Culture

Meryl Streep Miscasts Herself

(Reuters photo: Mario Anzuoni)
The era’s most acclaimed actress and her moralizing hypocrisy

The critic Pauline Kael back in the Eighties drew a bead on the fantastically acclaimed Meryl Streep, observing that the actress “makes a career out of seeming to overcome being miscast.” That annoying habit of Steep’s was still evident yesterday, when she cast herself as the moral conscience of all showbiz and turned her acceptance of the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes ceremony into her personal political soapbox.

Streep picked a favorite enemy for Hollywood leftists to agree on — she described him as “asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country” — and castigated him for bullying people without the ability to fight back. The role didn’t suit an actress lately known for making the worst films of the past two years, Suffragette (2015) and Florence Foster Jenkins (2016), which can be said to bully audiences who buy tickets to her whims but have no ability to fight back. She pretended to defend the Golden Globes’ career-boosting ceremony (sponsored by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, an organization that the FCC once prohibited from network television because of its corruption), using its name to represent the virtues of “Hollywood” diversity, “foreign” personnel, and First Amendment freedom of the “press.”

While flattering the roomful of tipsy celebrities by remarking that they “really belong to the most vilified segments of American society,” Streep ignored the misdeeds of biased journalists who have discredited themselves during the past year; she called on them to hold “accountable” the unnamed powerful person and object of her ire. In her weakest performance since Suffragette, she attempted to convert an awards show into a political rally.

It was rich to see Streep, impersonator and belittler extraordinaire, condemn her phantom enemy for cruel imitation. She has become the most overrated actress of our times, making unstoppably arrogant attempts at doing everything and being anyone — a narcissist’s peculiar form of demagoguery.

Kael noted Streep’s tendency to overestimate both her own talent and the public weakness for a performer’s ostentatious ego. That side of her character made her Golden Globes behavior inappropriate and uncalled for. Like so many people deranged by the recent challenge to their political will (“I have lost my mind sometime earlier this year,” she said, describing disappointment and feigning hoarseness at the beginning of her diatribe), Streep couched her pettiness in moralistic terms, accusing her presumed enemy of lacking empathy.

This was also rich. Her invective flowed from her own lack of empathy. She chose the vain actor’s — and spoilsport politician’s — lazy method of showing empathy only for someone who shared her own ideals, thereby failing to meet the artistic obligation to understand and communicate the humanity of someone with whom she disagrees or finds objectionable. Where was the boldness of her Margaret Thatcher performance that defied the contumely of the politically rigid? Streep should have graced her inordinate acclaim by similarly wishing hope for the country’s imminent future.

#related#Typical of self-congratulatory Hollywood and the post-election hardening of civility and compassion, Streep brazened her class snobbery by inflating the significance of her own profession: She singled out the working-class spectacle of mixed martial arts to demean it by calling it “not one of the arts” as she engaged in the fisticuffs of political rhetoric. (Don’t let this egomaniac run the NEA or the NFL.) Streep then advocated her colleagues’ distrust of leadership and disrespect for the will of her fellow voting citizens. Hollywood’s awards industry has created another tin god. Or as a film-savvy friend put it, “Streep likes to make a fool of herself.”

— Armond White is the author of New Position: The Prince Chronicles.

Armond White, a film critic, writes about movies for National Review and is the author of New Position: The Prince Chronicles.

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