We’ve now had over a week to receive our Oprah 2020 support t-shirts digest this years Golden Globes and on reflection, I’m glad Hollywood is doing what Washington won’t.
When news broke in December that a group of A-list actresses were planning to wear black in support of #MeToo, a few sceptical eyebrows were raised. Surely this was just a chance for a well-orchestrated publicity stunt to aid their own personal awards campaigns? Incorrect. They didn’t just ‘wear black on the red carpet’. Rather, stormed they stormed it – with a show of sister-led solidarity.
This year saw Meryl Steep, Michelle Williams and Emma Stone, among others, bring gender and racial justice activists as their red carpets guests, including #MeToo founder Tarana Burke. When reporters asked why the actresses were wearing black, they deferred to the women who have spent their whole lives and careers campaigning for the advancement of women’s rights. They used the mainstream medias fascination with celebrity culture to keep the conversation flowing, to prevent it from being washed away with a series of fashion faux pas or superficial, garment observations. Watching live, I gave the second biggest applause of the night to Debra Messing for her clap-back when asked by E! why she was wearing black: “we want equal pay. I was so shocked to hear E! doesn’t believe in paying their female hosts the same as their male co-hosts.” Given the recent turmoil ‘who are you wearing?’ seemed a highly inappropriate and offensive question.
It’s no secret that Hollywood’s obsession with vanity has been to the determent of women. There’s no denying that its superficial and egoistical promotion of women’s stereotypes has been part of the problem: what women wore during awards season often defined them. From the barrage of treatments they went through prior to award season, to the shock diet tactics to reduce bloating, no one was interested in their achievements or accolades, just the designer that clothed them. Regaining that control and standing together created a visual blockade against the male gaze that has previously bound actresses. The red carpet is no longer simply a fashion statement, nor a competition amongst other actresses, but a political platform that is opening up a conversation. When Washington are failing to have conservations that centre around social injustice, then who better to take a stance and push these issues to the forefront than women with an audience. The very thing that victims of sexual harassment, abuse, gender and racial discrimination often don’t have.
Activism requires you to reach people. Popular culture is, well, popular – and pedalling an issue to a captive audience isn’t ground breaking, it’s effective. Twenty million people in the United States tuned into the 75th Golden Globes and millions more poured over social media and media coverage the next day. Oprah Winfrey’s acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement has been watched on YouTube by over 8.3 million people. That’s the kind of news that even the Donald can’t call out for fakery.
As Oprah delivered her tear-inducing, motivational speech many of us, both here and across the Atlantic, were hoping this is the start of her 2020 presidential bid. At the end of her speech that addressed both racial and gender discriminations, she proclaimed “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.” I know I’m not alone in longing that Oprah’s gearing up to launch her career in politics in order to lead the change in not just the entertainment industry, but domestic industries too.
It’s that very change in industry that the Golden Globes spotlighted so well. As Frances McDormand accepted her Best Actress award for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, she said “It was great to be in this room tonight and be part of the tectonic shift in the industry’s power structure. Trust me, the women in this room are not here for the food, we are here for the work!” People speak so fondly of a timeless Hollywood, yet foolishly so. The time really is up and one thing is for sure, finally, we’re more interested in what’s being said on the red carpet than the dresses gracing it.
Words by Fleur Rollet-Manus