I’ve written here before about how class in the United States is horrendously distorted in our dialogue, which makes it more about what you consume than wealth and power. This idiotic hit piece about Meryl Streep over at Jacobin is a prime example. OMG, Streep used to be from Jersey, but then she started playing WASPs, what a traitor to her class! Her speech was the worst thing that happened since Trump’s election! (When, btw, did simply being from New Jersey become a marker for working class? There are wealthy people in New Jersey, too, people. Come on.)
Um, no, I’d say dead Syrians are worse maybe than Meryl’s speech, wouldn’t you? I know that’s a cheap shot; you can always find more suffering, but if there is one thing I have had fully enough of, it’s celebrity politics of all kinds, and that includes celebrity take-downs like this one, which have nothing–nothing–constructive or substantive to say other than to denounce a successful woman in an industry where many, many people do not get desert. Point out those things? Nope. Jacobin just wants the clicks. How market-oriented of them.
Streep, had she said nothing, would have been vilified. She said something, she got variously celebrated and vilified. None–absolutely none of the blah-blah about “out of touch Hollywood liberals” or the “Yay, way to go, Meryl” discussion changes anything. There are no new things to learn here. It’s still a conversation centered on one of the elect that got a reward in a vicious, star-based system. Why we’d expect anything from anybody else in such a system is, frankly, astounding to me.
And, even more perversely, critiques of the winners in that star system fall too readily into sounding like sour grapes, and that Jacobin piece reeks of it.
Streep is, via her success, part of the 1 percent in an industry dominated by people struggling to make a living. The academy (my world) and the entertainment industry are both star system economies, where the winners make economic rents and everybody else…barely keeps body and soul together. I’m sick of celebrities and branded people of all types, and if nothing else, I’m sick fo the rest of us playing by those rules.
I’m sick of people saying things like scientists are “elite.” Um, no. They may be educated, and there are elite scientists. Neil deGrasse Tyson is an elite scientist, and I think he does try to do some good with his influence. But he is also financially doing jes’ fine. Plenty of other astronomers are teaching endlessly and doing grunt work in labs with little hope of getting out. We’ve stupidly assigned the characteristics of celebrity to the entire class of people “Hollywood”, and it’s terrible reasoning, and I very much doubt that’s the way to a more humane way of relating to each other either politically or economically. I’m not worried about Streep per se or any of the people who manage to make themselves darlings in these systems; I’m more worried about about collective inability to see what pulls the strings behind the large, loud image speaking and the way media just feeds and feeds that inability because it makes journalism and content cheap and easy to find.