Wednesday, January 11, 2017

January 11, 2017--Meryl Streep's Golden Moment

Meryl Streep needs to reread her C. Wright Mills if she wants to be the self-assigned point person to defend Hollywood from accusations of elitism.

She seized her lifetime-achievement moment at the Golden Globes on Sunday to not only attack Donald Trump appropriately for his grotesque mocking of a physically handicapped New York Times reporter but also to offer a heartfelt retort to those like Trump who regularly accuse leaders of the entertainment industry of being out-of-touch elites.

She posed and answered her own question--
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. 
And the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, raised 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, and is here playing an Indian raised in Tasmania.
She may think of herself and Sarah Jessica Parker as just plain folks; but to the rest of us, and in Mills' The Power Elite, she and her Hollywood colleagues are solidly part of the elite. In fact, since 1956 when The Power Elite was published, Hollywood stars, sports heroes, and music superstars have become even more elite and influential.

Think Beyonce, think George Clooney, think Bono, think LeBron. And think Meryl Streep with her amazing 30 Golden Globe and 19 Academy Award nominations. And of course her $7.0 to $10.0 million a pop fee for a few months work on a film or two a year.

But as Mills points out money is not the only way to enter the exclusive ranks of the elites. He shows how the "Metropolitan 400" (members of "notable families"), "Chief Executives," the "Political Directorate," and "Warlords," among others, comprise the elite in a country, the U.S., that prides itself as being classless, elite-less.

Another thing Streep failed to note after speaking emotionally and with self-congratulations about herself and an assortment of her fellow performers' modest beginnings is that one needn't be born into the entertainment elite--what Mills calls the "Celebrities," who at the time included the likes of Bob Hope and John Wayne.

Being an elite is less where one begins but where you wind up.

In the case of Meryl Streep and most of the other actresses they wound up on stage at the Globes in $5,000 Valentino gowns and millions in Cartier diamonds. Like just plain folks on a Sunday night in downtown Gary, Indiana.

Most significant, since hers was a political statement, Streep failed to show any recognition of her own exalted status and, politically more important, any awareness of how the Trump electorate is largely made up of people who resent and reject elites of all sorts, from the entertainment industry to the mainstream media to the professional class (especially college and university professors) and of course government officials.

If her plea was in part for unity, these omissions make what she did and said even more divisive. But I'm sure she came away feeling good about herself.


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