9
Jan

Meryl Streep Makes America Uncomfortable

At the 2017 Golden Globe Awards, during her acceptance speech, Meryl Streep managed to ruffle the feathers of America by calling out the PEOTUS and the press. Now, the chastisement of the press didn’t get nearly as much attention as what she said about the incoming President.

But there was one performance this year that stunned me. 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. It made its intended audience laugh, and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head, because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kinda gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others we all lose. 

As is typical, Trump responded with a 3AM tweetstorm calling Streep overrated. Conservatives all throughout the press pilloried her as being ‘disrespectful’ and that the Golden Globes ‘wasn’t the proper place to say such a thing’. This is a common complaint, that it’s not the ‘proper place’ or the ‘proper way’ to voice concerns and protest.

Protest Is NEVER Appropriate

That’s the whole point. When NFL players began kneeling during the national anthem, people complained it wasn’t appropriate. African Americans took to the streets to protest police brutality and people said it wasn’t appropriate.

Here’s a hint.

Protest is never appropriate. It’s disruptive and it’s supposed to be.

Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

Calling out injustice and spotlighting oppression are supposed to make us uncomfortable.

Comfort leads to stagnation and stagnation brings death and decay.

Art Is Subversive

The history of art is rich in subversive ideas. Ideas that challenge who we are, challenge what kind of society we are. Art and artists are vehicles of protest. If someone speaking out makes you uncomfortable, perhaps you should examine why you are.

When art and artists make us comfortable, it ceases to be art.

Actors and actresses work to entertain, sure. Yet in addition to entertaining us, great artists also cause us to think about the world from a different perspective. History’s greatest artists challenged the world they lived in while wowing us with their talent and skill.

In 2003, the United Nations covered up Picasso’s Guernica before Colin Powell’s  infamous Iraq war speech. It is a powerful anti-war painting created in response to the bombing of Guernica, Spain by Nazi forces. Controversy has surrounded this painting for decades. It is subversive and challenges us to look honestly at the horrors of war.

Forget Safety. Be Notorious. Destroy Your Reputation.

I chose this as the tag line for my business and the Hot Mess Express podcast because it sums up how life is supposed to be.

Challenge the world around you. Speak out for those who are victims of the powerful. Eschew your safety and take a stand for what is right.

Afflict the powerful. Make others uncomfortable.

Be like Meryl Streep.