Hollywood’s Victim Complex
By JACK SHAFER
January 09, 2017
Can we calculate without the aid of a supercomputer the amount of courage it took Meryl Streep to take her shot at President-elect Donald Trump as she accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement last night at the Golden Globes? Or could we complete the tally in a split second on a single finger? I think so.
There Streep was, gazing over a sea of designer gowns and fashionable tuxedos, addressing the most condensed mass of liberal group-think since students returned to Oberlin College earlier this month after winter break. Almost to a one, Hollywood hates Trump as much as it loved Hillary Clinton, and attacking him constitutes the highest form of self-congratulation. Just look at a short list of actors and producers who soaked Trump in verbal abuse during the campaign: Alec Baldwin, Jack Black, Cher, Louis C.K., George Clooney, Bryan Cranston, Lee Daniels, Robert De Niro, Johnny Depp, Eve Ensler, Lena Dunham, America Ferrera, Richard Gere, Chelsea Handler, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Lawrence, Bette Midler, Rosie O’Donnell, Shonda Rhimes, Mark Ruffalo, Susan Sarandon, Shakira, Sarah Silverman, Russell Simmons, Ben Stiller, Kerry Washington, Olivia Wilde. The list goes on and on, through Beverly Hills, past the Hollywood sign and behind the San Fernando Valley.
Saying what 99 percent of the crowd was thinking, Streep portrayed herself and her glamorous colleagues as poor, pitiable, put-upon artists who have been traumatized by the election of a non-Democrat to the White House. She didn’t name Trump because she didn’t have to. Citing actor Hugh Laurie, who had made his own pointed remarks about Trump earlier, she claimed that all the people “in this room … belong to the most vilified segments of American society,” adding with extreme specificity, “Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners and the press.”
Streep also paid mock homage to Trump’s best “performance” of the year, his tasteless impression of New York Times reporter Serge F. Kovaleski’s disability, which brought the candidate near-universal condemnation. As late hits go, it added nothing substantive to the Trump verdict the public rendered months ago. Streep’s real message was as narcissistic as any Trump performance. Look how virtuous and sensitive I am! Cheer for me to show how virtuous and sensitive you are! The audience obliged.
I mean, really: More vilified than pedophiles, line-cutters and those guys who call your home phone claiming to be from Microsoft and wanting all of your passwords so they can remove the viruses from your computers? More vilified than Nazis? Than the leaders of ISIS? If Hollywood is so vilified, why are box office records broken annually, new entertainment channels emerging almost weekly, and celebrity news still such a winning formula? Far from being vilified, Hollywood remains deified by the greater population, a place of privilege and power. Yeah, some foreigners and select members of the press were pushed around over the past year, but speaking as a member of the press I’m certain that we’ve given it as hard as we’ve gotten it from Trump and his most extreme followers.
Perhaps the only truly vilified people in Hollywood these days are the one-offs, misfits and C-listers who backed Trump—people like Jon Voight, Gary Busey, Stephen Baldwin, Wayne Newton, and Aissa Wayne (who spoke for her dead father, John Wayne)–and tilt right on most issues. When the revolution finally comes, they’ll count themselves lucky to be sent to work camps in the Mojave Desert as Hollywood groupthink becomes mandatory.
Part of the Trump hatred is political. Well, most of it is. But as Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane pointed out last month, much of the ire he stimulates in movietown has to do with his underhanded manner. “Wanna know why Hollywood folks hate Trump? We live and work amongst his kind every day out here,” he wrote on Twitter. “His tactics are those employed by the shiftiest of agents, lawyers and publicists. We’ve learned to recognize the blustery showmanship of a lying con man because we encounter it every day in our business.”
In other words, Hollywood hates Trump because he deals in illusion, he goes back on his word, he smiles in your face and stabs you in the back. In still other words, Hollywood hates Trump because they recognize him as one of them! This assertion isn’t quite as ridiculous as it sounds. As Entertainment Weekly observed recently, Trump isn’t only a big reality TV star but an “actor” who has appeared in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Sex and the City, Zoolander, Spin City, The Jefferson, The Little Rascals, and many more productions.
Streep’s problem has less to do with exactly what Trump thinks than the fact that he doesn’t think exactly like her and the rest of the pack. In the Hollywood mindset, Republican presidents have always been harbingers of a coming fascist dictatorship. They hated Richard Nixon, they reviled Ronald Reagan, they loathed George H.W. Bush and they despised George W. Bush. Maybe Trump is different, you say. But for Hollywood’s liberal royalty, the script remains the same. I have an inkling that they meet in secret annually to give a best-performance award to the actor who most dramatically expresses that anti-Republican scorn.
If so, Streep is likely to add another prize to her overflowing trophy case.