Meryl Streep Doesn’t Know Art

Meryl Streep Doesn’t Know Art

While accepting an award at the Golden Globes, actress Meryl Streep launched into a rant against the president-elect and his imagined policies, such as deporting foreigners legally in the country, something Trump has never suggested. During her tirade in which she was stressing how diverse Hollywood is, and how evil it is to stigmatize the less powerful, Streep ended with a scornful jab at the mixed martial arts. “Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners,” [Streep] said, “and if we kick them all out you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts—which are not the arts.” Streep’s screed is ignorant on a number of levels, but most galling is her putdown of the MMA as some kind of lowbrow entertainment for the ignorant masses who can’t appreciate "art." The obvious comeback is that they’re called the Mixed Martial ARTS (Duh!), but let’s look at the definition of art.  the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

the various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance.

a skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice. 

synonyms: skill, craft, technique, knack, facility, ability, know-how"the art of writing"

If we imagine two people fighting without any training or technique, what we have is a savage brawl of two combatants indistinguishable from animals–clawing, scratching, and biting at each other. Any fighting technique is created by human ingenuity. The MMA was born in Brazil, when the Gracie family was exposed to the Japanese martial art of jiu-jitsu by Mitsuyo Maeda, a student of the art’s founder, Jigoro Kano, who was a scholar and an educator, not an illiterate brawler. The Gracie family took the art they had learned and applied their own ingenuity to it, creating a unique art that was an expression of the Gracie family. Here we get to another aspect of art–that of unique individual expression. The greatest exponent of the idea of martial art as self-expression was Bruce Lee, who was a student of philosophy and the martial arts. Bruce had an immense library of books that he had thoroughly studied, and used this massive input to create an individual, eclectic style based upon Chinese Wing Chun, Western boxing as typified by Jack Dempsey, and the fencing style of Italian fencer Aldo Nadi, among others.  In the MMA we see fighters immersing themselves in multiple styles, such as Western boxing and wrestling, Muay Thai, judo, jiu-jitsu, and Tae Kwon Do. And here we get to another of Streep’s ignorant implications–that MMA is for people afraid of "diversity" who can’t appreciate art, so they watch the MMA in their trailer homes while swilling beer and spitting tobacco into coffee cans. In an interesting interview with Kerry Howley, author of the book Thrown and assistant professor at the University of Iowa, Howley says, "[Streep] couldn’t have chosen a worse sport to represent American provincialism." In other words, MMA is not an all-white, entirely American phenomenon (as though there’s anything wrong with that), but a sport that combines fighters and techniques–yes, arts–from every conceivable race, country, and culture. If you eliminate foreigners and foreign ideas, the MMA cease to exist.  Howley goes on to say, "The [MMA] fighters that I know self-identify as artists. They’re people who are seeking out a life that is very likely not going to make them wealthy, that is very difficult, and that is openly stigmatized, as we just saw. And they’re doing it because there’s something beautiful and strange about the experience of opening yourself up to this kind of violence. It was very easy for me to spend three years with these men because they shared a lot of the values of the artist community that I have here in Iowa City." Who can doubt that Anderson Silva, or Conor McGregor, or Dominick Cruz, are practicing an art, crafting a skill, and engaging in a unique form of expression? 

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