Pop Culture

Why Meryl Streep's Golden Globes speech feels like a hijacking

With the Golden Globes being light entertainment, it is no wonder actress Meryl Streep's speech turned many off

The issue of actors using public platforms to strike political poses took a new twist last week at the Golden Globes ceremony.

We are used to performers using the stage to criticise policy, but actress Meryl Streep, in receiving her lifetime achievement award, used it to rap a person - in her case, the incoming President of the United States, Mr Donald Trump.

Mr Trump was of course offended, as were many of his friends and political allies, who then took to Twitter in retaliation, calling her and her ilk "liberal Hollywood" elites whose ideas so repelled middle America, they voted for Mr Trump as the conservative antidote.

Let's put aside the question of whether Streep was biased (Mr Trump accuses her of being a sore loser who supported his rival Hillary Clinton) or whether he deliberately mocked a disabled reporter when he made jerky movements with arms while scolding the journalist (Mr Trump says he did not mean anything by those movements).

The general tone of those who dislike Streep's remarks is one of dismissal - the pro-Trump Twittersphere accuses her of speaking beyond what she knows because, after all, she is just an actress, a celebrity, and so should stick to topics she knows about.

To someone such as Streep, there is no lack of platforms... She could set up a YouTube channel or go on a satire show such as Saturday Night Live or Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, and be guaranteed an audience of tens of thousands.

Anyone can see that this is a weak rebuttal, for the reason that you do not have to be a ship's captain to know when a vessel is taking on water, to use an analogy.

Also, the Trump campaign sold its status as political amateurs and outsiders as a plus, in a classic case of smart business people turning lemons into lemonade.

By that reckoning, Streep's lack of political nous should work in her favour, not against her.

But when I watch her speech on YouTube, I can't help feeling that she is, as they say, bumming out a lot of viewers.

The televised Golden Globes is light entertainment - lighter than the Oscars and not much heavier than, say, the People's Choice Awards.

There is an expectation of fun and frivolity and earnest statements of gratitude to one's mother, agent and spiritual adviser are expected, not manifestos.

It feels similar to when a rock star stops in the middle of a concert to talk about his spirituality or when you watch a movie and discover an explicit and artless call to action on some crusade or another.

But add some chords, a beat and some poetry and you have the stadium singing with you.

To someone such as Streep, there is no lack of platforms - either ones that people give you, such as at political fund-raisers, or ones that you subscribe to, such as on Twitter.

She could set up a YouTube channel or go on a satire show such as Saturday Night Live or Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, and be guaranteed an audience of tens of thousands.

Turning a Globes moment into a public service announcement might not be called a hijacking, but it sure feels like one.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2017, with the headline 'Seriously, keep the Globes fun'. Print Edition | Subscribe