Meryl Streep, Parallel Universe Edition (Part I)
If you are so fortunate as not to be aware of this, I shall, with apologies, spoil your day by informing you that The Great Meryl Streep has made an important speech about the election of Donald Trump.
I say “The Great Meryl Streep” because I have come to suspect that, similar to the case of former middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler, “The Great” (or some equivalent) is now part of Streep’s legal name, such that she may no longer be referred to properly without this epithet. But whereas Hagler renamed himself “Marvelous” while in the process of amassing perhaps the most remarkable career achievements in the history of middleweight boxing, Streep’s “The Great”-ness has begun to feel forced and awkward — which, paradoxically, is why it has become indispensable to any mention of her name, as the media and movie-going public try ever-harder to maintain a comforting myth that has lost its plausibility. (“Sure, the Brits have Olivier, Guinness, and Redgrave, but we have The Great Meryl Streep!”) In fact, anyone with an ounce of historical perspective and artistic taste can see that, for all her “Oscar-worthy” performances in some of the most earnest works of knee-jerk liberal attitudinizing in contemporary Hollywood (Kramer vs. Kramer, Silkwood, Music from the Heart, not to mention She-Devil), one would be hard-pressed to name a single Streep film that has any chance of being remembered as a significant work of cinematic art fifty years hence, as one should expect to be able to do easily and repeatedly with any performer worthy of being called “great.”
For example, one can easily name five Jimmy Stewart films that hold up as significant works of popular art more than fifty years after their debut. Gene Kelly is immortalized in Singin’ in the Rain and An American in Paris. The Gold Rush, City Lights, and Modern Times guarantee that Charlie Chaplin will never be forgotten. On the feminine side, Claudette Colbert will forever be Clark Gable’s hilarious match in It Happened One Night, Irene Dunne will live on as a half-dozen heroines crossing the entire range from screwball insanity to touching romance. We’ll always have Ingrid Bergman’s Sister Benedict in The Bells of St. Mary’s and Ilsa Lund in Casablanca. Even Marilyn Monroe will (thanks to Billy Wilder) survive the eventual waning of her pop icon status. The list, of course, goes on and on.
But The Great Meryl? Will she be anything but a footnote in Oscar lore fifty years hence (assuming for the sake of argument that there will be Oscar lore fifty years hence)? I’ll venture a guess: No chance. To be fair, maybe, just maybe, Steven Spielberg’s ambitious but uneven A.I. will still have legs at that time, and thus Streep’s minor voice-over role as a robot will still be around. She is a classic exemplar of modern Hollywood: self-important, overhyped, much-honored, but of ultimately minor significance, at least from the artistic point of view.
One thing The Great Meryl Streep can certainly do for the ages, however, is speechify, as she proved all too well at the Golden Globes ceremony, where she used the occasion of receiving a lifetime achievement award (which apparently is granted to those who do dozens of insignificant things pretty well) to declare herself a member of an oppressed minority (famous and beloved millionaires with a talent for fakery), her nation doomed (which it is, thanks largely to the kind of propaganda people like Streep have been spewing for the past forty years, since Kramer vs. Kramer romanticized divorce and the neglect of children), and the mainstream media beyond reproach (so brave to defend the press at a gathering hosted by the press).
Here, then, direct from the red carpet — as in “Better red than dead” — is Ms. Streep’s latest bravura performance:
Allow me to highlight a few of TGMS’s more eloquent moments, for those of you with an insuperable aversion to the audio-visual aspects of sentimental emoting:
You’ll have to forgive me, I’ve lost my voice in screaming and lamentation this weekend, and I have lost my mind sometime earlier this year, so I’ll have to read.
Did she literally lose her voice screaming about and lamenting an election result two months after the fact? Is she mentally competent to vote, or appear on live television? “I have lost my mind sometime earlier this year” is an egregious misuse of the present perfect tense, the kind of thing I correct my Korean students about all the time, but one can hardly be a pedantic grammarian in the face of Greatness, let alone Greatness that lost its mind — good old simple past tense, folks — sometime earlier this year. (By the way, does TGMS really mean earlier this year, 2017, or is she thinking of Election Day last year?)
So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners, and if we kick ’em all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not The Arts.
I wasn’t aware that anyone apart from the white nation types, of whom Trump is obviously not a member, was intending to kick “all” of any group out — in fact, I’ve argued for a year that Trump has no intention of kicking anyone out, crowd-pleasing campaign rhetoric about illegal immigration notwithstanding. But I’m most amused by TGMS’s claim that without Hollywood’s “outsiders and foreigners,” “you,” i.e., you Trump-voting hicks watching on TV, will have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts. (By the way, the phrase “outsiders and foreigners” is her way of aggrandizing herself, since she is obviously not a foreigner, whereas every “artistic type” can claim to belong to the abstract and malleable category “outsiders.”)
Her choice of alternatives (football and MMA) is obviously intended to isolate the “insensitive man” type as the Enemy. But it is even more telling that her idea of art appreciation is reducible to “having something to watch.” Spoken like a true mass entertainment maven. Who says we have to “watch” anything to satisfy our hunger for the arts? I don’t own a television, and have been to a movie theatre exactly twice in the past ten years (and one of those times was only because I had been given free movie passes and didn’t want to waste the gift). I read. I look at paintings and sculptures. I listen to music. I feel no gaping artistic hole in my life without today’s batch of Hollywood “outsiders and foreigners.” On the contrary, I feel that my life is significantly richer, more stimulating, and more productive because I have largely banished those self-important mediocrities from my sight. The Great Meryl Streep is barely a blip on my life’s radar, and if she didn’t exist at all, I would hardly be transformed into an MMA aficionado. Somehow, I would manage to get by on Bach, Durër, Yeats, and Borges, even if I had to live my entire life deprived of the “outsiders and foreigners” of Porky’s II and Taken 3.
But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good…but it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh, and show their teeth. It was that moment when 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. It — [rehearsed choke up moment, delivered perfectly by TGMS] — it kind of broke my heart, when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head…. And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone with a public platform…filters down into everybody’s life, ’cause it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing…. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.
Trump fans will be annoyed when I say that I don’t disagree with TGMS’s assessment of Trump’s mocking of a disabled reporter. It was appalling, like most of Trump’s behavior, and deserves ridicule and scorn. And it is disturbing that Trump’s acolytes make excuses for his bullying, undignified instincts, and even enjoy his vulgarity. Donald Trump is a puny man. I do not have any argument to make against that.
But what of Meryl Streep? Here she is, a rich, famous, universally respected, lifetime-achievement-award-winning entertainer — a woman granted a designer dress, a Hollywood stage, a beautiful presenter, a live band to accompany her entrance, a standing ovation, a microphone, and all the time she needs to address a worldwide television audience while a captive live audience of “the beautiful people” looks on, enraptured by Her Greatness — and how does she use her public platform and her power? To mock ordinary, middle- and low-income Americans, who feel powerless and voiceless, as a bunch of soulless slobs who think football and MMA are the arts, who like to laugh at disabled people, and who would have no idea how to behave without the modeling and “permission” of their superiors among the rich and powerful.
So how exactly is she any better than the man she is ostensibly criticizing? I say “ostensibly” because, as I have just noted, the real target of her attack, in the end, is not the rich, famous, and powerful Donald Trump, but the non-rich, unknown, and relatively powerless “regular Joe” who doesn’t meet her exalted standards of good citizenship, which standards apparently involve preferring sentimental tripe to football — and, most importantly, preferring Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump.
And here we arrive at the nub of the issue. For while I do not disagree with the specific criticisms TGMS makes of Trump himself, nor her later warnings about Trump’s threat to the principle of a free press, the most revealing aspect of her well-acted rant is that, like all the fashionable progressive laments about Trump’s victory, it is delivered in a moral and political vacuum, a carefully-protected cocoon world where Trump represents the Evil half of a clear choice between Good and Evil. The implication of such a perspective, which is rarely stated directly, mainly because no one could state it without exposing himself as a kook or worse, is that Hillary Clinton represents the Good.
In other words, had Hillary Clinton won the election, Streep’s speech, if it had mentioned politics at all, would have been a cry of victory. Her voice would have been hoarse from a weekend of screaming and celebrating the charms of progressive elitist authoritarianism. She would have rhapsodized the wonderful little people who know Hollywood is better than football, and who choose their pantsuits after the model of President-Elect Clinton.
And that is what is so sickening about the progressive elite’s hatred of Donald Trump and his voters: the double standard, the refusal to admit what every thoughtful person must admit, which is that this year, through the corrupt machinations of the two major political parties, American voters were left with no desirable options, and were asked to choose between Russian roulette and a firing squad. By the tiniest of margins, they chose Russian roulette. One can hardly blame them, under the circumstances.
If Streep’s speech had been honest, she would have mentioned this fact, and her lamentations would have been about the corruption of her country’s political system, rather than about the little people refusing to love Hillary. For gosh sake, Donald Trump loves Hillary, a fact he stated often before she officially became a rival. Don’t these holier than thou dimwits get it? The entire country was rolled, and the Hollywood machine, by aggrandizing progressivism, stupidity, idol-worship, and fakery, has played a major role in preparing the way for this outrage. Streep, as an A-list member of the Hollywood establishment, ought to be ashamed, not of ordinary people desperately hoping for someone to save them from eight years of Hillary Clinton, but of herself and her cohorts, who have helped to reduce the political apparatus of the greatest nation on earth to the nihilism of a reality TV program.
So if she had to pontificate at all — and frankly, she should have just kept her mouth shut — she ought at least to have been honest. By carefully tiptoeing around any direct mention of Trump, she also, conveniently, escaped any need to mention Clinton. Why not tell the whole truth? Because Meryl Streep is not honest. Or because she is stupid. Your guess is as good as mine.
And if TGMS had been honest, what might this speech have looked like? Let’s take this one step further. What if there were a parallel universe in which Clinton had won the election? What kind of speech would an honest The Great Meryl Streep have delivered at the Golden Globes in that universe? What kind of screaming and lamentation would she have been engaged in last weekend in that alternative reality?
Well, you’re in luck. Though I am not at liberty to explain how this came about, I have been granted a glimpse of the parallel universe in which this alternative actually occurred, and I’ve heard the speech the parallel-Streep gave about the parallel-election at the parallel-Golden Globes. Tomorrow, right here on this website, I’ll share the transcript with you.