It’s the Oscars this Sunday. Cue a BBC article attempting to foretell which of the multitude of awards contenders will use their acceptance speech to extol their righteous political indignation upon the palatial ballroom filled with gobsmackingly over-privileged, inordinately wealthy celebrities and, by extension as it’s on TV, the rest of us.
The sheer grandiosity and hubristic vanity surrounding events such as the Oscars and the Golden Globes is itself staggering. No other profession is as self-aggrandising and self-important as that of the movie actor. Imagine an equivalent awards ceremony for Médecins Sans Frontières workers or volunteers at Help the Homeless, and maybe the splendour of the ceremony itself and the reverence given to it by the global press would at least be justified, if still inappropriate and almost certainly not desired – let alone revelled in – by those it would venerate. But no, these are Hollywood actors; they pretend to be someone else in front of a camera and look good at the same time. And yes, some of them are indeed highly accomplished in this endeavour. But it’s not enough for them to be paid the GDP of a small country for such a skill; no, the most successful of their number must also congregate not once but several times a year during ‘awards season’ for a protracted, inescapably highly publicised ritual of smug self-congratulation.
As if this wasn’t all galling enough for the average viewer at home, the cosseted Hollywood elite will this year more than ever before be putting the world to rights by disseminating their profoundly important political opinions to us all. To say that these opinions are worth hearing – carefully nuanced; critically self-examining; the result of a studious observation of global political issues – would be… well, wrong. Invariably, celebs will offer trite platitudes on diversity, inclusion and equality. They will pontificate on the importance of standing up to oppression (ie, Trump) wherever it may be found (though never where it actually exists). The camera will pan to the audience; tears will be shed; warm, empathetic smiles will be proffered toward the speaker; rapturous applause will follow. And viewers at home will be rolling their eyes and switching over in droves.
Some of the awards contenders promise to be truly entertaining if they’re to give an acceptance speech. Michael Shannon believes Trump is “going to destroy civilisation as we know it, and the earth,” as though just destroying one of the two isn’t bad enough. He’s also previously opined that “if you’re voting for Trump, it’s time for the urn”, which is a charming sentiment. In other words, if you use the democratic process to vote for a candidate I don’t like, you should die. Natalie Portman thanked Trump for starting “a revolution” in a speech given at a Womens’ March earlier in January. Emma Stone gushed that “the positive gift of creativity can transcend borders in divisive times”. Unfortunately, with the exception of one IMAX cinema in Khobar, there are no cinemas in Saudi Arabia for La La Land’s indubitably transcendent magic to take effect.
Such infantile political protestations are commonplace amongst the Hollywood ‘elite’. Back in January we were subjected to a grimace-inducing display of self-righteousness and pomposity from Meryl Streep, whose jaw-dropping level of moral grandstanding was almost laughable in its earnestness. One suspects she was only half-joking when she opened by proclaiming that “all of us in this room belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now: Hollywood, foreigners, and the press”. This being a room full of some of the most privileged and wealthy individuals in human history. Streep continued by listing a few of those individuals and their various “foreign” origins (New Jersey, Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Italy, Jerusalem) to highlight Hollywood’s melting pot of inclusivity and to infer that this is gravely at threat under a Trump presidency. The most exotic ‘foreigner’ Streep could manage was the Ethiopian-born actress Ruth Negga, before having to qualify that she actually grew up in somewhat less exotic Ireland. Amusingly, Ryan Gosling looked as confused as we were when Streep made reference to his ‘foregin’ Canadian background. “So,” Streep continued, “Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners, and if you kick them all out you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts!” This was inevitably met with gushing applause. It is unclear which political figure in America has called for the deportation of Canadians, Italians and Brits, so it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what Streep seemed to be railing so righteously against, though it’s doubtless Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’.
Streep fails to comprehend that the only reason a blustering simpleton like Trump has succeeded in winning the White House (and is thus able to enact reckless, ill-considered legislation such as his ‘Muslim ban’) is because his opposition was typified by Streep’s brand of baseless moral grandstanding in the face of peoples’ real political concerns. Streep’s – and her liberal-minded Hollywood clique’s – patronising, virtue signalling rhetoric on topics such as immigration is one of the key reasons why a figure as absurd as Trump was propelled to popularity among swathes of the electorate in the first place. These people represent a prototypical pseudo-liberal mindset which submits that, for example, any concern the average voter has in respect of mass migration of peoples from a worryingly illiberal cultural background has no basis whatsoever in fact and is simply knuckle dragging racism. This mentality also leads to a failure to appreciate that a major part of Trump’s campaign focussed on promising to bring jobs back to the ‘rust belt’; forgotten towns and communities in populous swing-states like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania which have been left behind by globalisation. These are places whose residents’ lives and concerns couldn’t be more far removed from those living in multi-million dollar piles in leafy LA suburbia.
It will be interesting to see just how political this year’s Oscars will get. Apparently, award winners will only have 45 seconds to deliver their speech before being drowned out by an orchestra. Hopefully they’ll get Bob Dylan to conduct the orchestra and urge them to “play it fuckin’ loud” as in 1966. But 45 seconds might be just enough time to quickly wax sanctimonious lyrical. Perhaps the winners will just humbly accept the award and thank their parents before slinking back to their seat to reflect on their pretty bloody good lot in life. Regrettably, humility is a rarity in Hollywood.
Beeb article – ‘Oscars 2017: Which celebrities will get political?’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-38874798