The 72nd Annual Tony Awards were held last night at NYC’s Radio City Music Hall. “The Band’s Visit” took home best new musical, Nathan Lane won his third Tony, and the two productions tied for the most nominations (SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical and Mean Girls) managed to only receive one award; Mean Girls went 0 for 12 and SpongeBob won for best scenic design. The most memorable moment of the night brought nearly everyone in the audience to their feet. It wasn’t a performance, but it was still brutal honesty.
Robert De Niro took the stage to introduce a performance by Bruce Springsteen. While he had everyone’s eyes and ears, he took the opportunity to speak from his heart. “First, I wanna say, fuck Trump.” He clinched his fists and stood with a troubled countenance, to the tune of excited applause. “It’s no longer ‘Down with Trump,’ it’s fuck Trump.” He strongly stood on and Radio City Music Hall was electrified. People gave De Niro and his comments a standing ovation, an honorable gesture in theatre. So much for Michelle Obama’s “When they go low” speech. De Niro’s insult was bleeped/muted out by CBS, but the uncensored versions made their rounds on Twitter.
There was something so distasteful with the scene. There was a sense of false justice, privilege, ignorance, and overall deafness to the political climate. And understand this: I am not, in any form or fashion, defending the abhorrent president and his fetid administration. His presence and policy is a stain on the USA. Furthermore, I’m a fan of De Niro’s work. This, however, doesn’t excuse him from the stunt last night. In his defense, he was merely speaking the collective emotion of liberal America. But it was incorrect to do so, especially on that platform.
This kind of rhetoric and behavior plays right into Trump’s hands. It justifies retaliation. It fires up the base. It further makes a case against the (apparent) out-of-touch elite liberal bubbles of Hollywood and New York. Throw this wind behind the sails of a boat whose cargo includes: Michelle Wolf’s stand up gig at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Samantha Bee calling Ivanka Trump a C-word, Bill Maher referring to Trump as an orangutan (and defending it), Kathy Griffin’s decapitation debacle, and Hollywood donors giving HRC more than $46 million in the primaries. The equation adds up to something that looks like Trump’s reelection in 2020. And when that moment comes, liberal America will wonder why.
Sinking ships aren’t saved by succumbing to anger. Being angry and reacting to rage gets absolutely nothing done. Progressive change isn’t brought upon society through verbal abuse. Decency and maturity are more effective — a levelheaded, well planned and swift take down of a demagogue via election. Organizing is more effective. Community change makers and enthusiastic advocates invite more inclusive futures than a celebrity who feeds the political turbulence. Let’s just hope that tomorrow sees better executed reproaches. You can still say “fuck you” without saying it.
Hugo is an actor and freelance writer. Follow him on Twitter for odd thoughts (@hugosaysgo) and on Instagram for photography (@hugosnaps). Happy reading.