Pro: Meryl Streep's Acceptance Speech

Will Slater In times where politicians make nonsense sound reasonable, torture respectable and racism rational, some voice of clarity is needed. It’s easier to digest ideas when they come from a trusted and respected voice, and often times this voice is that of a celebrity. In the 1950’s, newsman Edward R. Murrow stood up to the brutal and unfair tactics of McCarthyism, playing a large part in bringing an end to the Red Scare. Murrow used his popularity to become more than a journalist, more than a face on the screen – he was an advocate. Actor Charlton Heston used his influence in the 1960s to fight in support of the Civil Rights Act, and then later became the voice of the National Rifle Association. The list goes on: Spike Lee, Angelina Jolie, Paul Newman and Robert Redford have all used their fame as a platform from which to speak. At the 2017 Golden Globes, Meryl Streep continued the tradition of celebrity activism. In a rousing speech, Streep argued that Hollywood, and the diversity and free expression that it represents, is distinctly anti-Trump. The most harrowing and moving performance of the year, Streep claims, was Trump’s mocking of a disabled reporter. Without using Trump’s name, Streep openly criticized the President’s character and behavior.   It’s reasonable to question the actual power of her speech – those who agree with her will find inspiration in her words and those who don’t will resent her criticism. The job of an advocate, though, isn’t always to reform or change minds, but simply to continue conversation and ask questions of the people, and that she certainly has done. Whether in the right or in the wrong, someone has to speak up for those who can’t themselves. Anyone with courage can be a leader, including movie stars. There is a loud call for bipartisan thought and unification in America, as there should be. It would be a mistake to say that protest and dissent lead to isolationist politics – ignorance and prejudice do that. Streep’s statement was akin to the millions made in the Women’s March, just on a different stage. Does platform really matter if the statement is one of solidarity and empathy? Is it still too much for famous women to have opinions? With the benefit of a couple weeks of hindsight, the first half of the speech -a plea for the value of foreigners in our culture- seems almost prophetic. Bigotry and unfairness can quickly become mainstream and prevailing. In the words of Joseph Heller, “mankind is resilient: the atrocities that horrified us a week ago become acceptable tomorrow.” Heller is right, but only if we let him be. If more people like Meryl Streep stand up for something, sometime, then the unacceptable, the selfish and the evil will remain that way.        ]]>