A couple of weeks before the Golden Globes, Hollywood’s A-list women announced that they would be starting a new anti-harassment initiative called “Time’s Up.” The initiative is described as a "unified call for change from women in entertainment for women everywhere." To compliment “Time’s Up,” the actors attending the Golden Globes planned to wear all black in solidarity with victims of sexual harassment. There was plenty of skepticism around the fashion stunt and after last night’s telecast, people were right to roll their eyes. Last night’s Golden Globes showed everything that’s wrong with everything.
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Let’s start with the red carpet. While many of Hollywood’s leading men wore Time’s Up pins, Ryan Seacrest and the other E! correspondents didn’t ask them any questions pertaining to sexual harassment. They didn’t ask about Me Too or their Time’s Up pin, they didn’t even bother to ask the men why they were dressed in black. On the night to hold men accountable, at the very start of the ceremony, E! reporters chose not to. Instead, Seacrest asked the actresses those political questions and interrupted them when they spoke about sexual harassment. He appeared to be wholly uninterested in talking about Time’s Up and tried on various occasions to pivot the conversation. This isn’t necessarily surprising considering that Seacrest himself has been accused of sexual misconduct by a former stylist. It makes one wonder why have him on the red carpet at all. If the resounding message of the night is to stand in solidarity with women, E! News did a piss poor job.
Staying on the red carpet, eight white actresses showed up to the Golden Globes with women activists of color as their dates. The thought process was in the right place, but once again it missed the mark in execution. On the carpet, the activists barely got to speak about their work. The E! News broadcast kept cutting away from the activists the second they started to speak. It was awkward to watch the actresses speak on the activists’ behalf before giving them the mic and then the quick pivot from the activists back to talking about the nominated films. This may seem like cherry picking, but there’s a thin line between touting the activists as accessories and amplifying their voices, and their causes. As for the activists themselves —Tarana Burke, Marai Larsi, Billie Jean King, Saru Jayaraman, Rosa Clemente, Calina Lawrence, Ai-jen Poo and Monica Ramirez — they deserved to be there and to have a good time. But they also deserve a lot more.
With all of the self-congratulatory talk about disrupting the ceremony, in reality, this was the moment to set the tone of night. This was the moment to send a message that not only is Hollywood ready to do the work, but they’re ready to disrupt their own show to get it done. Unfortunately, that message never came to fruition. Their silent protest didn’t actually disrupt anything — not the broadcast, not the fashion, not the men who are supposed to be hearing this message and sharing the work. In the end, it just felt like an empty charade.
Actors are actors. They’re here to entertain us. We know this. We understand this. There isn’t any misconception that they need to be more than that in this moment. That’s exactly why it made complete sense to bring an activist to speak in detail on these issues. Let the activists fill in the gaps where the actors cannot. But from the red carpet and throughout the telecast, it just didn’t seem like Hollywood was willing to share the stage or do the homework needed to speak in a passionate and informed way. Which goes back to the original criticism when it was first learned that Hollywood was going to disrupt the award show: why even go at all? There is no better disruption than an empty red carpet. A boycott would send a sharp message that this behavior from men cannot continue.
Kerry Washington made a good counterpoint. She said, “We shouldn't have to give up our seat at the table because of bad behavior that wasn't ours.” I totally agree here. Women should not be punished for men’s behavior. At the same time, if you’re going to protest and say that “Time’s Up,” you can’t half-step it. You’ve got to walk that line, even if makes everyone uncomfortable. We praise Kaepernick for taking a knee — but he risked (and lost) his job in doing so. We praise the Ferguson protestors for kicking off the Black Lives Matter movement — but many of them are still facing criminal prosecution and struggling to make ends meet. The activism that shifts culture, unfortunately, takes sacrifice. It’s what we mean when we say “do the work.” And it’s what these actors have to mean when they say they’re ready to do the work.
The biggest disruption of the night came from Oprah, to no surprise. Oprah used her award speech to not only address Me Too, but to also amplify Recy Taylor’s story. It was a powerful way of pulling focus to Black women and marginalized women who experience abuse. She spoke to the justice that Recy Taylor didn’t receive, much like the justice many women don’t receive. It was a necessary moment that gave the Time’s Up movement some gravity. Oprah’s speech got Recy Taylor trending on social media and mentioned in segments on cable news.
The real dagger of the night was the deafening silence from the men. Not one male recipient specifically mentioned Time’s Up in their speeches. They collected their awards in front of all of these women, wearing their Time’s Up pins and made no mention of sexual harassment and assault or gender inequality. Natalie Portman rightfully called out the Best Director category for being all male and the nominees looked at her as if she just took a dump on stage. Did the men of Hollywood forget that they’re apart of the problem, if not the cause of it? To make matters worse, they gave Best Actor to James Franco, who allegedly was caught asking a teenage girl to come to his hotel room. They did a tribute to Kirk Douglas, who was accused of raping Natalie Wood. They gave Best Actor in a Motion Picture to Gary Oldman, whose ex-wife accused him of beating her. The hypocrisy of Justin Timberlake and Timothée Chalamet who are both working with Woody Allen. Men weren’t held accountable by any measure last night. They were able to exist in a separate award show where the Time’s Up and the Me Too movement had no affect on them. There is no change that can happen unless these men are confronted and are forced to reckon with their doing. We keep reiterating that this is a systematic problem and not an individual one. Last night, we saw the system at work. We saw white male privilege in practice. A lot of them are simply waiting for the storm to pass, knowing that their day to be held accountable will never come.
All grassroots movements have a janky upstart, but the lingering feeling after the Golden Globes is a cynical one. The movement comes to a full stop if it’s all empty symbolism and lip service (at best) and a Kendall Jenner-level ploy for publicity (at worst). The movement also cannot sustain with only women alone speaking up. The creation of Time’s Up is a good start to put words to action, but I cannot stress enough that the work has only just begun. Last night, I could tell many were feeling good about themselves, saying a lot of self-congratulatory things, but if we’re still awards abusers and giving them to privilege to be silent then we haven’t even cracked the surface yet.
(Photo: E! News)