Is Meryl Streep Overrated?

Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep poses in the press room during the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards / AP

So, obviously, the only thing anyone cares about from the Golden Globes last night—anyone except the fulminators of Film Twitter fuming about La La Land‘s triumph, that is—is Meryl Streep’s speech and the reaction it prompted from President-elect Donald Trump.

In the speech, Streep suggested that the people attending the Golden Globes (that is, foreign journalists and fabulously wealthy, slightly soused movie stars) are among the most vilified in our fair land. She spoke out against the president’s mocking of a disabled reporter (a truly classless move, it should be noted) just after mocking football and mixed martial arts as inferior to “the arts,” as she conceived them (another classless move, it should be noted).* Needless to say, Donald Trump wasn’t going to let this go, firing back that Streep is “over-rated.”

This, of course, leads to the real question raised in the last 14 hours or so: Is Meryl Streep overrated? Let’s think this over.

We can’t really appeal to Streep’s history of winning awards to disprove Donald Trump’s statement; after all, toting up her Oscars and Globes and nominations thereof would just be considered a symptom of her overrating. Similarly, box office means little: whether or not she is good at her art has very little to do with how many people pay to see her do it.

Overrating is in the eye of the beholder, I guess. She does have this annoying habit of ACTRESSING very hard, I’ll grant: she’s not a chameleon, exactly, so much as someone who can do a variety of accents with varying levels of believability. She’s always the center of whatever scene she’s in, for better or worse; there’s never a time you forget that Meryl Streep is on the screen when she’s there.

This is not necessarily a compliment.

That being said, I have to admit that I generally enjoy her work. I’ve been subjected to appreciated The Devil Wears Prada more times than I care to count, and her snippy huffiness is always quite charming: a dragon lady to slay all dragon ladies. Doubt may be depressing as all hell, but her righteous fury at the idea that a youth’s innocence should be sacrificed on the twin altars of social advancement and protection of the church is bracing. The Deer Hunter‘s early scenes—self-indulgent and overly long—may only work because of Streep’s stray flirty glances with Robert De Niro.

Streep’s finest work, of course—the one movie in her oeuvre I would save if aliens demanded that the rest be eliminated—came in Death Becomes Her, Robert Zemeckis’ hilarious examination of a life motivated by petty revenge, a movie in which spite moves the action and ugliness is the only real emotion on display. It is, in many ways, the perfect movie for our time, a prescient look at the way we succumb to our demons and drag down those who love us with our various neuroses. And she’s fantastic in that bit of solipsistic silliness.

So, is Meryl Streep overrated? BunchFact rates this “Maybe, Depending On Who You Are And What You Like To Watch And What Sort Of Mood You Are In When You Sit Down To Watch The Movie You Choose To Watch; Rating Such Things Is Difficult And If You Actually Engage In ‘Rating’ Such A Statement You Should Probably Quit Your Given Profession.”

*In all seriousness, I find this quite amusing. Here’s Streep on Trump

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.

Here’s Streep on entertainment she finds déclassé:

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. [Emphasis mine]

What is that dig at middle America’s preferred pastimes but an effort to “make [her] intended audience laugh, and show their teeth,” to make Hollywood swells giggle at the entertainments of those rubes “out there”? Logs, motes, etc.