
    So she threw a few superfluous quips, trying to get her audience to nod in humor. The point is she was expressing her reaction to an instance of a “superstar” humiliating a member of the “4th estate”. The people who help us monitor the activity of the government.
    She also was admonishing the media for focusing on his tweets rather than his lack of policy and the slime he’s nominating for top positions in the government. Speaking of which, Trumps tweets should be collected and summarized only occasionally, maybe on a Saturday Review of Trump Tweets. To respond daily to his early morning Tweets is allowing him to distract the media from asking him questions relevant to his office. I could see that at first they were attempting to shame him into shaping up by how quickly they attacked his tweets, yet he is clearly seeing that as a way to get them talking about the tweets and not relevant issues. Every day we see response to his nightly tweet about how thin skinned nd petulant he is. okay, we get it. Talking about his tweets is “feeding the troll”.
    Boot him.
    *sigh* I got sidetracked.
    What I’m trying to say here is that I am super glad that Streep spoke out. Regardless of the veneer of the event. Admonishing her for particular quips in the speech, or her “elite” status, is overlooking the actual meaning of the message. She wasn;t telling people to feel any particular way, she was simply sharing her reaction.

  11. tomh says

    @ #10

    The battle right now is in Washington to limit the damage and this speech did not help.

    Seriously? People should only speak about what, (to you), is the most important issue of the day? Pointing out the President-elect’s lack of common decency, and how it empowers the masses to act in the same way, is out of bounds. Streep should have spent her five minutes in the spotlight dissecting policy issues and political appointees. Got it.

  12. feministhomemaker says

    I have to disagree with you, PZ. Streep, and her comments accepting an award for lifetime achievement, are not the appropriate targets for your criticisms. Laying aside her strong and long history of deep work with global women’s rights groups, her words referred directly to what she distinguished as the most salient of her acting skills (and the skills of actors in general)–the work of empathy, putting yourself into the experience of another person, trying to understand it. I found her observation to be profound and worthy of special recognition and I loved the way she contrasted that work with the performance of Trump when he mocked the journalist who has a disability by shallowly mimicking the journalist’s arm movements and speech.

    Streep’s words were extremely appropriate to the occasion. The facts that she is rich and privileged and liberal at the same time on that occasion make me say, so what? Should we be like the republicans with Goldman Sachs and act as if we don’t want to accept the support of people like Streep who others denigrate for their power and prestige while privately agreeing with what they say? Hollywood and Streep are not the same as Goldman Sachs! We have no reason to be ashamed that we agree with them!

    And after seeing Hidden Figures I am reminded again of why I am very grateful for Hollywood. If that film had been made 10 years ago more people would have met Larry Summers’ comments on women and science with the immediate contempt they diserved. There would have been no controversy. He would have seemed the fool he was, immediately.

    And I loved Mamma Mia! My reaction to it was nothing like yours! Such is art!

  13. feministhomemaker says

    One last point: as a white woman who was raised with my six siblings by a machinist father and homemaker mom working as a substitute teacher now and then in a poor neighborhood in Houston, TX, I do not feel any sense that by honoring Streep and Hollywood and proudly accepting their support for progressive causes I am betraying the white working class people I grew up around. Now that may be because those white people flew from our neighborhood when the first black family moved in next to us when I was 6 years old. Within a year my neighborhood became all black and so I spent the majority of my life being raised around poor black folks. My admiration for Streep does not feel like I am slighting any working class people. I am of working class, still identify as it. This whole democrats don’t show enough respect for working class meme rubs me the wrong way, as inauthentic. Our policies were the only ones that showed respect for working class folks! I am so weary of this lament over democrats not respecting the white working class. It misses so damn much!

  14. katiemarshall says

    I really want to push back against this notion that academics are ivory tower types and not regular people. I spent 10 years in school making less than minimum wage and come from a very blue collar background. Most of the work of research is done by graduate students and postdocs who make incredibly low wages (I made 2/3 of minimum wage for three years in graduate school for instance). So we’re talking people who work very hard for very low wages. The thought that this counts as “elite” I find ridiculous.

  15. says

    @ #5: I’m not criticizing Meryl Streep in particular, I have no idea what she has contributed with over the years.

    But let’s face it, all those Hollywood pricks have more money than anybody could ever need, and that’s mainly from providing light entertainment. Why the hell should I care what they have to say? Get on that stage and do what we’re paying you for. When done, STFU and GTFO.

    The people who actually know and do something useful are usually paid shit, why not donate 2/3 of your wealth to them? That would be a helluva lot more useful than holding speeches.

  16. Elladan says

    Just to beat the point home a little bit…

    When you worry about whether one sort of messaging or another will support the perception that liberals are out of touch elitists, and try to avoid that message, you’ve already lost.

    Understand: the idea that liberals are out of touch elitists is a rhetorical weapon. It was invented by the right wing propaganda machine as a way to discredit and destroy you, and by being defensive about it at all you legitimize it. Right wingers understand this pretty well: when people accuse them of being money-grubbing looters, they laugh and own it. “Money grubbing looters are the good people, you fool! Liberal scum. Plus you’re the money grubbers, with your welfare queens, and…”

    Notice how for the last 25 years, in basically every case politics just shifts farther and farther right, until we get to the point where fucking Nazis are ascendant? This is a huge part of why: the right wing has a propaganda machine (backed by huge money, owning most of the fourth estate) and it is aimed directly at destroying liberals’ credibility.

    When you’re having some sort of reasoned conversation with a person who argues in good faith, then responding to their point of view makes good sense. But “good faith” has nothing at all to do with modern political discourse. When someone points a rhetorical weapon at you, don’t duck: shoot back.

    Katiemarshall @ #16, you’re totally right: academics aren’t out of touch ivory tower types. They’re hard working knowledge workers trying to make the world better with hard work and effort. We shouldn’t let anyone say otherwise.

  17. Onamission5 says

    Wait, so we’re complaining now that a privileged person with a public platform used her platform to speak an iota of truth to power, because A) she didn’t get into policy detail in her few available minutes B) anything she says will be used against us since she’s “liberal elite” C) she’s an entertainer, and entertainers aren’t allowed to voice opinions on right and wrong, so she should just shaddup?

    But if Streep had said jack shit, we’d instead be complaining that she didn’t use her platform to say anything important, and declaring entertainers to be vapid, privileged, and selfish, I’m guessing.

    Just making sure I’m 100% up to speed with rules of this game no one can win.

  18. says

    Here’s the thing, while everything she said about Trump was true, she had just recently attended a party for Obama who is currently bombing in 7 nations, tortured and prosecuted whistle blowers, assassinated a US teenager and numerous others sans due process, and has otherwise greatly expanded upon the war crimes and crimes against humanity of his psychopath predecessors. But hey, he won the Nobel Peace Prize, has a great smile and is a Democrat…

  19. rietpluim says

    What feministhomemaker said.

    I did not see vanity in Streep’s speech. Yes, she tells them how wonderful they are, but that is despite the fact that many of them are foreigners. Foreigners contribute greatly to the country.

    Though it is true that Hollywood actors are wealthy and privileged and will hardly notice the demolition of the ACA, it speaks for them if they care about it nonetheless.

    Also I’d like to think that Streep’s concerns are for college professors and scientists too. But it wasn’t a scientific convention where she was speaking. It was the Golden Globes.

  20. rietpluim says

    Also what Onamission5 said.

    And norske54 . not that again please. Nobody here thinks Streep is a saint. If you’re a regular visitor, you may have noticed that both PZ and most of his followers are very critical to the Democrats, Clinton and Obama… Let’s stick to the topic, please?

  21. Vivec says


    Why the hell should I care what they have to say? Get on that stage and do what we’re paying you for. When done, STFU and GTFO.

    Celebrities have the ability to reach vast amounts of people when they speak up and them giving speeches/signal boosting ideas is far more likely to reach a lot of potential people than joe schmoe off the street. Even if you personally don’t care about them, it’s fairly undeniable that there is a value to having celebrities speak on matters of import.