As Meryl Streep took the stage at the 2017 Golden Globe Awards to accept the Cecil B. Demille Award for Lifetime Achievement, she pulled out a pile of cue cards and admitted to having lost her voice (as well as, jokingly, “her mind”). She was setting her audience up for some tender, scripted words of thanks and appreciation, and little more. Yet what took place was the very opposite: a speech that spoke directly and urgently to today’s anxious political climate.
Streep began by citing various nominees in the room, highlighting their different places of birth—from South Carolina (Viola Davis) to Canada (Ryan Gosling) all the way to Ethiopia (Ruth Negga)—both in order to pay tribute to her peers and to build context for what followed. Speaking of Donald Trump’s election as president, Streep confessed to being left “heartbroken.” She reminded viewers that disrespect breeds disrespect, that violence incites violence, and that a penchant for publicly humiliating weaker members of society should have no place in the most respected office in the country. She spoke with a heavy heart, her sincerity compelling those watching to listen closely. And indeed, she succeeded: Streep delivered the kind of cathartic, sincere speech that Hollywood award ceremonies so rarely provide.