Meryl Streep’s Shot At MMA Was Painfully Stupid

In taking a cheap shot to make a hollow point, Meryl Streep mirrored a fatal flaw hounding liberal politics

Photo Illustration: Vocativ
Jan 09, 2017 at 3:20 PM ET

Star actress Meryl Streep received a well-deserved lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes on Sunday and admirably dedicated her acceptance speech to the value of diversity, which she not-so-subtly implied has been under attack by the right-wing movement that somehow thought Donald Trump was qualified to do anything other than tweet.

She took a shot at the Donald for mocking a disabled reporter, encouraged the press to hold him accountable over the next four years, and then dropped this line after highlighting the alleged diversity of the actors and actresses in the audience: “Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners, and if we kick them all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts,” a line that was met with rapturous applause.

Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way here. Namely that Meryl Streep has probably never watched an MMA fight and it’s quite possible she chose to single out MMA just so she could work in that cheeky “which are not the arts” clause. Either way, she clearly didn’t think this one through and, unsurprisingly, MMA fans let her have it online after the speech.

The surprising part? While there were a number of low-brow and misogynistic swipes at Streep, there were also a fair number of MMA fans willing to be reasoned, coherent, and, most importantly, correct.

“[It’s] funny because MMA employs a MUCH greater diversity of both foreigners and minorities than hollywood [sic]; for that matter so does football,” user Reyesnuthugr posted in a thread about Streep’s speech on the MMA forum Sherdog. “But her brain didn’t finish due diligence to screen the examples and as a result the chosen metaphors don’t work as punchlines for her attempted feel good thesis.”

Aside from missing the definition of metaphor, this comment is right. While Hollywood actors regularly talk about the importance of diversity, the industry’s brass doesn’t exactly practice what the actors preach. Last year, after Oscar nominations were announced, Hollywood faced yet another backlash over the disproportionate number of white nominees. A beyond valid objection since this is the same industry that cast Emma Stone as a part Chinese-Hawaiian woman for the simple reason that whitewashing is part and parcel of Hollywood.

Consider that the list of actors Streep named demonstrate Hollywood’s lack of actual diversity. She highlighted herself (American white woman), Sarah Paulson (American white woman), Sarah Jessica Parker (American white woman), Amy Adams because she’s an Army brat born in Italy (to white American parents), Natalie Portman because she was born in Jerusalem (but was raised on the east coast), and Ryan Gosling because he’s a Canadian white man. The three non-white colleagues she did name—Viola Davis, Ruth Negga, and Dev Patel—hardly balance the scale here.

This isn’t to question Streep’s personal belief in the value of diversity, but if all the “outsiders and foreigners” left Hollywood, the only thing missing for most would be the occasional Will Smith or Denzel Washington vehicle. Meanwhile, MMA has a large contingent of foreign-born and minority fighters, and until recently the sport’s biggest star was Ronda Rousey, which MMA fans quickly pointed out.

“If there were only american [sic] fighters, we’d lose 5 champs, including both women champions,” said Reddit user dudemanwhoa in /r/MMA. “We’d lose the 3 best fighters of all time (Fedor, Anderson Silva, GSP). We’d lose its biggest star (Conor). The sport would suddenly be much worse off, and reset a decade of progress.”

MMA fans also complained that while fighting isn’t art in the same sense as acting or painting, there is an art to the craft of fighting and it rewards creativity. Many fans linked to tweets by UFC reporter Megan Olivi:

Regardless of how righteous the MMA fan community backlash is or isn’t, the issue here is how readily Streep mirrored establishment liberal politics through empty virtue signaling, all for the sake of making a simple point that didn’t demand broadsiding a diverse set of people. No reasonable person should believe that choosing to spend 15 bucks on “La La Land” makes you any more cultured or progressive than someone who’d rather watch a cage fight. After all, while both forms of entertainment host their own less than high-brow brutality—try watching whatever Z-grade violence-porn Rob Zombie is peddling before dismissing MMA as a degenerate’s pastime—only one exposes you to the abject horror of Ryan Gosling’s broke-ass Gene Kelly impersonation. If anything, Streep’s attempted paean to diversity relied on the same base biases that have kept Hollywood so overwhelmingly white you’d think Trump’s end-game has already arrived.