How Hollywood would address last year’s sexual misconduct allegations at 2018’s award ceremonies was a key question ahead of the first major awards ceremony of the year. The answer? The issue will not be ignored – quite the opposite – and will be tackled in a variety of ways, as the Golden Globes showed tonight (January 7). Activists were invited to join stars on the red carpet, black was the colour of the night, and solidarity shone through in nearly every moment.
The red carpet blackout
The proposed red carpet blackout has dominated headlines about the Golden Globes since it was announced late last year. It’s been supported and criticised, becoming a surprisingly divisive topic given its intentions, which are to protest gender inequality and the treatment of women in all industries following the wave of sexual misconduct allegations that came out last year against powerful and prominent men within the entertainment industry.
From the very first arrivals at tonight’s ceremonies, all that could be seen was black. Critics of the plan had suggested everyone dressed in the same colour would take the “magic” out of the red carpet, but could be more magical than such a powerful display of revolution and resistance?
Others have questioned what a uniform palette will actually achieve, forgetting the political power fashion can have – especially within the women’s movement. Last year, Hillary Clinton‘s pantsuits became an emblem of female power, while balaclavas have become synonymous with Pussy Riot. Two years ago, after temp worker Nicola Thorp was sent home from PriceWaterhouseCooper without pay for refusing to wear high heels, a petition was launched to ban sexist dress codes in the UK – all because of a pair of flats. In the early ’30s, actors like Katharine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, and Greta Garbo were all renowned for wearing trousers, despite the fact that it was illegal for women in the US to do so at the time.
Wearing all black might not sound like much of a political act, but seeing the stars decked out in the colour is a reminder that the industry is changing, and for the better. As Amber Tamblyn wrote in her New York Times op-ed earlier today, “Tonight is not a mourning. Tonight is an awakening.”
Activists in arms
It’s not just fashion that came with a strong message tonight. As well as the usual glitzy gowns being replaced by all black outfits, there were some less familiar figures hitting the carpet, arm-in-arm with more recognisable faces.
Eight actors brought along female activists as their companions for the night, in place of significant others, and relatives. Laura Dern, Amy Poehler, Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep, Emma Stone, Emma Watson, Michelle Williams, and Shailene Woodley were accompanied by advocates from various fields, but all pushing for better things for women and the world. Among them were Tarana Burke (founder of the resurgent #MeToo movement), Saru Jayaraman (a workplace justice advocate for restaurant workers), Billie Jean King (tennis champion and founder of the Women’s Tennis Association), and Marai Larasi (executive director of Imkaan, the group working to end violence against black and minority women).
You might not recognise some of their names, but, if anything, that makes this gesture more important. Inviting these people to join some of the biggest stars in the world on the red carpet is a show of solidarity for women outside Hollywood, and is a high-key reminder that the fight for gender equality and better treatment of women is not just one reserved for those whose faces we see on screens, billboards and in magazines. It’s a move that says these women’s work deserves to be recognised and celebrated as much as the actors’ accompanying them, and gives women who don’t usually have the world’s eyes on them a platform at one of the biggest awards ceremonies of the year, with each activist joining their actor counterpart on the red carpet TV coverage.
What’s more, it’s also inspired other women in Hollywood to attend the ceremony with their peers. America Ferrera and Natalie Portman went to the show together, and are just one example of the ladies who’ve chosen to take a friend as their date tonight. Heartwarming, empowering stuff.
Reese Witherspoon started the #AskHerMore movement back in 2015, after getting fed up of being asked about what she was wearing on red carpets. The project aimed to halt the objectification of women, and put their achievements and experiences into the spotlight instead of their bodies and the clothes adorning them.
The red carpet blackout has brought the issue even more to the forefront, with publications announcing a change in approach to red carpet reporting. On the Golden Globes’ own official red carpet show, the question was not what women were wearing, but why. It was refreshing and hopefully something that will be continued at ceremonies throughout this year and beyond.
Seth Meyers’ monologue
It’s not unusual for the host’s opening monologue to get political and make jabs at the villains of the world. Seth Meyers had promised not to overlook the hugely important of sexual misconduct in his speech, and he stayed true to his word. In fact, he took no prisoners, not holding back in targeting some of the men who were at the centre of last year’s scandals.
“It’s time to address the elephant not in the room: Harvey Weinstein is not in the room tonight,” he joked at one point. “I’ve heard rumours he’s crazy and difficult to work with. He’ll be back in 20 years when he’s the first person booed during the In Memoriam.”
What made Meyers’ monologue work was exactly how savage his cracks were – if they’d been weak and apologetic they could have felt like misjudged humour. Instead, they felt righteous and cathartic, and fitted the spirit of a night.
The acceptance speeches
There was a common thread to most of the acceptance speeches tonight (especially those made by women) – the phrase “time’s up” and the idea of breaking silence and supporting other women. Big Little Lies‘ Laura Dern urged the room and viewers at home to “not only support survivors and bystanders who are brave enough to tell their truth, but to promote restorative justice”, while Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri star Frances McDormand reminded her peers: “The women in this room tonight are not here for the food. We are here for the work.”
The atmosphere of the night
The Golden Globes, like all awards ceremonies, is usually a light-hearted night of celebration, with more serious moments woven in. Tonight, the event was all of those things and more – it was defiant, and historic, and, above all, inspiring. The displays of solidarity between the women present were genuine and strong; their passion to create change bonding them together and bringing some good out of the horrific allegations that cast a shadow over the industry last year.
The constant presence of the Time’s Up campaign was a reminder that, just as the issues of gender inequality and sexual misconduct are not reserved for Hollywood, neither are the solutions. The campaign has already raised $15 million to cover legal fees to help people from all walks of life fight back against sexual abuse, harassment, and inequality. After tonight’s show of unity, we imagine that figure will only continue to rise.