Meryl Streep & Why Hollywood, The Press Do Not Get To Pat Themselves On the Back

January 9, 2017  |  

Honestly, I have no idea why everyone is going gaga over Meryl Streep’s Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award speech at the 74th annual Golden Globes.

To me, it sounds like the most tone-deaf naval gazing to come out of Hollywood.

Oh, you think I’m exaggerating? Well check it out below:

Okay, so where do we begin here?

How about the part where she says “Thank you, Hollywood foreign press. Just to pick up on what Hugh Laurie said. You and all of us in this room, really, belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it. Hollywood, foreigners, and the press.”

Hollywood and the press are among the most vilified segments in American society right now?

Like, for real?

Are we seriously trying to act like Hollywood the press are more vilified than Black Lives Matter protesters who have seen their mission of fighting for the rights of Black people co-opted and turned into a campaign that is both anti-American and police group?

Are we really going to act like Hollywood and the press are vilified more so than the poor and indigenous whose waters have been comprised largely with the support of the US government?

And more vilified than women wanting abortions and Obamacare and its recipients?

Talk about overstating one’s importance here in the fight for social justice. The one thing she got right on that list was the “foreigners.” But even that came with a tinge of exceptionalism.

More specifically, when further in her speech, Streep said this:

“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.”

So, we do know that mixed martial arts is foreign too, right?

And while not a fine art, its entertainment value is not more or less valuable -or credible – than Office Christmas Party.

Not to mention, MMA is pretty damn diverse. While Hollywood…well, it still can’t tell the difference between a movie about three Black NASA employees called Hidden Figures and the film based off of an August Wilson play entitled Fences.

You know, because all films with Black people in them look-a-like?

And I think that’s what bothers me most about her speech. For as much as she has been lauded for her subtle takedown of our president-elect Donald Trump; for as much as it was meant to celebrate the unity and diversity in Hollywood, Streep failed to take a good and honest, hard look at the industry’s own role in perpetuating the disrespect of all people.

I mean this is the same industry that is still heavily invested in the magical Negro troupes.

And yes, I’m talking about that god-awful Rene Zellweger flick about a White woman who dreamt up a homeless Black man to fix her life:

And Mr. Church where Eddie Murphy played a male mammy:

This is the same industry that continues to give big blockbuster dollars to directors like Tim Burton who in response to questions about the lack of diversity in his films said this:

“Nowadays, people are talking about it more……things either call for things, or they don’t. I remember back when I was a child watching The Brady Bunch and they started to get all politically correct. Like, OK, let’s have an Asian child and a black. I used to get more offended by that than just… I grew up watching blaxploitation movies, right? And I said, that’s great. I didn’t go like, OK, there should be more white people in these movies.”

And this is the same industry where whites and men continue to dominate nearly every facet of the Hollywood, from film leads to the gatekeepers behind the scenes.

Point is, Hollywood, aided by the mainstream press, does not get to pat itself on the back for being some great defender of justice, decency and harmony in America when the reality is, it still has a long way to go itself.

I mean, let’s be honest: Hollywood’s sudden interest in diversity did not happen on its own.

It came from years of dragging on social media with the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag. It came from boycotts and future threats of boycotts from some of the industry’s leading Black actors. It came from Black creatives building audiences outside of the Hollywood machine and only being allowed in when the industry could no longer afford to ignore them.

Hollywood didn’t bring about diversity; the people did. And don’t think that because the Golden Globes gave a bunch of people of color awards last night, we have forgotten that.

So yeah, if Streep and the rest of Hollywood want to stand up to Trumpism, she and the others of her ilk should remember that the real fight is a lot closer to home.

Charing Ball is a writer, cultural critic and smarty-pants Black feminist from Philadelphia. To learn more, visit NineteenSeventy-Seven.com.

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