Ambivalent is the right word for the moment. This is how I feel most of the time lately, it seems.
I’ve been thinking about this whole Golden Globes Meryl Streep controversy a lot. I am not sure how I feel about her speech. On one hand, throughout history of theater actors always used their position in order to champion their views on everything and everyone, but on the other hand, something about that particular speech at that particular occasion didn’t sound right to me. Then, of course, thousands of people, starting with our president-elect joined the fray and happily used every medium available in this advanced century to express their opinions and post their memes.
Theater and politics always went hand in hand. It started during Greek and Roman times, I suppose, because theaters were among the places where politicians, philosophers and orators delivered their speeches. This tradition persists in modern times as well. As The Bard famously proclaimed, All the world’s a stage / And all the men and women merely players, so being on the stage within the stage amplifies the effect of any action. Film is just an extension of theater, it seems to me.
I’ve been a huge fan of Meryl Streep since I first saw her in The French Leutenant’s Woman speaking in the voice of a hesitant Russian dubber, back in Lvov when I was 17 years old. For some reason I only managed to see Kramer vs. Kramer and Sophie’s Choice much later and in English, which definitely improved the experience. She is one of the most versatile actresses, who perfectly embodies different characters in dramas, comedies and even musicals. She is definitely not overrated, in my humble opinion.
It’s difficult to find something to say against her as a person, but the one who looks, will always find something. One of the frequently posted memes questioned her integrity because she gave standing ovation to Roman Polanski’s Oscar win for The Pianist. The meme goes like this: she must be a hypocrite, because she opposed Trump for mocking a disabled reporter, but cheered a convicted child rapist.
Here is my take on this. Roman Polanski is undeniably a very gifted director, whose movies are a real work of art. This, of course, doesn’t cancel the fact that he molested a 13 year old girl, was convicted for this crime and run away. It doesn’t prevent him, however, from making wonderful movies with amazing actors, and getting all imaginable awards for his craft. He cannot come to the US or to the countries that have extradition agreement with the US, but it doesn’t look like this situation hinders him in any way.
The Pianist is a gem of a film, so poignant and so tender, that I cried while watching it. Polanski deserved his Oscar, but was unable to collect it in person, because of the aforementioned conviction. Lots of pundits stood up when the win was announced, and, in my opinion, they applauded the immense talent and the courage it took the Holocaust survivor to make a movie about Holocaust. So, it looks like Meryl Streep separated the craft from the person on that occasion, and was happy to see the film and director receive their deserved awards.
However, by the same token, I think that she should’ve separated the Golden Globes, where she received the Lifetime Achievement award for her craft from her political position. If she was able to do it for Roman Polanski, she should’ve done the same for Donald Trump. If she was there to celebrate the talent, the miracle of becoming someone else entirely, the mastery behind every movement, every glance and every word, she should’ve left behind not only the criminal action of one person, but also the indiscreet and hurtful actions of the other.
Having said that, I have to admit that I agree with most of her speech, with the exception of dislike of foreigners. Two of Trump’s three wives are foreigners. If he is accepting them in his family, I don’t see why he would object to them in Hollywood.
I strongly dislike Donald Trump and adore Meryl Streep, but the feeling of ambivalence is what is left in me in the wake of that debacle.