Day 43 and it’s Oscar night, which is the peak of the season here. I’ve got an invite to an Oscar Party in the Hollywood Hills in a custom party house owned by the CEO of Absolute Vodka. There’s a registration at the bottom of the hill and if you pass muster they send you up in a shuttle to a house with a marquee and screens all over the place. It’s black tie, but I have my three piece, which seems to do the trick. As I walk towards the registration I make a new friend. He is evidently of South American origin, probably Mexican. I mention this because it is a little at odds with what follows. He has a megaphone and a moustache, and he really really doesn’t like me. As I pass him he shouts in my ear through the megaphone. He could’ve been shouting anything. “I love elephants!”. As it happens it was something Trumpish, which becomes apparent. My instant reaction is to put my hand between my ear and the megaphone and push the damn thing down a bit. “Dude you don’t need the megaphone I’m right here. Are you okay?” This is enough to have him on me like a tick, howling nonsensical vitriol at me at close range as I attempt to walk down a crowded street. I realise I am surrounded by people chanting “Trump Trump Trump”. One of them is saying “Do you want our Christian boys to die in your wars.” There’s some serious mental mismanagement here. None of them are thinking straight. They don’t know who I am or what I stand for, but they take it as enough that one of them doesn’t like me and I have a beard and am dressed smartly for them to pour their vitriol on me. Lyndon says “come on let’s go” but I’m curious now. He has his cellphone in my face and is still hiding behind his megaphone. I ask him “Why are you so angry?” but this is not a dialogue. This is a lot of people shouting slogans. There is literally no sense in this. I leave the interaction feeling battered. I am followed out by a cameraman and a journalist. Who knows what their agenda is but they want to know more. The cameraman says “I got it all.” He appears to be shooting on an old 33 millimetre. The journalist asks my name. I only give my first name. I go to a bar where I play it back in my mind in order to assess what happened. The worst thing I did was say “I wish you all the best.” I don’t think it was overly passive aggressive. It wasn’t intended to be. I was just trying to dig my way out of the vitriol especially since it made no sense.
But then these people are here to protest the liberal elite. And here I am, working as an actor, about to go up the hill in a shuttle and drink free vodka and eat free food while watching people in my industry accept glamorous awards in a setting that drips money. Tonight I am all the people he hates.
We all want our work to be recognised. I’ve been working hard at this for years now and I have to make peace with the fact that usually I can barely afford to pay my electricity bill. But at least I have an electricity bill to pay. I bet he has been working harder, with nothing to show. I have no idea what the situation of people in the poorer parts of this nation is, but I suspect it can get pretty bleak. When you’re down you want to believe that someone in power cares about you. It’s a hell of a trick that this billionaire has pulled. In the process of servicing his own greed and ego, he has persuaded the most dispossessed people in this country that he speaks for them. I’m worried because I think he doesn’t. I think he speaks for himself alone. I would love to be persuaded otherwise. For as long as he is the naked emperor, and as long as we caricature him as a shouting toddler, so he will caricature the “liberal elite” as the enemy of the working man because they are HIS enemy. Trump is a word that is synonymous with “me”. When they shout Trump, they shout “me”. Whole unthinking rallies of people shouting “me, me, me!” Because they have mistook his passion for himself as passion connected to his false promises. Some people don’t have the luxury of time to listen to press conferences in their entirety. Some people have not had the fortune to be able to convert their hardship into a finely tuned ability to read between the lines when someone speaks in public or when someone puts a lie about NHS money on the side of a bus. Life is hard and this man says he will make it better for me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me.
But this evening I can see why it is so easy for artists and thinkers to be made the enemy. Here we all are in our sequins and our bow ties, drinking freebies and watching ourselves on big screens. Maybe Lala Land, which is lovely but a profound love song about the privileged elite in Hollywood, will win best picture. That story is not going to connect to someone who has been manually working hand to mouth for years. It’s going to alienate them as they dance and prat about in their beautiful clothes. I wonder many people here at this party have ever worked in soup kitchens in their spare time? Does having the spare time to work in a soup kitchen automatically invalidate our politics if we do? Is it a patronising thing to do?
The hate I experienced from a man who knew nothing about me but how I looked – it has me worried. This immigrant nation has come so far so fast, but it feels like there is a chance it will turn on itself now. We cannot dismiss Trump voters as stupid. They’re desperate. It’s a riot. Tear this shit down and start again.
I have no solutions here. I wish I did. I want to be able to have a discussion with that guy, but the gap between my education and his desperation is too far for him to bridge while he is angry. And he has no interest in trying to unpick what I represent to him. I am the enemy. Pure and simple. And it feels like if we don’t like Trump we don’t like the people that voted for him. Because Trump and “me” are synonymous. Pity is too patrician. Hate is too aggressive. How, across the west, can we start to make sure that the arts and the liberals speak for the people that don’t have 50 pounds for a theatre ticket…? The angry dispossessed like my Mexican friend who might well have spent all his spare cash on that expensive phone and that top quality megaphone.
I honestly don’t know. I’m just going to tether my iPad to my smartphone and post this on my blog before going back to see who wins the next Oscar…