Alexander Skarsgard picked up his second major award for playing an abusive husband on Big Little Lies at the Golden Globes last night. When he reached the podium, he thanked the women in the cast — oddly referring to them as "girls" — especially calling out Nicole Kidman, who played his wife in the series, which dominated the night. Skarsgard's speech was short and, for the most part, sweet, but its sweetness was lapse on a night that was anything but. The 2018 Golden Globes weren't a time for pleasantries or mere callouts to one's castmembers who helped propel them to victory. They were a clarion call to action. Unfortunately, the call came mostly from women's lips.
In truth, it would be unfair to focus entirely on Alexander Skarsgard. Ample men had the opportunity to discuss Hollywood's reckoning and the Time's Up initiative, and they seemed to choose not to. On the red carpet, Ryan Seacrest asked women about Time's Up, while men were asked about their recent vacations or their nominations. Hugh Jackman, for example, got to talk about meeting a cute animal on a recent trip to Australia. During men's acceptance speeches, they seemed to want to get off the stage as quickly as possible. Maybe because they wanted to avoid a Matt Damon foot-in-mouth situation, or perhaps more generously, to allow women to shine and be heard on a night when their voices were truly being amplified.
Either way, this was the moment when men could have spoken up. Every time a male winner took the stage, I waited to see if he’d say something about the past few months in the industry. Maybe a few words about what the future may hold, now that over 300 powerful industry players have banded together to launch a legal defense fund that will help sexual harassment survivors across all industries come forward and get the financial and legal support they need. Perhaps a few words about the pledge to have 50/50 gender parity in executive boards by 2020. Anything at all to demonstrate that they weren’t so afraid of saying the wrong thing and having it go viral on social media that they instead remained silent. Or, anything to demonstrate that these massive women's issues are on their minds at all. Speeches can be pre-written and vetted by publicists. Gaffes can be avoided.
I mean, congratulations to James Franco on his infectious excitement for winning best actor for playing Tommy Wiseau in The Room and bringing the man himself onstage to accept the award, along with his beloved brother Dave. It was cute. The night needed moments of levity as well. But there was space in there for Franco to acknowledge all the work that Hollywood still needs to do to make sure that all sorts of stories are told, not just those of oddball white men with oodles of money. Franco's path to making The Disaster Artist was probably a lot easier and shorter than that of an unknown woman director’s journey to getting her first film financed. There are ways to make that known without setting a maudlin tone for an evening that’s supposed to be celebratory.
Only Seth Meyers, the evening's host, was willing to go to bat for women. He addressed all of the elephants in the room. Harvey Weinstein. Kevin Spacey. Woody Allen. None of Hollywood’s most notorious predators were off the table. Even Weinstein’s mortal demise was the subject of a joke. Imagine groan-laughing about someone appearing in the in-memoriam montage at an awards show. That’s what the audience at Sunday's Golden Globe awards did. It was like the pressure being let out of a gasket after the past few months of painful revelations and allegations leveled at some of Hollywood’s most powerful players.
When it came time for the major punchlines, though, even Meyers let women speak. He recreated a popular segment from his show, "Jokes Seth Can't Tell," in which women deliver the slam dunk to his alley-oop on things Meyers, as a straight white man, can't say. As the Globes host, Meyers set the right tone for a complicated night, but his would be the lone male voice speaking about Hollywood's reckoning.
Then again, maybe it's for the best that men remained quiet. They didn't know how react when they were put in the spotlight. During Meyers' monologue, he made a joke about how now when you mention an actor's name, asking "Did you hear about Willem Dafoe?," people immediately assume it's bad news. (The joke finished, "He was nominated.") The camera cut to an instant meme of Dafoe's horrified face. Was he okay with it? It's hard to tell given his naturally intense-looking mien.
When Natalie Portman cleverly called out the all-male best director category while announcing the nominees, the men up for the award didn't know how respond. As the camera cut around to their faces, they didn't know whether to feign nonchalance or look contrite.
At the end of the day, it didn't matter to the women of Hollywood that the men were noticeably silent. They were there for each other, and their words reverberated out from television screens all over the world. "I want all the girls watching here and 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 they become the leaders who take us to the time when no one ever has to say me, too, again," Oprah said while accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award, garnering one of many standing ovations she received during the night. She was the person presenters and winners addressed time and time again from the stage, as if they were seeking her approval in the form of a smile or a knowing look. Stedman sat faithfully by her side, perhaps the one man off the hook for the night.
The 2018 Golden Globes will forever be remembered as setting the benchmark for a controversial and confusing awards show season. Looking back on the night, the high points of female activism outshine the low points where most men failed to step up to the plate. What men need to notice now, however, is the silence where their voices should have been heard. The spots in their speeches where they could have gestured to the pins on their lapels and actually said, out loud, that “Time’s up.” It's said that actions speak louder than words, but when you’re standing onstage at an award show, trophy in hand, live mic waiting to catch your every word, that’s the time when you need to speak up. A lapel pin isn't going to do it for you.
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