BEVERLY HILLS >> Speaking in a hoarse voice that quivered with emotion, Meryl Streep silenced a boisterous Golden Globes crowd and sparked a clamor heard around the country, all the way to Trump Tower.
Streep’s impassioned speech against Donald Trump while accepting the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award at Sunday’s awards has been heard like a battle cry in a left-leaning Hollywood that has been trying to reconcile itself to a Trump presidency it overwhelmingly didn’t vote for. Her speech has also further intensified the divide between Hollywood and Trump supporters, who call Streep another example of media elite on a soapbox.
Though Trump is yet to take office, the arts and the President-elect are increasingly on a collision course. Trump has criticized the cast of “Hamilton,” which voiced its concerns about inclusion to Vice President-elect Mike Pence when he went to see the show on Broadway. Seeing political parallels in its story of underdog rebellion, some Trump supporters called for a boycott of the “Star Wars” film “Rogue One.” And now, following Streep’s remarks, he on Monday called the most decorated actress in Hollywood “overrated.”
With such institutions as “Star Wars” and Streep in the crosshairs, the culture wars have gone nuclear. Battle lines and boycotts are being formed ahead of the Jan. 20 Inauguration, at which most entertainers have refused to perform. Some conservatives have already vowed on social media not to watch the Feb. 26th Academy Awards, which promises to be rife with political protest.
How the growing discord will affect the tenor the next four years in the arts remains to be seen. But what was clear Monday in the wake of Streep’s galvanizing speech is that the clash is just getting started.
In a night where the song-and-dance ode to musicals “La La Land” set a Globes record with seven wins, including best picture, musical or comedy, Streep’s speech had the largest impact.
“There has never been anyone like Meryl,” applauded Ellen DeGeneres on Twitter. “I’ve never admired you more!” tweeted Sally Field. “Nearly without voice, her voice has never been so strong,” lauded Sharon Stone. “Thank you, Meryl,” wrote director Darren Aronfsky.
Political speeches at an award show — a little-loved, often ridiculed tradition — have seldom reverberated so strongly. She largely argued for empathy, inclusivity and the arts. And she claimed Hollywood wasn’t a bastion of elites, but “a bunch of people from other places.” Streep didn’t say Trump by name, but spoke directly about him.
“It kind of broke my heart when I saw it,” Streep said of Trump’s mocking of a disabled reporter during the campaign . “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 kind of 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.”
She also urged support for the Committee to Project Journalists , a media advocacy group, “because we’re gonna need them going forward and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.” On Monday, Joel Simon, executive director of the CPJ, said Streep’s comments inspired “a huge upsurge” in donations and awareness.
“We received 500 donations last night and a couple hundred more this morning,” said Simon, who said the ongoing donations totaled about $60,000 as of early Monday afternoon. “People are feeling very energized and impassioned.”
Conservative pundits, though, saw Streep’s speech as a reflection of the bicoastal liberal pomposity that Trump’s election was in part a rejection of, regardless of his own show business affiliations. “This is exactly why Hollywood is dying, what a bunch of hypocrites,” said Fox’s Sean Hannity. “The Meryl Streep speech is why Trump won,” said Meghan McCain, also a Fox personality. “And if people in Hollywood don’t start recognizing why and how — you will help him get re-elected.”
Early Monday morning came Trump’s tweets. He called Streep, a longtime and outspoken Democrat who stumped for Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention and famously imitated Trump at a Clinton fundraiser, “a Hillary flunky who lost big.” He called the allegation that he mocked a disabled reporter “more very dishonest media.”
The tweets provoked their own response. Soon, lists of other things that Trump finds “overrated” were trending. Author Stephen King called his comments about Streep “childish, churlish, petulant … exactly why most Americans fear his presidency.”
At the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest said that Streep had clearly delivered “a thoughtful, carefully considered message” that reflected her deeply held beliefs.
“It seemed to me to be a fairly straightforward exercise of her First Amendment rights, as this is the United States,” Earnest said.
The Globes telecast drew 20 million viewers on NBC, according to the Nielsen company, an 8 percent increase from last year. It’s a positive sign for the Academy Awards, which will hope political debate fuels interest in this year’s ceremony, to be hosted by ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel — rather than turns off viewers whose views don’t align with Hollywood’s.
AP reporters Patrick Mairs in Philadelphia and Josh Lederman in Washington contributed to this story.