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Rose writes: "Perhaps Meryl Streep has found the way to really get under Trump's skin."

Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes and Donald Trump. (photo: Don Emmert/Getty Images)
Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes and Donald Trump. (photo: Don Emmert/Getty Images)


Meryl Streep Has Hit on Star-Struck Trump's Big Weakness

By Steve Rose, Guardian UK

09 January 17

 

Calling the president-elect racist, sexist or a bully doesn’t hit home. But Streep, in her withering Golden Globes speech, found a way to get under his skin

here innumerable others have failed over the past months, years, decades, Meryl Streep looks to have really struck a nerve with Donald Trump at the Golden Globe awards last night. Not by simply criticising the president-elect for the bullying, potentially violent culture he threatens to bring to American public life. Many have done that before, with equally accomplished thespian delivery, including Hugh Laurie earlier that evening (“I accept this award on behalf of psychopathic billionaires everywhere”). Streep built on that sentiment in her acceptance speech for the Cecil B DeMille award, condemning Trump’s mockery of a disabled reporter in a speech in 2015. But Streep’s masterstroke was to characterise Trump’s antics as performance.

“There was one performance this year that stunned me,” she said. “It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good; there was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job.” She sounds like the most withering theatre critic ever. If that was a review and you had to work a quote out of it for a poster, the best you could do would be: “‘Effective’ – Meryl Streep.”

Streep, though, has identified one of Trump’s key weaknesses. You can criticise him all you like for being a racist, a sexist, a sexual predator, a homophobe, a xenophobe, a conspiracy theorist, a bully, or a bad advert for male grooming, but it’s all water off a duck’s back – you could even say that duck is sitting on Trump’s head pretending to be a toupee – it doesn’t matter. But to disrespect Trump’s performance – that’s gotta hurt.

Inevitably, Trump has been quick to respond, denying accusations he was mocking the disabled reporter – New York Times journalist Serge Kovaleski – and reminding the public that Streep, “one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood”, introduced Hillary Clinton at her convention and that “a lot of these people supported Hillary”. He wasn’t surprised, he said, he was being attacked by “liberal movie people”. And sure enough, his defenders scrambled to the social media fronts to boo and hiss liberal Hollywood.

But the reality is, Trump desperately wants to be one of those movie people. Or at least be accepted by them. And when he’s not, he doesn’t like it. It was only a few short years ago that Trump was complaining about not getting his own awards: “I should have many Emmys for The Apprentice if the process were fair,” he tweeted in 2013, after his show was passed up for an award for the ninth time. It was only a few years earlier, in 2005, when Trump was gamely dressing up as a hillbilly and singing Green Acres at the Emmy awards show. Not even Streep would describe that performance as “effective”. It certainly didn’t win Trump any awards, and he has been consistently, disproportionately pissed off about it. (Sample tweets: “The Emmys are sooooo boring! Terrible show.” “Lots of people agree that the Emmys were a joke – got bad ratings – no credibility!”) When Hillary Clinton mocked him for caring about Emmy-rigging more then election-rigging during the presidential debates, Trump couldn’t resist interjecting “shoulda gotten it”.

For all his wall-building zeal, Trump has all but demolished what barriers remained between showbiz and politics. But unlike, say Ronald Reagan, or Arnold Schwarzenegger, you get the sense the former was his ultimate ambition more than the latter. He has regularly and willingly put himself in front of the camera for brand promotional purposes, and has never been shy of a movie cameo or a special guest appearance, from Home Alone 2 to Zoolander, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to Sex and the City. By all accounts, getting Trump for a cameo is not hard; keeping him from hamming it up in front of the camera can be, though. The makers of Home Alone 2 didn’t even ask him to be in it, but since he owned the hotel they were filming in, they could hardly say no when he turned up on the set. The only acting award he has received to date was a Razzie for worst supporting actor for the 1991 movie Ghosts Can’t Do It. Not many people can claim to have been acted off the screen by Bo Derek.

Despite this resounding lack of acclaim, Trump clearly enjoys his celebrity status – and the power it brings. That was made clear by the notorious “grab them by the pussy” recording that threatened to derail his presidential campaign (what an apt ending that would have been: hoisted by his own television mic). Trump’s boasts of groping women without permission, on the way to yet another television appearance, were prefaced by the words, “and when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything.” The same could apply when you’re president, except you might get impeached for it.

In politics, too, Trump likes to project the image of being a natural performer. His abilities in MCing a crowd-baiting rally are acknowledged even by his critics, and Trump has regularly mocked Hillary Clinton and others politicians for needing an autocue. Trump boasted he didn’t need one; he was more of an improv kind of guy. Admittedly, his off-the-cuff soliloquies have often been exposed as incoherent verbal diarrhoea when transcribed and scrutinised away from the heat of the rally. As one online critic put it: “I’m not alarmed at the guy launching prodigious verbal farts into a microphone. I’m alarmed at the people laughing and applauding like he’s forming actual thoughts.” Perhaps that is testament to Trump’s powers of performance, but compared with Barack Obama’s carefully structured verbal eloquence, Trump is more like the caller you wish they would cut off on the talk radio show.

Clearly Trump loves the idea of “being a star”, and not just for the sexual predation opportunities, but the stars don’t want him. They flocked around Clinton on the campaign trail – not that it made any difference (it seems the media underestimated the celebrity wattage of Scott Baio). It looks to be the same post-election: all the stories so far have been about celebrities who have turned down the invitation to appear at his inauguration. They don’t want him in their gang, and he doesn’t like it.

In 2007, Trump received his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame – confirmation, despite so much criticism, that he really is a star. “It was something that was given to me by some very powerful people in Hollywood and I’m very honoured by it,” he said at the time. But in recent months, Trump’s star has been repeatedly vandalised. It has had graffiti sprayed on it, including a Nazi swastika, people have taken selfies raising their middle fingers to it, spitting on it, urinating on it, or letting their dogs shit on it. In July last year, an artist built a miniature wall around Trump’s star, topped with razor wire and tiny border signs saying “Keep Out”. And last October, a man disguised as a construction worker took a sledgehammer to it. He had intended to remove it and auction it off to raise funds for the women who accused Trump of groping them. Ronald Reagan’s star never had to put up with this.

This is by no means the first time “liberal Hollywood” has spoken out on presidential candidates and their fitness for office. Streep’s speech stirs memories of 2003, when Michael Moore was the sole voice of dissent against the recently re-elected president George W Bush, who was about to launch the Iraq war. Accepting his best documentary Oscar for Bowling For Columbine, Moore stated: “We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elect a fictitious president. We have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons.” His speech was cut short by the music and he was ushered off stage shortly after. Again “liberal Hollywood” was condemned, and Moore received death threats. President Bush maintained a silence that could possibly be characterised as dignified. But unlike Trump, Bush had little public image to maintain. He ran away from the limelight rather than towards it.

So no wonder Trump hates Meryl Streep and all she stands for. And the “lying media” that faithfully reports facts unfavourable towards the president elect. But perhaps she has found the way to really get under his skin. Perhaps the Foreign Press Association has more of a role to play in the Trump resistance than it dared imagine. He can take all the criticism political commentators can throw at him, but if there’s one thing Trump hates, it’s a bad review.


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+5 # CDMR 2017-01-09 16:22
This article is right in that Trump does desperately want to be a star. I think everyone should use that and let him know he can be a star if he reforms Obamacare in the ways it needs, i.e., discipline the for-profit insurers and open medicare/caid to those who are pushed out by the for-profits. He can be a star if he defies the CIA and defeats ISIS and al Qaeda once and for all and then ends the GWOT. He can declare victory and end the war. He can be a star if he cuts back on weapons spending.

Trump is a boor and a bully. I don't like him. But if he does good things, I'll disregard his bad qualities and plant a Trump Star on a sidewalk near my house. Obamacare is a good start; it just needs some careful fixing.

I don't listen to much of anything the Hollywood celebs have to say. Susan Sarandon is great but that's pretty much all.
 
 
+16 # HowardMH 2017-01-10 10:47
Have to add Meryl Streep is and always has been one of the best and most knowledgeable Stars in Hollywood. I wish more would have the guts to speak up like she does.

She didn't even mention the Orange Headed Monsters name and he still went bat-shit stupid with his comments about her. He sure has a very guilty conscience and has no clue on when to keep his mouth shut.
 
 
+3 # candida 2017-01-10 13:52
Quoting CDMR:
Trump is a boor and a bully. I don't like him. But if he does good things, I'll disregard his bad qualities and plant a Trump Star on a sidewalk near my house


Written as ultra-right-win ger/fascist Jeff Sessions is on the way to confirmation as US AG. Goodbye civil and voting rights. Hello cabinet nominees, advisors and staffers equally as bad in multiple ways. To expect anything good (from a progressive viewpoint) is total fantasy. Disregarding his "bad" (aka fascist authoritarian) qualities is what got him elected. Pull your head out of the sand! At least you don't have to worry about any star on your sidewalk (if you're a progressive, something one can't take for granted among RSN posters).
 
 
-3 # DongiC 2017-01-09 17:51
Trump won't beat ISIS without the CIA. This is not election time but war and a tough one at that.
 
 
+17 # Ralph 2017-01-09 21:19
Trump won't beat ISIS without destroying the CIA.

There, fixed it for you. No charge.
 
 
+7 # mashiguo 2017-01-10 22:05
CIA created ISIS, why would they help defeat it?
Without ISIS what fear is left for CIA to monger?
 
 
-2 # anachronis 2017-01-09 20:21
In Hermann Hesse's Magister Ludi, published in 1943, Joseph Knecht, the central character, is reported to have predicted that by the time of Ronald Reagan, U.S. federal and state high elective offices & U.S. politics will be controlled by actors and athletes. The prediction (really Hesse's) was alarmingly prescient — not just because of Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Al Franken and others,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_American_professional_sports_figures_who_held_elective_office
AND
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_actor-politicians#USA

but also because of how much actors and athletes influence U.S. political opinion.

[Hesse might have added Rock "music" stars; but they did not exist in 1943.]

Hesse's prediction was acerbically sardonic. We may as well give Joe the Plumber actual control of our nation's public policy and our personal opinions of the virtues or demerits of political candidates and their agendas.

So, now, another time, Reader Supported News has submitted us to the stellar sociopolitical/ soio-economic/p schiatric/psych ological "expertise" of an actor (as, recently, it has submitted us to the equally stellar, like "expertise" of a Rock "music" star, "The Boss," Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen).

Oh, I feel heavenly enlightenment uplifting me.
 
 
+13 # m... 2017-01-09 23:33
I think that what seems to be your expression of concern over actors/musician s/etc attaining political office in America is odd since it seems to be a sweeping concern over their chosen occupation and not about the individual...
Obviously the names you mention are the names of very hard working people who are also business people.
So far, the occupation of the individual hasn't really concerned me. Its the individual 'nature' of politicians that still concerns me.
For instance--- Donald Trump's 'nature' is what causes me great concern about him. Especially since I have gotten to know him as the politician he has deliberately portrayed himself to be throughout this election year.
 
 
0 # Kropotkinesque 2017-01-10 15:01
m... 2017-01-09 23:33

You put me in awe. Not many enjoy perception and insight of power greater than Hermann Hesse's.

I concede that many too many U.S. politicians are pond scum fouler than ambulance-chasi ng lawyers (unless they were such attorneys).

But tell me, please: What education and experience qualify a Meryl Streep or Tom Brady to solve the kinds of problems that confront the Presidency, the Executive administration, Congress, and the states' governors and legislatures?

I grant that an actor or athlete may bear a good heart and courage and empathy. But so does my sweet Border Collie.
 
 
-1 # Tigre1 2017-01-12 10:19
Your Border Collie(great dogs. I have a tale or two of Ring the mighty herder and snake-killer...)
But YOUR Border Collie has NOT gone to ten thousand meetings with people who might or might not have a job for you, and whose agreement is carefully wrapped in huge egos of their own...you must, if you are to succeed as a actor, not only deal with these people constantly, but you also have to hire CPAs, attorneys, managers, etc etc...NOBODY makes it without developing a following. Your Collie is really good, except better with animals rather than hominids.

Agreed: your Collie would work well with some of today's political crowds, of course. I'm a partisan, too. Don't ask me which party I think most resembles herd animals this time.
 
 
0 # Tigre1 2017-01-12 10:13
You know, I have had very little respect for the opinions of actors and other entertainers in the past.

But actors, who really 'aren't anybody' yet can 'be anybody' are historically recognized as unique. The can identify with and 'tske on' characteristics of other people: maybe they DO know what it is to be hungry, or fearful, or poor...and perhaps they CAN tell us important, basic, political truths.

It used to be a hobby of mine, reading the autobiographica l jottings of real monarchs. Many were quite talented enough to be professional actors.
The successful ones have the ability to empathize and understand.
Those are considered leaders. The others are mostly top-down manipulators.

There's more: modern entertainment is the most competitive employment field in the world. Ronald Reagan became president, not because he was an actor, but because he was an intensely capable political man...we already know that to merely WORK as an actor means 'beating out' hundreds of other determined rivals for the part. Multiply THAT on steroids: Reagan became President of the Screen ACtors' Guild, and very few have ever managed THAT.
After those two accomplishments , (1) becoming a successful US film actor and (2) taking over the Screen ACtors'...becom ing governor of California was E-Z.
Look out, Trump, you may be breeding a scab on the end of your nose.
 
 
+1 # anachronis 2017-01-12 19:26
Tigre1 2017-01-12 10:13

Okay. I grant that reasonable minds can disagree (reasonably). But your argument suffers some vital flaws. Just one is that Reagan "was an intensely capable political man."

Not only was Reagan a third rate (or worse) actor. Also he was a delusional idiot. He BELIEVED that his B movies were parts of the reality of the "Cold War." He BELIEVED the prognostication s of his wife's astrologist. He was a stooge of early neocons and military-indust rial-complex crooks, like those who did the works that constituted and produced the Iran/Contra scandal.
 
 
+13 # Ralph 2017-01-09 21:22
Oh for f's sakes, he's been elected POTUS. I think we're past the neener-neener thing. We're screwed.
 
 
+1 # Cassandra2012 2017-01-14 02:50
Quoting Ralph:
Oh for f's sakes, he's been elected POTUS. I think we're past the neener-neener thing. We're screwed.



Not exactly - Hillary got 3 million more actual, human votes than Trumpolini did!
 
 
+21 # m... 2017-01-09 23:23
All of this added nonsense over Streep's comments added to the heaps and piles and mountains of nonsense already swirling, whirling, tweeting and twitting around Trump's latest 'big concern' has me wondering again when the new ~TRUMPELTHINSKI N~ T-Shirts are coming out and will be available to the world?...
Anyone know?
 
 
+10 # jwb110 2017-01-10 00:16
Trump would be what we call in the "biz" as a "has been" but that requires you had actually been somewhere in the first place.
 
 
+16 # janie1893 2017-01-10 02:42
Donald who?
 
 
+2 # Tigre1 2017-01-12 10:23
Yeah, what's his name? What's he ever been in? His own hotels? huh.So he pays money to get people to do stuff, right?

And he pays entertainers money to perform, right? Seems to me we have a clear delineation of relative status here.

It's time for the show to go on, and the MC just won't sit down and shut up.
 
 
+26 # Carol R 2017-01-10 03:28
Trump is the President-elect of the United States. He should be spending his time learning about those responsibilitie s instead of Tweeting about what a movie star thinks. He doesn't attend to national security briefings because he is too smart.

Put both of those actions together and we have a 'leader' who is deeply troubling. He doesn't know what he doesn't know and isn't interested in learning.
 
 
+11 # economagic 2017-01-10 07:07
Quoting Carol R:
He doesn't know what he doesn't know and isn't interested in learning.

Another trend among our misleaders, in addition to their and our increasing pretense that entertainment is a suitable background for statecraft.
 
 
+9 # relegn 2017-01-10 07:17
"Trump desperately wants to be one of these movie people. Or at least be accepted by them." This was his position in New York high society. Can you imagine trump hanging out with the Carnegies and Mellons? Keep this image in mind when considering trump. The little boy on the outside with his nose pressed against the glass while his peers on the inside played.
 
 
+1 # Johnny 2017-01-10 12:26
Help me understand: The U.S. is dropping bombs on Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, and overthrew the elected government of Ukraine in a bloody coup d'état to replace it with a Nazi regime, all before Trump becomes president, but Meryl Streep says Trump introduced violence into U.S. policy?
 
 
+3 # candida 2017-01-10 13:58
Johnny, US war policy won't change under Trump but likely intensify abroad. At home it already has. It's not either/or. That is Streep's warning.
 
 
+3 # Cassandra2012 2017-01-14 02:47
And Streep at least has a genuine Yale degree, is articulate, intelligent and brilliantly honest.

Trumplethinskin has braggadoccio, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, no empathy for anyone other than himself, some money, gold-plated everything, and a big mouth with little real intelligence behind it ---bigly!
 
 
+8 # chrisconnolly 2017-01-10 14:03
Streep is drawing attention to Trump's normalizing of violence, racism, misogyny and ignorance on our home turf. We Americans can't seem to know what that means for those we are committing the ultimate violence against. If our towns and wedding parties were being bombed everyday we would hate us too. We can only hate what the orange idiot is likely to do to us on our home turf.
 
 
+8 # Jadhu 2017-01-10 16:13
Violence begets violence. If we attack others with our military abroad, we will get it all back with our police domestically. Besides, where will all the damaged individuals who have seen conflict go? They are going to come back home. If we don't help them, we are bound to suffer. As they say: "Karma is a bitch."
 
 
+2 # elizabethblock 2017-01-11 10:01
I've recorded a quote - didn't record the source, unfortunately! from Ronald Reagan: "I don't think entertainers should make foreign policy."
 
 
+4 # Tigre1 2017-01-12 10:27
Mostly, I agree. However, given that 'quick learning' habit most high-level professional actors and entertainers have, I wouldn't be surprised if Streep mastered the entire operations credos and details of American statecraft in a month of intensive study.
She is CAPABLE of study.
 

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