Content Warnings: Sexual assault, sexual abuse, abuse
This year, the Golden Globes ceremony was a must-watch for me, as it was for many women around the world. Between the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, and prominent Hollywood icons, such as Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey being exposed as abusers, the 75th Golden Globes was an important event to take a stand against sexual assault, abuse, and sexism in the workplace. And while some used the ceremony to take a stand, others remained silent.
The biggest statement of the night was that (almost) everyone wore black to support the #TimesUp movement and stand in solidarity with women who have been sexually assaulted or harassed in the workplace. The women retired the usual flashy and colourful dresses seen on the red carpet for more serious black attire, while most men wore the black that they would wear to any other awards ceremony, giving, in my opinion, a false illusion of solidarity. If you are interested in the #TimesUp movement and the pros and cons of this protest at the Golden Globes, you can read Larissa Duggan’s article The Hypocrisy of the Stars. This article is going to focus on the other kinds of statements about sexual harassment and assault and gender inequality that were made (or not) at the 75th Annual Golden Globes.
The statements against sexual assault and abuse started on the red carpet. Many celebrities brought praised activists as their dates this year, using their platform to elevate the voices of these important women. Some of these couples include Emma Stone and Billie Jean King (a fighter for pay equity and LGBTQ+ rights), Laura Dern and Mónica Ramírez (co-founder and president of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas), and Michelle Williams and Tarana Burke (founder of Just Be Inc. as well as the creator of the #MeToo movement), among many others. Recognizing these activists is crucial, since the effects of sexual assault and abuse reach beyond Hollywood, and intersect with class, race, and other aspects of identity in crucial ways. These women activists have been fighting for a long time and deserve recognition at least at the level of the celebrities they are accompanying.
Another important moment on the red carpet was when Debra Messing, star of Will and Grace, used her star power and privilege to call out E! News for not paying their female hosts as much as their male counterparts. After answering the E! correspondent’s question about why she was wearing black, Debra Messing went on to say, “I was so shocked to hear that E! doesn’t believe in paying their female co-hosts the same as their male co-hosts. I miss Catt Sadler and, so, we stand with her.” Debra Messing is referring to Catt Sadler’s recent resignation as an E! host after she found out that her “male equivalent” was making double her salary.
In the ceremony itself, a lot of the women awarded Golden Globes made a point to use their acceptance speech as a moment to stand with women who have been sexually assaulted and harassed. When Laura Dern was awarded Best Supporting Actress in a Series for Big Little Lies, she said, “I urge all of us to not only support survivors and bystanders who are brave enough to tell their truth, but to promote restorative justice. May we also please protect and employ them.” Presenters also spoke out, such as Barbra Streisand, who openly criticized the Hollywood Foreign Press and Golden Globes for the lack of nominated female directors. When presenting the Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Streisand said, “I’m the only woman to get the best director award. That was 1984 (for Yentl), that was 34 years ago. Folks, time’s up!” She later tweeted, “Here’s a terrible fact— There has not been a single woman who has won the Golden Globe for Best Director since I was fortunate enough to win it for Yentl in 1984…that’s 34 years ago! Not right!”
And, of course, the most talked about moment of the night was Oprah’s empowering acceptance speech for the honorary Cecil B. Demille award. Her rousing and powerful speech had the whole audience at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on their feet. Oprah became the first black woman to be awarded this honour, and took the moment to inspire the world and encourage us towards a brighter future. She finished off her speech with the words,
So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again.
You can watch the whole speech below:
However, many people online have pointed out that these “phenomenal men” seem to have been missing from the Golden Globe ceremonies. Seth Meyers was perhaps the only man to directly address sexual harassment and abuse in Hollywood on Sunday night. He made jokes about Weinstein, Spacey, and the general creepiness of men, with some hitting the mark while others fell on awkward silence. As passionate and empowered as the women at the ceremony were, the men in the room, and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, did not offer much support, and in some cases, even contradicted the #TimesUp movement they claim to support.
Many named, and likely even more unnamed, abusers or supporters of abusers walked the red carpet on Sunday night, but in their black attire, sometimes adorned with a #TimesUp pin, the perpetrators could pass as supporters to the public. One example is Justin Timberlake, who tweeted a photo with his wife Jessica Biel captioned, “Here we come!! And DAMN, my wife is hot! #TIMESUP #whywewearblack” even though he worked with alleged predator Woody Allen this year, in Wonder Wheel. The Hollywood Foreign Press even went so far as to reward men accused of assault and abuse, such as James Franco, who won Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical, and also been accused of sexual assualt and inappropriate sexual behaviour, or Gary Oldman, winner of Best Performance By an Actor in a Motion Picture-Drama, whose ex-wife accused him of beating her with a telephone in front of their children. How can the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and Hollywood in general, claim to support the #TimesUp movement when they celebrate men accused of abuse and sexual assault?
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association could have also chosen any number of women, and more specifically women of colour, to host the Golden Globes as proof that they stand with the #TimesUp movement and empowering, supporting, and celebrating a Hollywood that is not so white and male-dominated. Instead they chose Seth Meyers who, as I mentioned earlier, was unfortunately the only man to speak out against sexual assault and abuse in Hollywood. When considering that two of the most nominated pieces of media, Big Little Lies and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri deal with abuse against women, award winners such as Alexander Skarsgård (who plays an abusive husband in Big Little Lies), Sam Rockwell (who plays a racist and sexist cop in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), and Michael McDonough (who literally wrote and directed a film about the brutal sexual assault and murder of a teenage girl) had the perfect opportunity to make a statement about the treatment of women in their industry, and in the world in general, but instead chose to remain silent.
Another one of the biggest problems with the evening was that there were no women nominated in the Best Director category. In its 75 year run, there have only ever been seven women nominated for best director at the Golden Globes. As Barbra Streisand said, only one woman has ever won, and as Natalie Portman pointed out when presenting the award, this year saw another round of “all male nominees.” No matter what your feelings or opinions about Lady Bird is, its hard to argue that Greta Gerwig shouldn’t logically have been nominated for Best Director. Lady Bird was nominated for four Golden Globes, including Best Screenplay (written by Greta Gerwig) and Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Gerwig’s main actress, Saoirse Ronan, was even awarded Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Not only should Greta Gerwig have definitely been nominated for Best Director, but there were also a number of other female directors in 2017 who are worthy of a nod, including Dee Rees (Mudbound), Patty Jenkins (Wonder Women), and Sofia Coppola (The Beguiled).
While the conversation about sexual assault and abuse in Hollywood, and around the world, is finally progressing and being taken seriously, the 75th Annual Golden Globes proved that we still have a long way to go. While wearing black on the red carpet is a good first step, male celebrities and award show organizations need to directly condemn gender violence and inequality, and take notable action if they truly want to change the power imbalance in Hollywood.