Last night Meryl Streep went hard after Donald Trump for mocking a disabled reporter (Trump strongly denies he mocks the man’s disability, but no one doubts he was insulting). In doing so, she eloquently stated the moral imperative that the strong not prey on the weak:
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.
Remember those words as you watch this video, now racing around the internet:
Yes, that’s Streep standing and applauding at the 1:10 mark. For those who don’t remember, Roman Polanski pled guilty to statutory rape and admitted in open court to having sex with his victim when he knew she was only 13 years old. Polanski was 43. In so doing, he avoided trial on a number of more serious charges. His victim’s grand jury testimony was chilling:
According to Gailey’s April 4, 1977 grand-jury testimony, Polanski drove her to Jack Nicholson’s house. The actor wasn’t home, but his ex-girlfriend Anjelica Huston was there when they arrived. Polanski poured Gailey champagne and they took more photographs. After they shared a quaalude, he instructed her to strip and enter a Jacuzzi, where—despite her protests—he soon joined her, after removing his own clothes. She lied about having asthma as an excuse to leave the hot tub. Although Gailey repeatedly told him “no” and asked him to drive her home, he proceeded to perform oral, vaginal, and anal sex on her inside the house. Gailey told the grand jury she was reluctant to resist because she was “afraid” of Polanski.
Gailey said Polanski asked her to keep their encounter a secret before taking her home, later telling her, “You know, when I first met you I promised myself I wouldn’t do anything like this with you.”
As bad as it is to mock a man’s disability (again, Trump has denied that was his intent), Polanski’s conduct is several orders of magnitude worse. Compounding the injustice, Polanski fled the United States rather than serve his sentence. He lives overseas, where he has directed a number of films starring a cavalcade of Hollywood liberals.
The choice of any actor to work with a man on the run from prison for rape is absurd, the partial standing ovation (including from Streep) is disgusting, and the decision not to tell the audience why the Academy was accepting the award on his behalf is cowardly.
These people purport to be our moral betters? Millions of Americans look to them for inspiration and guidance? Talent is obviously no substitute for wisdom, and one can appreciate the art while still being wary of the artist. There are good people in Hollywood, including good, misguided people, but the American film industry simply lacks the moral standing for its many lectures — including Streep’s lecture last night. It’s a shame that more people can’t see the empty moral core behind the glittering facade.