She has been awarded eight Golden Globes before, and three Academy Awards, and is one of the most formidable talents in Hollywood. Words fail to describe Meryl Streep and the sheer impact she has had on cinema and on society. She has not only taught us to be fearless, but also entertained us with her work through the years.
Viola Davis too, echoed a similar sentiment, when she introduced Meryl Streep, her co-star from Doubt, as the winner of the Cecil B DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award at the Golden Globes, aired this morning. She may have described Meryl Streep as an observer, and re-created conversations they’ve had about making apple pie and collard greens, but she shed light on the impactful personality that Meryl Streep is.
— Golden Globe Awards (@goldenglobes) January 9, 2017
And true to description, Meryl Streep made all the impact in her acceptance speech, where she not only spoke about the value of empathy, but also of the importance of the outsiders, the dreamers, the Hollywood community and the press, as America enters an era that will be governed by Donald Trump.
Here is the full text of her speech:
“I love you all, but you’ll have to forgive me, i’ve lost my voice in screaming and lamentation this weekend. And I have lost my mind sometime earlier this year so I have to read.
“Thank you Hollywood Foreign Press. Just to pick up on what Hugh Laurie said, you, and all of us in this room, really, belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it – Hollywood, foreigners and the press. But who are we and what is Hollywood anyway? it’s just a bunch of people from other places.
“I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey. Viola (Davis) was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina, came up in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Sarah Paulson was born in Florida, raised by a single mom in Brooklyn. Sarah Jessica Parker was one of seven or eight kids from Ohio. Amy Adams was born in Vicenza, Italy. And Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem. Where are their birth certificates? And the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, raised in London, no, in Ireland, I do believe. And she’s here nominated for playing a small town girl from Virginia. Ryan Gosling, like all the nicest people, is Canadian. And Dev Patel was born in Kenya, raised in London, is here for playing an Indian raised in Tasmania. So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners, and if we kick ‘em all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, WHICH ARE NOT THE ARTS. They gave me three seconds to say this, so.
“An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us, and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many many many powerful performances this year that did exactly that; breathtaking, compassionate work. But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good; it was…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…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 modelled 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. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose. (Okay, go up with that thing.)
“Okay, this brings me to the press. We need the principal press to hold power to account, to call ‘em on the carpet for every outrage. That’s why enshrined the press and its freedoms in our Constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press, and all of us in our community, to join me in supporting the committee to protect journalists, because we’re gonna need them going forward, and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.
“One more thing. Once, when I was standing right on the set one day, whining about something, you know, how we’re going to work through supper or the long hours or whatever, Tommy Lee Jones said to me, “isn’t it such a privilege, Meryl? Just to be an actor?” Yeah, it is. And we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy. We should all be very proud of the work Hollywood honours here tonight. As my…as my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) said to me once, “Take your broken heart, make it into art.” Thank you, Foreign press.”
Meryl Streep’s speech doesn’t just speak to the voices of dissent in America, but to the world at large. She is an inspiration to women globally, for taken a platform as large as the Golden Globes and using it to decry disrespect, violence and poor behaviour, in the favour of empathy, responsibility, and truth. She not only had the entire crowd on her feet, but every person had a look of hope and awe and admiration, and sheer relatability in their faces as she spoke. It is also important to us as women, because we not only see the idea of understanding one’s privilege, but also the concept of rising above to make a statement, no matter how feeble the voice. And the celebration of diversity, something that Hollywood has always been criticised for not doing, was evident not only in her speech, but also in the ceremony itself.
Her sentiment has not only been lauded by us here, but also by hundreds of people on social media. The original version of the speech, on the Golden Globes’ Twitter handle, has over thirty thousand retweets already. It is only a matter of time before the world internalises the impact of Meryl Streep’s words, and hopefully finds courage, hope, and the will to be empathetic and responsible to their surroundings, just like we have today. Thank you, Ms Streep.