She was glittering in her black gown. Her voice was breaking. She was almost in tears. And, people couldn’t get enough of her. When Meryl Streep got on stage to receive the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award, nobody had thought she would give a speech worth another award. That night she spoke beautifully about the political fiasco in America. Without taking any names she addressed something that got people on their feet.
Hollywood stars have utilized their award acceptance speech to address political issues from climate change (Leonardo Di Caprio) to gender pay gap (Patricia Arquette) and representations of Persons of Color in Hollywood (Halle Berry, John Legend). But there was a certain grace and maturity in what Meryl said that compelled the elect president Donald Trump to call her a “Hillary Lover.”
Our award shows, on the other hand, fail miserably just like the movies we produce. Rigged, nepotistic and lined with glitter, Bollywood Award shows are just dance performances after dance performances. And our speeches are drag and boring. An award function is a platform for raising awareness and Hollywood has proved that.
Bollywood actors have always avoided speaking about political issues (or social issues). And if they do speak they are either publically shamed or asked to leave the country. The recent issue of Pakistani actors in Bollywood being the biggest example of our faulty freedom of speech rights. In reality, you only have freedom of speech as long as you are speaking for the ruling government.
The problem lies in our acceptance. We only see actors as entertainers and not people who can affect people. As Meryl Streep pointed out, actors and the press have a social responsibility. They are mirrors of the society. They can affect the masses in a way no other media can.
The biggest lesson we can learn from her speech is to give our actors breathing space and a right to speak. Instead of critiquing them, let’s be tolerant to what they have to say. Then the responsibility lies on the shoulders of actors to use a public platform wisely.