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‘We became the story’: women take control at the Golden Globes

| Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Andrea Savage | The Observer

Woman after woman filed down the red carpet, each clad defiantly in black. #TimesUp pins on lapels glinted under the glare of paparazzi flashes. Activists such as Tarana Burke, Marai Larasi, Rosa Clemente, Ai-jen Poo, Billie Jean King and many more mingled with the regular Hollywood crowd on the red carpet and in the glitzy Beverly Hilton theatre. As he began his opening monologue, Seth Meyers glanced around the room and quipped, “Good evening, ladies and remaining gentlemen.”

Signs of a disrupted Hollywood abounded at this year’s 75th annual Golden Globe Awards. This year’s awards show arrived in the midst of a turbulent national conversation about sexual abuse and women’s rights. In the past year, the revelations of rampant sexual abuse and misconduct by many prominent men in a wide variety of industries — including Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, Louis C. K., among an ever-increasing list — exposed the ugly and structural ways in which women continue to be systematically excluded and abused in all walks of life.

In the midst of a turbulent year for the entertainment industry, many women seized upon the Golden Globes as a highly visible platform to announce their messages for social change and elevate the messages of others. One of the most surprising things about the night was how little the speeches focused on the actors themselves — nearly every woman who received an award spoke about the #MeToo movement in some manner (although few men did). For what can often be a self-congratulatory event, this year’s award show pointed outward. As Oprah Winfrey stated to thunderous applause in her acceptance speech, “Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell, and this year we became the story.”

Award shows can be, almost by definition, disjointed and awkward. Seth Meyers, who hosted the show, immediately recognized that his very being there was off-message and made a few awkward jokes about it. What Seth Meyers did most effectively, however, was to fade into the background and allow women to run the show. Many actresses brought social activists as their dates to the event, including Michelle Williams who brought Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement.

Many women and people of color also won awards this year. “Lady Bird,” directed by Greta Gerwig, the story of a teenager and her mother growing up in Sacramento, and Saoirse Ronan (who plays Lady Bird) won for best actress in a comedy. Aziz Ansari was the first Asian American to win best actor in a television comedy, and Sterling Brown was the first black man to win best actor in a television drama.

Talk of #MeToo also drew unusually high amounts of attention from the media outlets and journalists which published breakthrough stories of sexual assault, therefore providing one of the catalysts for the movement. In response to the journalistic media’s role in recent events, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association made the uncharacteristic live announcement that the organization would give $1 million each to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists. The New York Times, taking advantage of the unique cultural moment, ran an elegant advertisement to promote the newspaper’s work in investigative reporting — the words “He said. She said.” appeared in black lettering on a white screen and eventually became “He said. She said. She said. She said. She said. She said.” The Times posted the advertisement to their Twitter feed, writing, “We hold power to account. Without fear or favor.”

And then there was Oprah. As she delivered her exhilarating, poignant speech, the theatre exploded in deafening applause again and again and again. Her speech was an immediate call to action: “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.” That day remains on the horizon — but hopefully it will inch ever closer, as more celebrities leverage their power to help elevate the voices of those women who cannot speak for themselves.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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