END DIVISIVENESS THROUGH EMPATHY
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” – Winston Churchill
Earlier on Sunday I had a conference call with Highlark founders, Sonic and Mitch. We talked for over two hours on how Highlark is going to cover the divisive environment in the coming weeks, months and years. Divisiveness goes against everything Highlark stands for. We do not want to divide. We want to unite people through the arts. Later that evening Meryl Streep ended her much discussed Cecil B. DeMille Award acceptance speech by quoting her good friend and the recently departed Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher): “Take your broken heart and make it into art.”
I did a lot of listening during the Golden Globes. Let me re-phrase that, I did a lot of listening to understand during the Golden Globes. Following Golden Globe’s Twitter you probably saw thousands of tweets of people who were listening to respond. People responded the moment they heard things without taking a moment to digest what that person said and what they meant. It is easy to attack or praise Meryl Streep when you are sitting behind a computer screen. It is easy for us to just say the first thing that comes to our mind and put it out in the universe for others to read. But how many of those people who responded to her speech actually spent some time thinking about it before they responded? How many people really listened? How many people tried to understand where Mrs. Streep was coming from?
We often forget that actors, producers, directors, writers and musicians are just like us. We see them in fancy clothes and on our screens, assuming they do not face the same obstacles that we do. That they do not feel our pain. Last night I listened and heard about their passions, their struggles and their pain. I heard about the sacrifices people had to take (or others had to take for them) to get to where they are. I listened.
Instead of giving you my thoughts on the winner’s Golden Globes’ acceptance speeches, I thought I would let you read portions of their speech and try and relate to it. Try to understand where they were coming from. The only way we can end the divisiveness is if we really understand where people are coming from.
// BILLY BOB THORTON: Goliath who won Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series
I want to thank all the actors and musicians, technicians who actually go out and try. It’s easy to talk about people but it is really hard to stick your neck out.
// TRACEE ELLIS ROSS: Black-ish who won Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy
This if for all the women, women of color, and colorful people. Whose stories, ideas, thoughts are not always considered worthy and valid and important. But I want you to know that I see you; we see you. It is an honor to be on this show, Black-ish. To continue expanding the way we are seen and known. And to show the magic and the beauty and the sameness of a story and stories that are outside of where the industry usually looks.
// NINA JACOBSON: People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story accepting the award for Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
The trial of O.J. Simpson turned tragedy into entertainment. Reminding us that American justice is anything but blind when race, gender and celebrity are involved. When working on the show we had no idea how painfully relevant those things would be in 2016… We are grateful to our families, in my case my wife, kids and mom for their endless good sportsmanship in a game that isn’t exactly fair to them.
// HUGH LAURIE: The Night Watch who won for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
I won at the last ever Golden Globes. I don’t meant to be gloomy, it’s just that it has the words Hollywood, Foreign, and Press in the title; I just don’t know what…I think to some Republicans even the word association is slightly sketchy.
// VIOLA DAVIS: Fences who won Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
It’s not every day that Hollywood thinks of translating a play to screen. It doesn’t scream “moneymaker.” But it does scream “art.” It does scream “heart…” To the original Troy, my father Dan Davis, born in 1936. Groomed horses. Had a fifth-grade education. Didn’t know how to read until he was 15. But you know what? He had a story and it deserved to be told and August Wilson told it.
// RYAN GOSLING: La La Land who won Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
I just would like to try and thank one person properly, and say that while I was singing and dancing and playing piano and having one the best experiences I’ve ever had on a film, my lady was raising our daughter, pregnant with our second and trying to help her brother fight his battle with cancer. If she hadn’t taken all that on so that I could have this experience, would surely be someone else up here other than me to today. Sweetheart, thank you.
// TOM HIDDLESTON: The Night Manager who won Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
The idea that I could, or that we could provide, some relief and entertainment for people who work for Unicef and Médecins Sans Frontières and The World Food Programme who are fixing the world in the places where it was broken made me immensely proud.
// CHARLOTTE FOY: The Crown who won for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama
I really, really, really, wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for some extraordinary women, and I’m gonna thank them. One of them is Queen Elizabeth the second. She has been at the center of the world for the past 63 years, and I think the world could do with a few more women at the center of it, if you ask me.
// DONALD GLOVER: Atlanta who won for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy
I really want to say thank you to my son and the mother of my son for making me believe in people again and things being possible..I grew up in a house where magic wasn’t allowed. So everybody in here is like magical to me. Every time I saw a movie or Disney movie or heard your voices or saw you, I was like, ‘Oh, magic is from people. We’re the ones who kind of in a weird way tell a story or a lie to children so they do stuff that we never thought was possible.’ My dad used to tell me every day, ‘You can do anything you want.’ And I remember thinking as a kid in first grade, ‘You’re lying to me.’ [And now I do] stuff and he’s like, ‘I didn’t think that was possible.’
// EMMA STONE: La La Land who won Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
So to any creative person who has had a door slammed in their face, either metaphorically or physically, or actors who have had their auditions cut off, or waited for a callback that didn’t come, or anybody, anywhere really, that feels like giving up sometimes, but finds it in themselves to get up and keep moving forward, I share this with you.
// ISABELLE HUPPERT: Elle who won Best Performance by an Acress in a Motion Picture – Drama
Do not expect cinema to set up walls and borders.
// MERYL STREEP: Winner of the Cecil B. DeMille Award
Thank you, Hollywood Foreign Press. Just to pick up on what Hugh Laurie said: You and all of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners and the press.
But who are we, and what is Hollywood anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places. I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey. Viola was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina, came up in Central Falls, Rhode Island; Sarah Paulson was born in Florida, raised by a single mom in Brooklyn. Sarah Jessica Parker was one of seven or eight kids in Ohio. Amy Adams was born in Vicenza, Italy. And Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem. Where are their birth certificates? And the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, raised in London — no, in Ireland I do believe, and she’s here nominated for playing a girl in small-town Virginia.
Ryan Gosling, like all of the nicest people, is Canadian, and Dev Patel was born in Kenya, raised in London, and is here playing an Indian raised in Tasmania. So 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.
They gave me three seconds to say this, so: An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us, and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that. Breathtaking, compassionate work.
But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good; there was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh, and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head, because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kinda gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others we all lose. O.K., go on with it.
O.K., this brings me to the press. We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call him on the carpet for every outrage. That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in the Constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists, because we’re gonna need them going forward, and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.
At Highlark we hope to unite people together. To strive to share each other’s art and hopefully come out a little bit more empathetic. We have to have an open mind. We have to listen to understand. To be heard in order to teach. And to address our differences to move forward. In the coming weeks, months and years we plan to cover everyone’s broken hearts with the goal of to uniting us all.