Golden Globes put stars and politics on the stage

New York Times News Service

LOS ANGELES — It surprised no one that Hollywood used the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday as a platform to condemn President-elect Donald Trump. Moviedom power players mostly supported Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Many stars openly telegraphed their disgust when Trump won instead. The president-elect has struggled to book A-list talent for his inauguration.

But nobody was quite expecting Meryl Streep, as she collected a lifetime achievement Globe, to so firmly lay down the gauntlet for a new kind of culture war, targeting Trump’s skills as a showman and entertainer and branding them as insidious. She called on actors, foreigners, journalists and others to stand together and support the arts and the First Amendment, while portraying Trump as a bully who could whip his supporters into a frenzy and “show their teeth.”

Judging by his reaction to her rallying cry, Trump is ready to fight. And he seemed eager for the distraction, coming after days of intense scrutiny about Russia’s involvement in the presidential election and the business dealings of Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and soon-to-be senior adviser in the White House.

Meryl Streep accepts the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards Sunday.

Speech: Streep, Hollywood’s most celebrated actress, with 30 Globe nominations (eight wins) and 19 Oscar nods (three wins), started her acceptance speech by acknowledging that entertainment industry elites — after eight warm years under President Barack Obama — suddenly find themselves on very different footing.

“All of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now,” she said.

Streep, quoting Carrie Fisher, gave people in show business specific instructions: “Take your broken heart, make it into art.”

The message certainly got across.

“She challenged us to take action in a way where I was like, ‘This is what Hollywood kind of should be,'” Issa Rae, nominated for her acting in the HBO comedy “Insecure,” said after the ceremony. “She’s surpassed strictly being a performance artist and now is an artist of social change.”

Rami Malek, who stars in the USA drama “Mr. Robot,” said of Streep to his table, according to The Los Angeles Times, “In a weird way, she’s our president.”

Response: War footing? It felt like it.

Trump’s supporters, who made #BoycottGoldenGlobes trend on Twitter earlier Sunday, either anticipating critical comments or annoyed that some Hollywood stars have been outspoken in their horror at his election, responded with negative comments. “Dear Meryl Streep. We voted AGAINST you Too!” one woman wrote on Twitter.

Trump, speaking by phone to The New York Times Monday morning, dismissed Streep as “a Hillary lover,” noting that she spoke at the Democratic National Convention last summer on behalf of Clinton. Later, in a series of tweets, Trump called Streep “one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood” and “a Hillary flunky who lost big.”

Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to Trump, continued the counterattack Monday on Fox News. She criticized Streep for “inciting people’s worst instincts” and poked fun at celebrities “talking about how vilified poor Hollywood is” while wearing “their gazillion-dollar gowns.”

She added of Streep: “She sounds like 2014. The election is over. She lost.”

Those counterattacks came just hours before the news that Kushner would become a White House adviser to his father-in-law, which raises questions about nepotism and possible conflicts of interest. Trump has a habit of engaging in side fights when bigger controversy looms, though he said he had been unaware of Streep’s remarks until a reporter from The Times called him early Monday.

Business: With her deep international fan base, Streep faced little risk in giving a swift nudge to Hollywood and any like-minded artists watching the telecast. It is too early to say how the entertainment industry might channel its outrage at Trump’s election or whether a cultural war is truly at hand, as occurred in the 1980s when politicians were trying to cut funding to artists whose work they found objectionable.

The perception of Hollywood as one of the country’s most prominent liberal bubbles has been long established. But from a business perspective, television networks and movie studios can little afford to alienate any audience as they contend with pressures that include declining DVD sales, competition from streaming services and wildly uneven box office results. At the glittering Globes after-parties, several studio executives privately applauded Streep but refused to join her in speaking publicly, citing business interests. Several industry executives expressed confusion about why she would use her speech to convey a message that seemed predictable: a Hollywood star denouncing Trump.

Not everyone in Hollywood agrees with Streep. Rae, who also produces “Insecure,” about a young black woman navigating work and love in southern Los Angeles, noted that there were Globes attendees who “weren’t feeling it.”

“I think there’s a misconception that Hollywood is all on the same page,” Rae said. “When you think about it, they’re all a bunch of rich people at the end of the day. She’s not preaching to the choir if nobody else is taking the same action or is doing what she’s doing.”

Danny Strong, executive producer of “Empire,” acknowledged most Globe ceremony attendees were probably “liberal Democrats.” But, he said: “It’s not about the 200 people in the room; it’s about the millions of people watching. That’s who that message was for.”

At the HBO party, Eddie Redmayne said he found Streep’s speech “incredibly emotional,” but he would not say whether he thought Hollywood should follow her example and speak out politically.

Producers who specialize in awards telecasts have said that postshow research indicates that many viewers dislike it when celebrities turn a trip to the stage into a political bully pulpit. (Streep, while the most outspoken, was hardly the only winner to criticize Trump during the live Globes broadcast.) It was hard to tell if ratings were influenced Sunday.

According to Nielsen data, the ceremony attracted about 20 million viewers, an 8 percent increase from the previous year, when Ricky Gervais hosted. Among adults ages 18 to 49, the audience most coveted by networks, the 2017 Globes rose about 2 percent, NBC said.