I don’t regularly watch award shows. I will make an exception for the Oscars or if a musical act I admire is performing on the Grammys. But I’m pretty sure I’ve never watched the Golden Globe Awards prior to last night. Not that I saw the whole show; I did get to see the fantastic Meryl Streep’s wonderful speech. She hit almost all of the right notes. Yes, I loved that she called out Donald Trump for his callous mocking of a disabled reporter at one of his rallies. I couldn’t agree more with what she said about the modelling of disrespect and the legitimization of hatred that comes when notable figures behave that way. I also loved what she had to say about acting opening up the world for others. As a drama teacher, I am first and foremost in love with the subject because of what it can teach actors and audience about empathy for others. Streep’s recognition of the diverse roots of many of the nominated actors and the value of a community that draws on talent from around the world was also effective.
My initial reaction to the speech was that if Meryl Streep represents the “media elites” that populist politicians have been railing against, then call me an elitist.
On further reflection, there was just one thing Streep said that I disagree with even though it got a huge hand from the crowd. In defending foreign born actors, Streep said that if we keep all the “foreigners” out, then the only thing that will be left to watch will be football and mixed martial arts, which, she reminded us, is not art. Streep couldn’t resist inserting a light hearted moment to an otherwise serious speech; she knew the crowd would eat that line up and they did. On reflection though, I think it tarnished some of the excellent points she made. Do we really believe that there are only two types of viewers, those who watch art and those who watch football? Isn’t it possible to enjoy both? Aren’t there enough divisions in her country already rawly visible? Is empathy only to be extended to people who follow what we approve of and, therefore, denied to those who enjoy mixed martial arts? Art is vital to our lives and doesn’t need to justify itself by perpetuating a mythical rift between the cultured and the philistines. Empathy is necessary not just to try to understand the downtrodden and the “other”, but to humanize all people. Which is why I was saddened to see Streep include what at first blush might have seemed a relatively harmless stereotype into her speech.
Surely there’s room for symphony orchestras and monster truck rallies in this world, and we can enjoy our preferences while resisting the temptation to add to the notion of the two as completely separate worlds.