Let's Talk About How E! Handled #MeToo On The Red Carpet

Photo: Brian Bowen Smith/E! Entertainment.
The red carpet portion of the 2018 Golden Globes has come to a close, and I am still waiting to hear a man be asked about Time's Up.
We've heard a lot over the past week about how different red coverage will be this year, in light of the reckoning being faced in Hollywood over issues of sexual harassment and assault. Women have been vocal in their intention to wear black as a way to raise awareness for Time's Up, and many have, using their interviews as a platform to talk about the cross-industry movement to support women and men who have been silenced by abuse and harassment. Eight actresses have even chosen to walk the carpet alongside civil rights activists, forcing the conversation to turn to something beyond fashion and glamour, and towards larger issues of equality and power.
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And yet, despite a lot of talk about how this is a moment in which men and women join together in this fight for progress, veteran E! Red Carpet hosts Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic have been putting the onus on women to get the message out. While women are taking this chance to promote causes from equal pay to assault, men are being allowed to go about their night making small talk.
It's an omission that hasn't gone unnoticed. "I do wish they'd ask the guys about the reckoning instead of the women," New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum tweeted. "I know it would be awkward, but I love awkward."
In fact, Reese Witherspoon used her time on the red carpet to praise the men who have also come forward as part of the MeToo movement.
Writer Silpa Kovvali compared the whole thing to actors of colour being asked about diversity during awards shows while white actors are let off the hook. "I felt the same way at the #OscarsSoWhite ceremony," she tweeted in response to Nussbaum. "All the POC who didn't boycott were asked about why they chose not to participate, but none of the white celebs had to grapple with the issue."
But that's the thing: Why shouldn't men be made to feel a little awkward? Why should women bear the entire responsibility of promoting what should be a basic right?
Seacrest has been especially reluctant to bring up the issue. Sure, he covered his bases by asking the actresses who brought activists to introduce them, but that's pretty much it. When Neil Patrick Harris tried to bring up Harvey Weinstein — asking Seacrest whether it might be awkward to make jokes about what is actually as serious matter — the host quickly changed the subject to talk about the actor's holiday vacation to Costa Rica.
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Could this be because Seacrest himself has had to deny allegations from a former E! wardrobe stylist? Is he hesitant to answer those questions himself? Or is it just that despite all the talk of change, the red carpet still isn't a place that is particularly conducive to serious conversation?
Rancic, clad in black sequins, endorsed Time's Up early on in the night, but even she has reserved her questions about the movement for female performers, rather than expanding the debate to include everyone. Her first interview, in fact, took an unexpected turn when, in keeping with the Time's Up ideals of standing "in solidarity with her sisters around the globe," Debra Messing brought up an issue of equal pay that hit pretty close to home.
"I was so shocked to hear that E! doesn't believe in paying their female co-hosts the same as their male co-hosts," Messing said. "I miss Catt Sadler. We stand with her. And that's something that can change tomorrow. We want people t0 start having this conversation that women are just as valuable as men."
As a reminder, E!News host Catt Sadler announced she was leaving the network back in December after learning that co-host Jason Kennedy was making more than double her salary. Was the moment awkward? Of course! But it was incredibly important, and Rancic handled a difficult situation with grace. And that's the point: we are all entering touchy, new territory. Things are going to get uncomfortable — but we all need to learn how to discuss inequality in order to move forward, together.
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