Hail to The Streep: A Quick Manifesto on Life, Art, and Film, and Why “Political” Isn’t A Dirty Word
Did y’all see Meryl Streep at the Golden Globe awards the other week, and her badass speech accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award for outstanding contributions to film?
Here. In case you missed it. Go on. We’ll wait.
Amazing, right? The woman is a legend. I love her. I really do.
And what I think I love the most about Meryl Streep is the way she uses her voice. Whether it’s via the roles she chooses or the philanthropic work she does or the speaking out on issues important to her, she knows she has a voice and by god, she is going to use it and don’t you DARE try to shut her up or you will be staring down the barrel of a very disapproving glare a la Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada.
This speech was powerful. She knew exactly what she was doing. She knew well in advance that she would be honored with this award, and she wrote a speech that said, “Screw all this self-aggrandizement that we are famous for in Hollywood. I’m going to stand up there and speak some TRUTH.” And she did exactly that. She called to task some very powerful people — well, one in particular — and she asked the room to join her in standing against him. And she did this on a broadcast from a television network that kisses that man’s ass as though he is the second coming.
It took about ten minutes on the interwebs for people to start getting angry and attacking her for being “too political”. Everyone’s favorite thing to say: “It’s an awards show. You are just a stupid actress. You are there to look pretty and entertain me. Go make a movie and shut up.”
Hey guess what?
Movies are art. Some of us call it film, or filmmaking, in our slightly more pretentious moments. And the art of filmmaking, like all art, when done well, can transport us, challenge us, make us laugh, make us weep, make us rage, make us cheer, make us hate, make us love. And art? Art IS political. Art has always been political. Because art is life, and life is political is life.
From the beginning of time, humankind has created art that tells stories about their lives. Cave drawings. Language. Storytelling. Dance. Music. It’s all been around a lot longer than Hollywood. And it’s all been political a lot longer than Hollywood. Plato, Sophocles, Socrates: All political. Beowulf contains political commentary. Shakespeare is so super political, what with all the critique of society and whatnot. Hell, even the BIBLE is political — all those Romans versus the Jews and everyone using Jesus Christ as a pawn in their political long game?
Dark times are upon us. Our country has been given over to a group of people who would like nothing more than to shut all of us up, permanently — time will tell what lengths they’re willing to go to achieve that. They want us to be stupid. They want us to not ask questions. They want us to fall in line and be the pawns in their game of money and power.
And some random people on the internet — and plenty we’ll meet in real life too — want us to “stop making everything political”.
(It’s funny how the people who always throw that word around like it’s something dirty or bad are always the ones who turn every single conversation towards the political and then as soon as you disagree with them, screech at you for “bringing politics into this”, isn’t it? Hilarious!)
Well. It’s good to want things. But no.
Meryl Streep refuses.
The women she inspires refuse.
We all refuse.
Think about the darkest times in your life. The ones you were sure, at the time, you wouldn’t make it through. The ones where there was no light at the end of the tunnel — at least no light that you could see. What got you through?
Antidepressants, most of my close friends are thinking right now. And that’s right. Antidepressants… and art. Photographs. Paintings. Music. Theatre. Dance. Books. And MOVIES.
And another thing: Don’t tell Meryl Streep what she can and can’t say on HER platform. That’s HER workplace. She’s the boss in that room and she will say what she came there to say. It is the most appropriate possible time and place for her to speak, and to stand up for people who don’t have the same voice she has.
And at the same time, don’t tell us that we can’t applaud her, for speaking up on our behalf, for touching our lives over and over with her art, for being a woman we can look up to, that our girls can look up to. Whatever your motivation, just don’t. Don’t tell me it’s all a distraction. Don’t tell me it’s just a bunch of celebrities. Don’t tell me I should have better things to do with my time.
The most important thing I can do with my time is LIVE. And art is part of life. Art tells the story of our life.
So we salute Meryl Streep and thank her for the art, and for the words, and for the voice.
Now let’s go watch some movies.