How Meryl Streep's Golden Globes speech set awards Trump template

As award shows go, the Golden Globes usually isn't much of a trailblazer. In hindsight, though, the 2017 edi...

Posted: Jan 3, 2019 2:26 PM
Updated: Jan 3, 2019 2:26 PM

As award shows go, the Golden Globes usually isn't much of a trailblazer. In hindsight, though, the 2017 edition of the event -- and Meryl Streep's appearance in particular -- set the prickly tone for the relationship between President Trump and the entertainment industry, and the template for award telecasts that followed.

Trump was still president-elect the night Streep accepted the Globes' career-achievement honor, the Cecil B. DeMille Award, almost exactly two years ago. Without naming him, Streep proceeded to deliver a broadside that roused the show-business crowd, citing the importance of a "principled press to hold power to account," while saying in a clear reference to Trump, "Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose."

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The next day, Trump reacted -- as he often had to perceived slights -- via Twitter, labeling the perennial Oscar nominee "one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood" and "a Hillary flunky who lost big."

The irony, of course, is that few presidents had publicly spent more time with entertainment figures, thanks to Trump's extensive stint as a reality-TV personality with "The Celebrity Apprentice." While he was no stranger to media feuds -- witness his exchanges with Rosie O'Donnell -- Trump seemed to revel in his access to luminaries from other fields, and measuring his success based on the familiar TV yardstick of Nielsen ratings.

As the campaign dragged on, it became clear that Trump's policies and public statements -- about immigrants, Muslims, the travel ban, LGBTQ rights -- were rejected by liberal-leaning stars, who came out to support his aforementioned opponent, Hillary Clinton, in droves.

Even Trump, however, might have been unprepared for the level of animosity that would be marshalled against him from occasions like the Globes once he became president. Repudiating Trump became an almost-obligatory part of such events, as Streep's speech was followed by similar displays at other major award shows of 2017, including the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Grammys, Oscars, Tonys and Emmys.

From a cynical perspective, this was a win-win for both sides. Hollywood found a media eager to record its disapproval, while the president and his media backers had the usual high-profile foils -- an out-of-touch "liberal elite" -- to rally and rile their conservative base. Never mind that the White House's occupant still appeared to revel in spending time with celebrities who did support him, hosting Ted Nugent, Kid Rock and Kanye West, among others.

In the process, an already politicized awards-show climate has become more treacherous. A perilous decline in Oscar ratings last year -- one about which Trump subsequently gloated, again via Twitter -- and the rather embarrassing spectacle of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences struggling to find a host this year merely underscores that the awards-presentation business can be a public-relations minefield.

This year's Globes feature a somewhat unorthodox pairing of Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh as hosts, and they have said that they don't intend to focus on politics and Trump. But there is no shortage of outspoken critics of the president among the nominees, increasing the likelihood that someone will pick up this year's mantle from Streep -- and the Twitter blowback that goes with it.

If that adds up to another long evening for President Trump and his supporters, rhetorically speaking, they might jab back and express outrage. After two years of Trump-era award shows, however, no one can convincingly pretend to be surprised.

The Golden Globe Awards will air Jan. 6 on NBC.

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