Despite losing her voice, Meryl Streep used her Golden Globes platform to send out a message loud and clear to the powers that be. The actress was given the honorary Cecil B. DeMille Award at the ceremony, and she began her speech by apologizing for the state of her vocal cords.
“I’ve lost my voice in screaming and lamentation this weekend,” explained Streep, who took part in the memorial services held last week for her good friend Carrie Fisher and Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds. Streep then joked that the room was filled with “the most vilified segments in American society right now: Hollywood, foreigners, and the press.”
But, she asked, “What is Hollywood, anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places.” And then, to their astonishment, Streep called out eight other Golden Globe nominees and described their diverse backgrounds — from Viola Davis (who presented Streep’s award), born in rural South Carolina and raised in Rhode Island, to Dev Patel, born in Kenya, raised in London, and nominated for “playing an Indian raised in Tasmania” in Lion.
“Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners, and if we kick ’em all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts,” Streep declared, to thunderous applause.
But she was just getting started. “There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart,” Streep said. “Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back.”
Of course, Streep was talking about that infamous moment on Donald Trump’s campaign trail — though, ever the class act, she didn’t cite the president-elect by name. Instead, she appealed to the press — including the “famously well-heeled” Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization behind the Globes — to “hold power to account, to call them on the carpet for every outrage.”
She urged viewers to join her in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit organization that works to protect the freedom of the press around the world. And she spoke to the audience of Hollywood insiders, reminding them of “the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy” that defines their work.
Streep ended her speech by tearfully quoting Fisher: “As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia, said to me once: ‘Take your broken heart, make it into art.'”
In a career full of great acceptance speeches, it was one of Streep’s finest hours: a speech that honored the art of acting, while challenging her colleagues to work for the greater good.