I mean, post Weinstein and all the other #MeToo bombshells, that’s hardly a hot take I guess, but it’s true and I feel the need to say it. I’m sick of this hotbed of pedophilia, obscene wealth, inflated egotism and (more often than not these days) a lack of even decent filmmaking to justify any of it. (Not that it would anyway, of course.)
None of this would get me so personally worked up to where I felt the need to comment if they just kept to their opulence and stopped trying to play the hero all the time. You can’t position yourself as this great champion of women’s rights because you rebooted a popular franchise with a shoehorned female lead while women still have to endure the casting couch. You can’t tell me you care about the environment as you take private jets across the globe and own five yachts. You can’t tell me you care about LGBT people because you put in a token three second lesbian kiss or two guys dancing in the background of a scene which can easily be edited out for the Chinese market. You can’t pretend to understand what average Americans are struggling with in 2020 when you complain about being quarantined in you massive mansion with built in tennis court and pool. I’m sick of the hypocritical virtue signalling as well as the politicizing of entertainment media and film criticism.
Now, other online commentators have delved into this topic in much more depth than I care to do. The only reason I’m speaking out is because we now have yet another vacuous, insultingly under-qualified, Hollywood vanity candidate for President. Instead of learning their lesson post-Trump, all the news outlets are reporting on it. No doubt the free publicity is merely a stunt for Kanye, but if he was serious about this and announced earlier in the election cycle it very well may have propelled him in the polls or at least got him closer than he had any right to be. Even if he is doing this as a joke or whatever, I’m tired of these privileged rich assholes taking our national discourse hostage for their sick kicks. This isn’t funny, especially now with COVID and climate change looming ever closer, peoples lives are at stake here. You shouldn’t get to just hog all the spotlight from real issues and actually intelligent people who seriously want to make a difference in the world. Shame on the media for continuously allowing our political discourse to descend into such a farce. Fame should not grant you a free ticket into the realm of political relevancy, period.
Anyway, this development made me recall two other recent instances where a celebrity decided to weigh in on important socio-political issues and the media undeservedly treated them like the second coming. I wrote reactions to those events at the time they occurred and I thought I’d share them. The actual cases may be obsolete but, as Kanye has proven, the underlying problem persists so the message is still relevant.
Meryl Streep Says Hollywood is the Real Victim of Trumpism
I wrote this on social media as a response to Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech, which according to the media, was apparently some great left-wing call to arms. I personally found it uninspiring and more than a little self-serving. This was my reaction, with a few additions:
I know it’s old news at this point, but…yeah. Thought I’d weigh in now that I’ve seen this. First off, I’d like to say that I think the Democrats cozying up to the stuck-up, fake, millionaire limousine liberals in Hollywood is as toxic to their original message as the Republicans catering to evangelicals. (You can’t be the party for “small government” if you use the power of the state to enforce Christianity-inspired law on others.) The Democrats were originally supposed to be the party of the working man, the party that stands up for the downtrodden in society. For them to embrace the rich, be it Bloomberg or the Hollywood elite, is to abandon those principles and sell out for the sake of phony neoliberalism masked by a thin veneer of social justice. Their association with Hollywood furthers the perception that Democrats are out of touch with average Americans and their financial struggles.
How on Earth can a millionaire movie-star, sequestered in their perfect mansion with a dozen cars, snorting coke off a hooker’s boobs, turning a blind eye to the rampant pedophilia in tinsel town, (assuming they don’t take part themselves) claim to represent Joe Average working two jobs so he can make rent in his crappy apartment? How does singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” demonstrate that you know what we plebeians deal with when we get sick and subsequently indebted? You know what the Left-wing needs? Strong, principled leaders who champion necessary reforms like universal healthcare and basic income. Not some holier-than-thou glitzy celebrity wagging their finger and telling us we’re sexist for not wanting to watch another crappy franchise reboot with a badly written female protagonist shoehorned in for brownie points. We need more people calling upon the masses to rise up, march on DC and demand reform, and less of the gathering A-listers together to make a “goodbye, Obama!” video.
With that said, I don’t want to disparage Streep herself for having the guts to stand up to what she perceives as wrong, let alone for having a political opinion and exerting her right to say it. All I’m saying is…let her opinion be her opinion, rather than jumping on the bandwagon and turning this into some kind of call to action as a lot of outlets and politicians are doing. I say let it stand on its own as the well-intentioned, if not particularly eloquent, words of a millionaire living in a bubble with no political acumen. Don’t define your party and left-wing discourse by what an actress happened to say at a stupid award show. Don’t rely on celebrity endorsements as Hillary Clinton did in her campaign, and don’t let them be the drivers of the national dialogue. It really says a lot when the faces of both parties are privileged, out of touch rich snobs, don’t you think? Why aren’t working class shmoes who struggled being listened to and given a voice? Why do we have to settle for the Meryl Streeps and Donald Trumps of the world as the champions of “change” in this country? I’d expect it from the modern right since they glorify wealth above all else, but the left? It’s a complete betrayal.
I think this kind of shallowness manifests itself in the beginning of the speech when Streep acts so offended and shocked that people aren’t gaga for Hollywood, even calling them “the most vilified segment in American society right now.” Yeah, I guess transgender people, or the people with pre-existing conditions who might lose their healthcare, or the weed-smokers in jail for 20 years over a victimless crime, or John the college grad who can’t land a job and is called every name in the book for having to take welfare…none of those people exist. But god forbid any of us with less than a thousand in our bank accounts (which is half the population, FYI) don’t just love lala land anymore. Like, that’s nice that you can rattle off a bunch of A-listers and where they come from as an example of your industry’s “diversity.” But you’ve made your millions pumping out mostly shitty movies, increasingly soulless cash grab remakes of ’80s flicks, your house is littered with sexual predators, and you sit on your thrones with your five thousand dollar tuxedos and your golden jewelry and have the gall to criticize Americans for living in the real world.
It would be one thing if the limousine liberals used their wealth and fame to champion good causes—and to be fair, some do. But falling in line behind the center-right Hillary Clinton, or any other status quo neoliberal is NOT one of them. And if your private jet trip to NYC gives off more CO2 than the average car will in over 3 years, then your global warming documentary doesn’t count either. “If you kick all [of us] out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football!” Streep declares. Well, not that I want to kick ANYONE out, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if Hollywood had some kind of a shakeup. I’m just saying, it wouldn’t be so bad if there weren’t 50 comic book movies in theaters and scores of obsessed freaks following Jennifer Lopez’ sex life through garbage like TMZ and Access Hollywood. It might be nice to get some new blood in with fresh ideas rather than another brand-driven reboot with a terrible script. Just sayin’. This threat doesn’t particularly scare me, and for a typical right-wing male who loves football, I’m sure they heard this and said “yes, please!” I think these Hollywood Bigwigs are so cloistered in their own little sanctums such that they think the world revolves around them and their “woke” films.
While that part of the speech really rubbed me the wrong way, I do agree with the last segment, which is what grabbed the attention of the media. It was wrong for Trump to mock a disabled reporter, to brag about groping women and getting away with it, and all the other awful things he’s said and done. He has undeniably brought shame to the office already, and basically given every unscrupulous jerk off permission to be as terrible as they please, because if the President is doing it, it does indeed send the message that such behavior will be tolerated. I’m really worried about what’s gonna happen the next four years as Trump continues to run his mouth and the GOP beats women, LGBT and foreigner’s rights into the dirt rather than do anything productive for their base. [Future me dropping in to say, yep, that all happened as expected–he even retweets open white supremacists.]
People hate foreigners because they’re losing their jobs and need a scapegoat (and yes, I’m sure some are legit just racist.) People hate LGBT stuff because they see them getting all the focus while the lives of average Joe Factory workers they know in real life are getting worse (and yes, I’m sure some are just bigots.) Maybe I’m naive, but I think if we could help the working class with beneficial programs, like the aforementioned universal healthcare and basic income, people might be less likely to lash out at “the others.” It’s a primitive instinct to blame “others” when times are bad, and it’s something governments throughout history have encouraged when they cannot or will not solve problems and need a scapegoat. The documentary Inequality for All did a great job of explaining this phenomenon, and how the rising polarization between all subsections of the population is due to everyone struggling to make ends meet. The status quo is killing Americans, yet neither party wants to change it since they benefit from it. So they distract with wedge issues like women’s reproduction, gay marriage, and now these asinine transgender bathroom debates. The right has their big dumb celebrity to distract us from the real issues by blaming Mexicans. And now, I suppose, the left has our own big dumb celebrity to distract us from the real issues by preaching meaningless platitudes about “muh diversity” while many struggle to put food on the table.
I’m not sure what Streep thinks about wikileaks or other sources critical of the Democrats, but if she’s anything like a lot of the neoliberal establishment, she probably hates them and considers them to be “fake news.” I just bring this up because I would hope that she would want the Democrats to be criticized by the free press she talks up in this speech. You want to hold people in power accountable? Good. Me too. That includes calling out Hillary for her pied piper strategy which gave us Trump in the first place, the shutout of Sanders who would have beaten Trump, the leaking of debate questions to cheat in the primaries, the corrupt bargain between Clinton and Kaine and so much more. We need a free press and just as important, we need our party to be squeaky clean so there is not even a hint of wrongdoing. Again, to be fair I don’t know Streep’s personal feelings on all of this. But I’ve read too many articles and even Hillary’s own speech post-election blaming her loss on “fake news” (really wikileaks which, whether they had an agenda in doing so or not, told the truth) to not be skeptical. This crusade against “fake news” calling for “the private and public sector to work together—lives are at risk!!” (Clinton, in that same speech) is very likely to become a government crackdown on outlets which don’t toe the line if we’re not careful. I hope Streep and anyone else calling for a free press realizes that—you can’t have it both ways, and Hillary herself is NOT on our side on this issue.
So, that’s my reaction. Yes, Trump’s a scumbag but this is rich coming from an equally closed-off lady of privilege who lives in an affluent bubble most of us could only dream of. I’m reminded of Mario Cuomo’s excellent “A Tale of Two Cities” speech when I think of Streep and Hollywood claiming to speak for average Americans from their affluent city of glitter. It’s also really sad how the same (neo)liberals online who were so quick to mock Trumpists for falling behind a rich celebrity that knows nothing about the working class are themselves unironically falling behind people like Streep who are exactly the same thing, just using different buzzwords. “Oh but she has a D next to her name—and she’s a woman!” As if that makes any meaningful difference if she’s wealthy and closed off from the experiences of most Americans.
The only real privilege hierarchy, the only real “ism” that matters, is classism. And that’s the one that the ultra-wealthy including Hollywood elites in the vein of Streep have convinced us to forget about. Both parties have fallen in with the entrenched crony capitalists as both Trump’s tax cuts and the hype over this mediocre speech prove. It says a lot that the working poor continue to fall for it every fucking time. Nobody has values which they hold their own side accountable to anymore. Nobody has standards or calls their spokesmen to a higher, consistently applied standard. Both sides jump on the bandwagon and mindlessly support whatever clown repeats the accepted, politically correct (or deliberately incorrect, on the right-wing) talking points. And it’s getting on my nerves.
What makes this virtue-signalling about “diversity” especially hypocritical in hindsight is that transgender actress Alexis Aquette was omitted from the Oscars Memorandum just a month later. I saw that as just another example of the Oscar’s, and Hollywood “liberals” being full of shit. They jerk themselves off about what a voice for tolerance they are, Meryl Streep gives a big self-important screed about how woke Hollywood is, but then they couldn’t even be bothered to give a 5 second shout-out to someone actually in the LGBT community. That’s to say nothing of their tendency to have transwomen characters played by men and vice versa for transmen. And fifty years earlier, when an Apache woman took the stage to bring attention to the treatment of Native Americans, they not only refused to let her read a speech but heckled her for even being there. If you’re gonna be elitist and terrible, at least dial down the sanctimoniousness, okay?
A year later, also at the Golden Globes, another wealthy, out of touch celebrity delivered a politically charged speech as is her right to do. And, once more, that would have been totally okay and no concern of mine…until the media went wild with it and decided that this 10 minute spiel in and of itself qualified her as a viable candidate for the office of President of the United States. And the public bought it; I saw dozens of people on social media proudly sharing pro-Oprah statuses and hashtag Oprah2020s without the slightest bit of introspection. So, I got sick of it, and typed out this response:
You’re all a bunch of idiots. Oprah Winnfrey SHOULD NOT be President. Why? Because she has absolutely no experience in government. If she’s seriously interested, then run for local office or in the House of Representatives first. But these Multi-Millionaire celebrity candidates running as a vanity project are going to absolutely destroy this country if it becomes a trend.
I don’t care that she’s “better than Trump though!!!” We tried running a bad candidate who at least was “better than Trump though!!!” last time. And we lost. Now you want to fight an inexperienced TV host with…an inexperienced TV host who isn’t a bigot. Really setting the bar high, aren’t we? You want to fight the rising income inequality and corporate consolidation with a living, breathing special interest. You want to throw a freshman geopolitics student into the ring to handle an increasingly aggressive Russia, an ascendant China, a skeptical-of-America Europe, an unstable North Korea and the volatile Middle Eastern crisis? And you honestly expect ANYTHING good to come of that? You’re saying the woman who thought Dr Oz and Dr Phil ought to be taken seriously should decide national policy? Are you serious right now?
Bring on the hate, bring on the accusations of racism, sexism and whatever other “ism” you can think of. Unfriend me. Call me a Trump supporter. I don’t care. If you seriously think Oprah would be a good President or a good play for the Democrats, you’re a moron and you’re responsible for lowering the bar for our republic into literal Idiocracy. I can’t believe we even have to have this conversation. If the best the Democrats can do in 2020 is Oprah, I’m voting Third Party. We do not deserve to win with that surrender of sane governance. Even Reagan was at least Governor of California. Just because Republicans elected a reality show star doesn’t mean we should too.
Someone in the comments of my original post had the gall to claim that Oprah’s lack of relevant experience wouldn’t matter because “Well, the first five or six Presidents had no experience either.” This was my response.
I found your take on this issue very interesting. Especially as in the view of most people the left has had control over mainstream Hollywood for a long time now, and they rule with an iron fist. Many consider it a likely career killer for a performer to come out as a conservative. You make some excellent points. Maybe it is all show. What should we expect since they are a bunch of actors. Why be surprised if show business is all show? Good thoughtful essay. You views would come off less biased if you tried to maintain neutrality and didn’t refer to the left as we. Thought provoking as usual.