We’ve just completed the first presidential primary of the 2020 election year, and the decision is unanimous.
This was the Hollywood primary — not to be confused with the California primary — and after the votes were counted, there wasn’t a dry eye or a deplorable in sight.
The winner was Oprah Winfrey, the onetime actress, sometime activist and full-time talk-show hostess and now a presidential nominee.
You might even call her the front-runner of the Pity Party.
Or so the Hollywood branch of the Pity Party decided, assembled as it was in Beverly Hills for the annual dinner of the Golden Globes, one of the endless occasions of the Hollywood glitterati to exchange prizes with one another. This is a rite that has yet to catch on with plumbers, morticians and other professionals, with prizes for the most effective use of say, a bathroom plunger or, the most skillful application of rouge on a dearly departed.
Miss Winfrey had a very good night, with a moving speech celebrating a hero and a heroine “of color.” She invoked pathos (and even a touch of bathos) reciting how she watched an Academy Awards telecast as a little girl, “sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee,” and how thrilled she was when Sidney Poitier — “the most elegant man I had ever seen, his tie was white and of course his skin was black” — was called up to the stage to accept his Oscar.
We can understand the moment for her, but we can’t understand why she felt the need to knock linoleum, which has softened the lives of so many poor folks, black and white. Some of us looked forward with great anticipation to a new linoleum “rug” for our rooms, thinking it just as fashionable as an imagined starlet’s linoleum in Hollywood.
Oprah paid similar tribute to several other stars, musicians and producers, all “of color,” with none of the professional politician’s care to include all worthy hues in her recital. She thanked the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in a tribute to “the press under siege,” though it was the first time anyone had heard that the Hollywood press, forever attentive to the flesh-peddling mission of the movie capital, was suffering under a siege.
Her most heartfelt tribute was to “each of us in this room, celebrated because of the stories we tell. And this year we became the story. But it’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics or workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed, bills to pay and dreams to pursue.”
Every woman in the audience applauded, many dressed in expensive black to protest the misery of their lives, and served up in expensive gowns, like oysters on the half-shell. Curiously, she shared her cloak of pity to a genuinely tragic figure, one Recy Taylor of Abbeville, Alabama, circa 1944, a young wife and mother who was abducted on her walk home from church by six white men, and brutally raped. Mrs. Taylor died just after Christmas this year a few days short of her 98th birthday.
Such equating of trivia with tragedy has been par for the course of the MeToo movement of women alleging sexual harassment, juxtaposing offenses ranging from an appreciative glance and a flirtatious wink to authentic abuse and even rape. All same same. Recy Taylor deserves, especially from the winner of the Hollywood Primary, a lot better than that.
But Hollywood, suffering from a long bout of feelings of irrelevancy, is back with the gaga. Seth Meyers, the emcee at the Golden Globes, credited his remarks at a dinner of the White House Correspondents Association for goading Donald Trump into the 2016 race for president (the goad was actually a speech by Barack Obama). Meryl Streep says Oprah has no choice, now that she carried the Hollywood Primary, but to run. Indeed, Mzz Streep is ready to be secretary of State in the Oprah administration, eager to negotiate with heads of state, since she once portrayed Margaret Thatcher in a movie.
Stedman Graham, Oprah’s fairly significant other, thinks she’s up for a run for the White House. “It’s up to the people,” he says, generously. “She would absolutely do it.” Tom Hanks is widely tipped already for Oprah’s running mate, though her natural running mate is Beyonce, but only if she has been winked at, and it’s hard to imagine that she hasn’t.
It’s further hard to imagine that anyone, even a Hollywood twinkie, is seriously looking for another president recruited from the ranks of television performers. That’s where we came in to this movie.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.
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