-By, Alison Poussaint
Many actors and actresses from around the world came together on January 8th, 2017 to celebrate excellence in film and television at the 74th Golden Globes Awards ceremony. One by one, each actor and actress accepted the prestigious award, gave a passionate acknowledgement speech, and then returned triumphantly to his or her seat. One actress, however, Meryl Streep defied the expectations of her address.
“Viola (Davis) 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,” Meryl shared at the beginning of her speech. She knows that without these diverse actors and actresses “you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts.” Though she only referred to those in Hollywood, she emphasizes that many Americans have a range of backgrounds; and it is these backgrounds that have helped shape and mold them into the talented artists they are today. Her speech served to defend the diversity that political figures such as President Donald Trump mocked throughout their campaigns. His insults and bigoted declarations included referring to Mexicans as “rapists,” African-American citizens as “blacks” for whom “laziness is a trait,” and Japanese people as “Japs,” to name just a few.
The latter part of Streep’s speech more directly addressed Trump’s heinous words. She described how there was “one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good; there was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job.” Meryl continued and referred to the “moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in [the] country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back.” This description refers to Trump, who, in late 2015, mocked Serge Kovaleski, a disabled reporter for the New York Times. President Trump claims that he simply did not know that Kovaleski had a disability. However, Kovaleski claims he knew President Trump on a first name basis for years (NY Times).
Streep then exhorted her fellow stars to fight against the intolerance. Addressing those in Hollywood, she asked “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’re gonna need them going forward, and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.” According to Streep, those who hold the “truth” are those in Hollywood who do not judge or mock identities; they listen to their stories, understand their backgrounds, and embrace the differences shared between them.
Many celebrities responded on social media later that night and the next morning expressing their appreciation of Meryl’s speech. Priyanka Chopra, a well-known Indian actress, singer, and film producer, tweeted, “Quoting my favourite #MerylStreep from last night. When u have a broken heart…turn it into art. You are astounding! #fangirl.” Actress Brie Larson also tweeted much admiration for Meryl’s speech. She wrote, “Fully sobbing. This is what a leader of truth, compassion and freedom for all looks like. Thank you #MerylStreep,” concisely reaffirming the thoughts and beliefs of those who were in support of Streep’s speech.
A member of the Winsor community, Ruby E., ’17, reflected on Meryl Streep’s speech. She described how “Meryl Streep inspires both the general populous and fellow celebrities by speaking to Donald Trump’s hatred and disrespect. Whenever I see an award show, where celebrities from TV, movies, and music are all together in the same room, I always want to think that they understand their position of extreme privilege. It was tremendous to hear Meryl Streep not only acknowledge this privilege, but also use it as a call to action for everyone in that room to be upstanding citizens. I hope that other powerful figures in our society will follow her lead in taking a stand to defend human rights.”