We all got Seth Meyers’s joke about The Post on Golden Globes night. The moment he said: “Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks”, an assistant strode on stage, her arms laden with awards. “No, not yet, we have to wait,” Meyers told her, and she shuffled back off. Streep has nine Globes and three Oscars; Hanks four Globes and two Oscars. Other acting nominees that night included Daniel Day-Lewis, Judi Dench and Helen Mirren. They’re the usual suspects, each already multiple award-winners and default frontrunners every season.
But here’s the thing: none of them won! The heavyweights all left the ceremony empty-handed that night. The armful of awards instead went to the likes of Saoirse Ronan, Gary Oldman, Frances McDormand and James Franco. The Post received no Bafta nominations, either. Let’s see what happens when the Oscar nominations are announced on Tuesday but if Streep and Hanks aren’t there, you’ll know things have really changed.
As we all know, Hollywood has been repeatedly, earnestly shaking itself up over the past few years, from #OscarSoWhite to #MeToo, and the ejection of a generation of sexually predatory sleazeballs. Could this momentous changing of the guard affect the acting order, too?
As a consequence of the #OscarSoWhite debacle, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs pledged to increase diversity in an institution whose members in 2016 were 91% white and 76% male. Last year, she brought in 683 new members, 46% female, 41% non-white.
Just as it has wielded (and abused) power in other sectors of the industry, so this white, male contingent has overwhelmingly decided what constitutes good acting and who should be awarded for it (which are not necessarily the same thing). Through no fault of their own, actors such as Streep and Hanks have been the beneficiaries. Had the awards bodies been more diverse all along, the list of past winners might look a little different. Who would put money on Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump beating Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption for starters? Even Meryl Streep’s trophy room might be a little emptier.
Streep’s day is not done, surely, - brace yourselves for the Mamma Mia! sequel - but it would be a cruel irony if she turned out to be the victim of a movement she helped start. Streep was one of the first to put her head above the parapet, at last year’s Golden Globes, and call out Donald Trump’s bullying. Her first movie experience included being slapped without warning by Dustin Hoffman, in Kramer Vs Kramer, which she diplomatically described as “overstepping”. Few could disagree that she’s a great actor, even if The Post is not her greatest role. She has used her position in the best possible way: to fight for others. Now she, and her feted generation, might have to make way for them.