To Understand 2016, Go To Nashville, Not Hollywood

PowerLine’s John Hinderaker is surely right that “These people don’t seem to understand that the rest of America doesn’t give a rat’s a** what Hollywood celebrities think about politics.” And the Democrats, long ago, gave up understanding this. (Recall the recoil from John Kerry saying the expletive-filled political rantings of Whoopi Goldberg “conveyed the heart and soul of our country.”). But as a study in hypocrisy, last night’s Golden Globes—particularly Meryl Streep’s condemnation of Donald Trump—must take the cake.

Summoning as much lachrymal indignation as her skills allowed, she did speak up on behalf of how vilified she and her colleagues felt, perhaps creating a new category of those for whom we should feel badly. But then she went on to explain how much and why she thought Donald Trump was unqualified for the presidency. It “stunned” her and it made America “show its teeth” when he allegedly mocked a disabled reporter. She would go on to say: “It kind of broke my heart when I saw it and I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie, it was real life….This instinct to humiliate when it’s modeled by someone in the public…by someone powerful….When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

Granted, Donald Trump may not be the thespian Streep and her colleagues are. As many others have pointed out, Trump may have only one acting move he uses to mock people, the same one he has used to deploy the same impression equally, against not only the New York Times reporter Meryl Streep cared so much about, but also Ted Cruz, an Army general, and himself! We might even say that for Streep to ignore this highly likely exculpation of Donald Trump is for her to engage in her own version of “fake news.”

But what of her deliberate, long-thought-out, well-financed mockery of the disabled as she profited from it—getting the two-fer of both critiquing a hero of our time and showing that hero in a light few would think appropriate if it were done to them or to one of their loved ones? Does anyone remember Streep’s 2011 movie, The Iron Lady, portraying Margaret Thatcher in several throes of dementia, even as Lady Thatcher was still alive and suffering?

To put it no higher, anybody with an ailing family member in the grips of dementia knows how disrespectful it is to portray the suffering individual or family, especially against their will and without their permission (which is a near-impossibility to obtain in the first place). But, taking down Thatcher and her memory, as well as ours, was more important to Streep and the entertainment industry in 2011. As the physician Max Pemberton put it: “I have direct experience of the reality of dementia for the sufferer and their family.” He went on:

But from the opening scene, where a confused and befuddled Lady Thatcher wanders into a corner shop to buy a pint of milk, I began to feel uncomfortable. As I watched scene after scene showing this once all-powerful woman as old, bewildered and scared, my discomfort turned to rage.


The film is faultless in its depiction of dementia.

But to show someone in the throes of an illness while they are actually experiencing it and in terminal decline is chillingly insensitive. Can you imagine an unauthorised film being made about the life of a public figure who was dying of cancer, for example – Christopher Hitchens, say – before his death? Can you imagine watching scenes that his family opposed – showing him writhing in agony, weak and vulnerable? Of course not. There would be a furious outcry. It would rightly be considered a terrible violation of that person’s privacy, and in appalling poor taste.

And thus the double standards of Hollywood. “This instinct to humiliate,” indeed. Trying to understand the true political, policy, and social concerns of America-at-large is a difficult task, but Hollywood and its minions are uniquely tone-deaf and isolated from it. One can watch documentary after documentary trying to analyze why so many Obama voters turned to Trump in 2016, and here’s a pretty good one from CNN, talking to a family explaining how the Democrats “forgot completely about us.”

One thing the election was not about: America “showing its teeth.”

As for the many of us who were not surprised by Trump’s victory, we were listening to, as Donald Trump was speaking to, an America with far different concerns from Hollywood’s. Nashville and country music have understood this America for a very long time. Trying to understand the debate about what “real Americans” care about, at least what they cared about this last year, it wasn’t what the likes of Hollywood’s glitterati thought. No, it was much more what the likes of Loretta Lynn, Shel Silverstein, and Martina McBride understood very well and not so long ago; and eerily so relevant to us today:

They say to have her hair done, Liz flies all the way to France
And Jackie’s seen in a discotheque doin’ a brand new dance
And the White House social season should be glittering and gay
But here in Topeka the rain is a fallin’
The faucet is a drippin’ and the kids are a bawlin’
One of them a toddlin’ and one is a crawlin’ and one’s on the way.

Update the names in the song (though not, perhaps, Debbie Reynolds’), and you have the beginning of an understanding of what entertainment genre best represents what swing state voters were saying and thinking last November. It’s something country music gets very well, and Hollywood never does. And that, for Streep and her crowd, is where the sidewalk ends.

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