The Golden Globe audience heard Streep condemn both the use of power to bully the powerless and the permission that it gives others to act in the same way.
Meryl Streep accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globe Award ceremony Sunday night. She ended up giving more than she got. Her gift to the audience was a heart-wrenching speech that condemned Donald Trump without mentioning his name. Other actors were brought to tears.
Streep began by addressing her fellow-thespians directly, saying:
You, and all of us in this room, really belong to the most vilified segment of American society right now. Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners, and the press.
The actor went on to illustrate her point by naming some of the most celebrated personalities in the room as well as where they were born — Viola Davis, South Carolina, born in a sharecroppers cabin; Amy Adams, Vicenzia, Italy; Natalie Portman, Jerusalem; Ruth Negga, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Ryan Gosling, Canada; Dev Patel, Kenya, raised in London.
Her next remark made it clear where she was headed:
So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners, and if you kick ’em all out, you’ll have nothing else to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.
That comment brought a laugh, but it was a lead-in to something far more serious — a comment that started the tears flowing. She first referred to the actor’s job as one of “breathtaking, compassionate” performances meant to inspire empathy — the kind of performances being recognized at the Golden Globe ceremony. Then she compared those to one of Trump’s most vile public displays:
But there was one performances 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—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 kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie; it was real life.
Streep used the moment to condemn the use of power to bully the powerless, the cruelty of a public person purposely humiliating another, and the permission it gives others to act in the same way. At this point, many a tear was flowing.
Next, Streep called on the press to do their duty and on the audience to provide it with protection:
We need the principled press, to hold power to account, to call them them on the carpet for every outrage; that’s why our founders enshrine the press and its freedoms in our constitution. So I only 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.
Invoking the spirit of one of Hollywood’s greatest and most recent losses, the actor reminded the audience of what a privilege it is to be an actor, and what a responsibility it is to convey empathy. Her last remark was:
As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia, said to me once, take your broken heart, make it into art. Thank you.
— Golden Globe Awards (@goldenglobes) January 9, 2017
Feature photo, Meryl Streep, screenshot from Golden Globe Awards video on Twitter.