No one should have been surprised that the Screen Actor’s Guild Awards would get a little extra-political Sunday night as the awards were handed out amid a tense atmosphere following outrage over President Donald Trump’s so-called “Muslim Ban.”
The normal hew of thank you speeches gave way to statements about personal liberties, personal statements and the importance of artistic freedom. Commentary covered the spectrum from those whose job some agree is to simply entertain without the inconvenience of having to hear a sobering thought about events troubling millions of Americans. The SAG Awards traditional opening, an odd “up close and personal” sequence that allows actors to make a statement from their table directly into the camera signaled the night’s proceedings.
Ashton Kutcher, from the stage, made a clumsy attempt to rally the crowd in a statement that seemed less personal then simply telling the crowd what it wanted to hear: ““Good evening fellow SAG-AFTRA members and everyone at home, and everyone in airports that belong in my America.”
And it rolled from there.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus who won Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series tried to bring some levity to the proceedings by lampooning Trump but then diverting that by reading the WGA statement about opposition to his policy.
Bryan Cranston, who won Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie for playing Lyndon Johnson in the TV movie All the Way imagined what LBJ might say to DJT, “36 would put his arm around 45 and earnestly wish him success, and he would also whisper in his ear something he said often, ‘Just don’t piss in the soup that all of us gotta eat’.”
Moonlight Supporting Actor Winner Mahershala Ali, clearly emotional at the podium, spoke solemnly about the minutia of being angry with one another about our differences, and taking a page from his own life, the struggle in his own life in finding peace between himself as a Muslim and his mother, an ordained minister. It was nice that he kept it close to the chest and didn’t further it into the ban on Muslims.
The energy from the SAG awards, mostly from the left-leaning community that openly defies President Trump and his polices (and have, for the most part, even before his inauguration) give voice to a unified community that sees itself in opposition to what it feels is an attack on personal and artistic freedom coming from the highest office in the land. Since Meryl Streep’s rallying speech at the Golden Globes three weeks ago, it has been expected that the awards season would be peppered with these speeches which are expected to be the major focus of the Oscars next month. But are they grounded in fact, or are they simply a case of rabble rousing?
In this case, I think it’s both. The rousing chorus of a room full of artists speaking on its own behalf is nothing new, but perhaps someone should be the voice of reason here. Someone should really wait and see what Trump is going to do before decrying the notions of being robbed of personal liberties. Never-the-less, the battle has just begun. It’s going to be a long four years.