The Problem with Meryl Streep's Comments

Last week, actress Meryl Streep briefly dominated a portion of the 24-hour news cycle with her comments at the 2017 Golden Globe Awards.
The legendary thespian, who received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for "outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment," used her acceptance speech to offer stinging observations about President-elect Donald Trump.

The always-eloquent Streep stated: "But there was one performance 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."

She assumed the moral high ground by adding: "And this instinct to humiliate, when it's modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody's life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect."

But the vaunted terrain that Streep adopted is a precarious high-wire act that is susceptible to gusty winds from all directions.

It seemed that unpredictable windy burst came before Streep made her statements about the president-elect's disrespectful behavior.
She stated: "Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. If you kick 'em all out, you'll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts."

Those remarks were greeted with a rousing applause. It may have felt good, but the visual image was right of out Central Casting -- Hollywood elites on steroids sending the subliminal message: "If it were not for us all you would have for your viewing pleasure is Neanderthal violence."

The presumption being football and MMA are the creations of Trump supporters.

It had that heavy "basket of deplorables" aftertaste. I found the statement disrespectful and ironic. It was ironic in that Streep focused her remarks on Trump being privileged and disrespectful. Moreover, disrespect does not cancel out disrespect.

I don't equate Streep's comments about the president-elect's boorish behavior as being on par with football and MMA. If the goal of Streep's remarks were to change the hearts and minds of some who saw "Hollywood" as a cabal of elitist liberals, she probably failed in her goal. If, however, she wanted to merely coddle those who share the same perspective, I suspect "mission accomplished."

In a recent social media exchange, it became glaringly noticeable how many were willing to dismiss what they viewed as an innocuous statement. As one person wrote: "Really, you're concerned about the MMA comment versus the voluminous crap from Trump."

That to me felt like a false choice in order to justify not seeing the humanity of those who may see the world differently.

Another suggested that my raising the question revealed my soft underbelly of misogyny.

Unlike policy debates that offer multiple sides of a discussion, the rules for the 24-hour news cycle issue de jour demand that discourse be a reflexive and reactionary claim to what is true. And under no circumstances should anyone attempt to invoke nuance into the dialogue. It is a winner-take-all proposition. Therefore, in the current climate, to offer a critique on a portion of Streep's remarks is to nullify any support whatsoever.

The acceptable modus operandi would have been to ignore her statements about football and MMA because the larger comments were about Trump. Has the president-elect become the bright shining object that robs one of critical thinking?

In my forthcoming book on the Declaration of Independence, I devote a chapter on the lens of marginalization. This colorblind phenomenon is to view events from the restrictive social location of the marginalized status with which one identifies. It is potentially disagreeing with someone who identifies as marginalized only to be labeled as racist, homophobic, misogynist and the like simply for possessing a different perspective.

The lens of marginalization can be arrogant because it assumes truth lies exclusively in one's preferred domain. It can also be misleading because it cannot see anything that runs counter to its preconceived notions.

Streep's remarks demonstrate what can make the public discourse so challenging. It is an arena where everyone with an opinion is right and no one listens to the other.

Next week, the expiration date will have expired on Streep's comments, freeing the public discourse and the 24-hour news cycle to jump onto the next inconsequential issue with requisite fervor and zeal.