“Meryl Streep called out Donald Trump at the Golden Globes…” goes the head of a Yahoo news story bylined by Elahe Izadi and Amy B. Wang. That got me hooked and read on, though it must have been outdated already: the date indicated was January 9, a good eleven days to Trump’s assuming the presidency of the United States of America. As always I have this fascination with stories on abusive presidents, all the more so with those of incurably ambitious aspirants to being president, like Ninoy Aquino, for one example. It turned out, the acclaimed actress was awarded the Cecile B. de Mille Award in recognition of her lifetime achievement in movies and in her acceptance speech she took a dig at the then still president-elect Trump who in one of his campaign sorties appeared to be making fun of New York Times reporter Serge F. Kovaleski whose affliction with arthrogryposis made him wobble in his movements.
Referring to that incident, Streep said in her speech:
“There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. 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. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing.”
On a number of counts, the speech jolted me. One, on the scale of privilege, power and the capacity to strike, Trump was only just aspiring to sit as US president and couldn’t yet use those prerogatives to his advantage, yet Streep already felt he should be called out for his mocking mimicry of Kovaleski. That got me wishing Streep were the Mochas and the Usons of the dead Philippine movie industry who as soon as Duterte got those complained-of prerogatives of Trump and went on a binge of extra judicial killings of far littler folks than Kovaleski, even hailed the murderer to high heavens, calling him a hero for fighting crimes, never mind due process.
In other words, if Streep were a Filipina actress who went up the stage of the Globe Awards, she would have delivered a far more telling speech, one that would have spoken out to the millions of Americans and to the millions more all over the world, exposing the terrible carnage obtaining in the Philippines – the bodies of utterly hapless souls that drop on city sidewalks to bath in their own blood night after night, thereafter to clog the morgues of cheap funeral homes, there to rot for being unclaimed and for sheer lack of formalin by which to preserve the corpses for a time at least.
About a couple of months ago, a photographer of Kovaleski’s New York Times was commissioned by CNN to cover the Duterte illegal drugs war and came out with a graphic depiction of the nightly grim scenes wrought by vigilante and police violence. She should take a look at those photographs and then realize to herself that it’s miles apart to be calling out Trump for his political gimmickry from fighting a newly-emerged Philippine tyrant for his mass slaughter of small-time drug addicts and pushers.
In any case, it seems really just bombast to strike at the US president for a slight committed in the glitz and glamour of the US press. As Trump put it in a riposte, “For the 100th time, I never ‘mocked’ a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him ‘groveling’ when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!” And of Streep, he had this own potshots, calling her “a Hilary lover,” “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood,” and “a Hillary flunky who lost big.”
That nobody from the Philippine movie industry dares come forward to oppose Durterte’s murderous spree can be understood. After all, self-preservation is a basic instinct of man. So who is to fault them for not getting involved in the killings of other people?
So okay, forget the EJKs. No star is a hero anyway except in their movies. Just they mind their own individual welfares.
And yet even in this respect, the movie industry people are still willing to take the worst. This is another count from the Streep posturing at the Golden Globes which astounds. No Filipino actor seems willing to execute that stance even on the issue of their right to self-preservation.
It takes honesty for a Filipino actor to recognize that the Philippine movie industry is practically dead; that the dearth of yearly movie outputs (most of them are non-mainstream industry products but the so-called indie films; in fact last year’s best picture, Sunday Beauty Queen, was an indie) reflects the veritable last spasms of a drowning victim needing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to keep him alive; that it takes a strong determined government intervention to get the industry back to once it was when an estimated number of 350 movies were being produced yearly; and that such determination cannot but be a mandamus, a presidential proclamation or an executive order (this is legalese up for legal minds to handle, but in any case must be in the purview of presidential prerogatives) by which to compel Henry Sy to lift his ban on adult movies which he imposed back in 2000 or thereabouts. Under the ban, only movies classified by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) PG 13 and below are allowed to be shown in SM theaters. Since 80% of the movie houses are under the umbrella of the SM malls spread all over the archipelago, the ban effectively denied outlets to the bulk of the produce of the Philippine movie industry which were of the adult genre – the kind that reared the breed of superstars-turned-politicians like President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, Senators Bong Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada and Lito Lapid; and movie legends like Fernando Poe, Jr., Cristina Gonzales, Ramon Rivilla, Tony Ferrer, Rey Malonzo, oh, the list is long. And that one single act of Henry Sy of banning adult movies killed the Philippine movie industry – thereby leaving the great population of Filipino movie addicts up for grabs mainly by Hollywood. Try going the rounds of Henry Sy movie houses and see for yourself that it is Hollywood movies enjoying the heyday.
So without Meryl Streep realizing it, when, by bashing Trump, she effected a glorification of Hollywood in its tradition of fighting the establishment, she was upholding that tradition partly on the utter destruction of what should be her world as well in the Philippine setting. One stage act of Trump ridiculing a media practitioner hooked her heart because it was real, Henry Sy’s killing of the Philippine movie industry is a far greater reality and should amount to pain a thousand fold striking at her heart – not to mention the EJKs.