One of the biggest surprises at the 2017 SAG Awards was the cast of Netflix’s Stranger Things winning Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series over the casts of shows like The Crown and Game of Thrones. But perhaps the biggest surprise was the acceptance speech that followed.
David Harbour, who plays Chief of Police Jim Hopper on the 1980s-set Stranger Things, accepted the show’s trophy while backed by his fellow cast members. He used the opportunity to deliver the most unexpected and thrilling speech of the night, offering a sly commentary on the current state of American and global politics.
“In light of all that's going on in the world today, it's difficult to celebrate the already celebrated Stranger Things. But this award from you, who take your craft seriously and earnestly believe, like me, that great acting can change the world, is a call to arms from our fellow craftsmen and women to go deeper, and through our art to battle against fear, self-centeredness, and exclusivity of our predominantly narcissistic culture,” Harbour shouted, assessing the post-Trump America that he has observed, and praising the power of art to transcend it.
Though he never mentioned Trump directly, he called for unity, asking his fellow actors to, “through our craft, cultivate a more empathetic and understanding society by revealing intimate truths that serve as a forceful reminder to folks that when they feel broken and afraid and tired, they are not alone.”
Watching Harbour unleash those words and build momentum as the crowd cheered him on was like watching thunder roll in before the storm. His speech just got bigger and more powerful as he tied Stranger Things’ fictional, nostalgic tale of demogorgons and upside-down worlds to everything we’ve seen in 2017 thus far, including President Trump’s sweeping executive order on immigration. He even offered a definitive answer to a recent debate over whether it’s okay to punch a white nationalist in the face.
“We are united, in that we are all human beings, and we are all together on this horrible, painful, joyous, exciting, and mysterious ride that is being alive. Now, as we act in the continuing narrative of Stranger Things, we 1983 Midwesterners will repel bullies,” Harbour said, bringing down the house as the crowd rose for a standing ovation. “We will shelter freaks and outcasts — those who have no hope. We will get past the lies. We will hunt monsters. And when we are at a loss amidst the hypocrisy and casual violence of certain individuals and institutions, we will, as per Chief Jim Hopper, punch some people in the face when they seek to destroy the meek and the disenfranchised and the marginalized. And we will do it all with soul, with heart, and with joy. We thank you for this responsibility.”