She could be the most incredible face of a campaign against ageism. Or, she could endorse creams and couture, run a talent academy, and become the presiding judge for any reality show or acting contest in the world. She could also have a dictionary of priceless adjectives dedicated to her as one of the most admired acting talents in Hollywood—terms like ‘enthralling’, ‘one and only’, ‘incredible’, ‘spectacular’ amongst other superlatives have been lavished on her. But when “best actor” for years, also called a “force of nature” by Vogue, Meryl Streep went up the stage at the 2017 Golden Globe awards in Los Angeles to receive the Cecille B. DeMille Award from the Hollywood Press Association, she chose instead to become a voice for rights--human rights, citizenry rights, the right to dignity and respect.
Nominated 30 times for Golden Globe awards including this year for Florence Foster Jenkins, and having won eight times, Streep stood up against power if it was unjust.
“Disrespect invites disrespect,” she said dressed in a black gown encrusted with multi-coloured crystals in varying hues and cuts, her silver hair glossy, her signature glasses giving her a radiant mature grace. When the “powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose,” she added. She spoke about that one performance that “stunned” her last year. Talking about United States President elect Donald Trump without taking his name, she said, “the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back.”
Streep argued for freedom of the press and hailed the press to hold power to account. That was a crucial part of her speech especially at a time when lapsing into cynical acceptance of what’s going on is the real threat—both on part of the media as well as that of American citizens who are thrown by Trump and his victory. Streep’s speech termed “passionate and intense” slapped cynicism hard in its face, invoking instead the spirit of standing up for dignity, freedom and equality that is the bedrock of human optimism and the duty of the press.
There has been sustained conversation both in the American as well as global press that all hierarchies of stakeholders in Big Business and politics, in diplomacy, foreign affairs, arts, cinema and sports, even in the media will sooner than later strategise how to sync with the new President’s ways. The danger being that even the most unrelenting of Trump’s adversaries and his die hard critics in American media could soften their stand once the President starts calling the shots from the White House.
But Streep’s speech invokes the opposite—the need and the responsibility to fight for freedom and dignity. It could not have been better timed or better worded. That’s indeed why Streep is ‘incredible’ and ‘spectacular’. She speaks persuasively like a liberal artist and looks the part. Let’s clap loudly.