Based on some of the comments that came across my Facebook feed following Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech, I may be in the minority when I say I love it when celebrities get all political. It’s highly entertaining. Having sold a part of themselves on the personal level to get where they are, we the public feel we own a piece of them. Perhaps we do. And our judging what they say and do is part of what keeps their celebrity going. So, speak so that I may see you…
From Susan Sarandon to Cher to Ted Nugent, celebrities spoke their minds in the last year. They took positions, and we reassessed their stock price. For me, the prices went down (Sarandon), and up (Cher), and no change at all (Nugent). As for Ms. Streep, you know she lost some love and gained some love. But why should she care? She’s Meryl F. Streep.
I also saw several posts saying people tune out of award shows when celebrities express political opinions or make a favored politician the butt of a joke. Not me, guys. When sitting through a three or more hour self-congratulatory ceremony with really rich people wearing borrowed clothes and jewelry (except for Oprah), I pray that someone will stop thanking their producers and directors, their longsuffering families, and God long enough to say something controversial. If the live audience jeers, trust me, I will be in heaven.
It’s all happened before, you know. When Marlon Brando sent Sacheen Littlefeather to refuse his 1973 Oscar for “The Godfather,” it was because of the treatment of “American Indians” by the film industry and the events that were unfolding in real time at Wounded Knee. Vanessa Redgrave’s funding of the documentary “The Palestinian” drew the ire of the Jewish Defense League, a far right political organization whose members burned effigies of Redgrave and picketed the Oscars in 1978. In her speech accepting her Oscar for “Julia,” Redgrave called the group a “small bunch of Zionist hoodlums.” And, of course, Michael Moore’s speech at the 2003 Oscars when he won for “Bowling for Columbine” included calling George W. Bush out for sending us to war for “fictitious reasons.” All of these speeches can be seen on YouTube, and you can hear for yourself the gasps, booing, and applause emanating from the audience. Imagine seeing that in real time. Now, that’s entertainment!
And, besides, today’s controversy is just tomorrow’s accepted norm. We’ve gone from “American Indians” to “Native Americans” while acknowledging that maybe that Manifest Destiny thing and its implementation created a North American genocide all our own in the 1800’s. These days, recognizing the need to balance the needs and rights of both Palestinians and Israelis is hardly controversial, even if the way to achieve that balance has yet to be discovered. And “fictitious reasons” for invading Iraq? Well you know the punchline.
Even before Oscar can get back in the celebrity speech sweepstakes next month, we have one speech teed up that might be a doozy. The Greatest Actress in the World has given hers, and we will know in a week what the Greatest Celebrity in the World (so-called by the head of this year’s inaugural committee) will have said in his. Will it be entertainment? Maybe. But, maybe not. You know, I try to avoid bread, and I never developed a taste for circuses.