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April 30th, 2017

Insight

Meryl and Madonna Pour New Whine Into Old Battles

Suzanne Fields

By Suzanne Fields

Published Jan. 13, 2017

Women are angry, this time with President-elect Donald Trump. But they're mad about a lot of other things, too. They've come a long way, baby, but a lot of them don't like what they see as they look over their shoulders back into the future. I'm not talking about the women's march on Washington, D.C., on the day after the Donald becomes the 45th president.

This is about two prominent, privileged women who have it all but insist on pouring new whine into old battles in a dirty, rotten but pampered world in which they can warm themselves with their millions.

Meryl Streep and Madonna don't seem to have much in common beyond their celebrity in show biz — celebrity they've earned in very different ways. But instead of expressing gratitude and appreciation to the public for honoring them and reveling in their talent to inspire those who are eager to tread their path, they lapsed into the popular "politically correct," searching out applause for "victimhood" in strange places.

Streep, who gave a speech on Hillary Clinton's behalf at the Democratic National Convention last summer, has still not climbed past stage one in her mourning over the events of Nov. 8. While accepting a Golden Globe award for her remarkable lifetime achievement, she was more interested in venting her anger with Trump than saying thanks for the honor bestowed on her.

For an actress with perfect pitch and an unerring sense of character and place, she slipped into the dissonant, turning to the Theater of the Absurd to describe the glitteries in the Hollywood audience as "the most vilified segments in American society right now." Vilified? All that glitters may not be gold, but she was not exactly talking to Clinton's deplorables.

She was on firmer footing and more affecting among the thespians of La-La Land in describing how Trump once belittled a disabled reporter for his mannerisms. It was a low blow, but bringing it up again felt out of place, too. The campaign, as Vice President Joe Biden reminded us, is over. Digging up old grievances, rather than speaking to our better instincts in a wish for a better future, diminishes the last movie star.

She demonstrated what she warned against in saying, "Disrespect invites disrespect." Her sentiments were not what President Obama expressed in his farewell speech — urging everyone to take pride in the orderly transfer of power. Nor was it an award-winning performance when she belittled television fans who groove on football and mixed martial arts. The culture wars splutter and rage, but the Golden Globe Awards ceremony is an odd venue for getting into that. If it's fair to say that "When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose," then it's fair to say that we also lose when the rich and famous use their fame to divide, bully and denigrate the entertainment tastes of others.

By contrast, Madonna's sense of victimhood is more up close and personal. She is a star from another galaxy. When she accepted a trophy for woman of the year at the Billboard Women in Music Awards in New York City the other day, she complained that she was a victim of "blatant sexism and misogyny and constant bullying and relentless abuse." This was not about the "vilification" of an entire group of professionals dedicated to glitz and glamour but all about Madonna. She's unhappy about growing older and had only a little lip-service anger on behalf of other aging sisters of the stage. She offered an opening line spoken without irony: "I stand before you as a doormat. Oh, I mean, a female entertainer."

Surely, no female entertainer has been less of a doormat than Madonna. It's true that she's getting older, and she's no longer an ingenue. She is 58 years old, and as Obama's mama said, "reality has a way of catching up with you." But she's still sexy and vulgar enough to get applause for it.

She just grossed $170 million on the tour she called "Rebel Heart." Forbes magazine put her on their list of "America's Richest Self-Made Women," speculating that she has a net worth of more than a half-billion dollars.

Appeals to victimhood have become a mantra in a culture in which some women want a shortcut to displays of their discontent. That's too bad because American women are among the most fortunate women in the world. When thousands of them march on Washington the day after Donald Trump becomes president, they should luxuriate in the freedom of possibility. They might find it more liberating than playing the pitiful victim.

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