At the 75th annual Golden Globes on Sunday, some of the world’s most recognizable actresses joined forces to ensure that this year, the red carpet wouldn’t feel like business as usual. This was the first major awards show since the revelations about Harvey Weinstein and dozens of other powerful men sparked the “Me Too” movement. As first, it had the potential to be the most influential – if the right was message was sent.
Would it feel like nothing more than privileged celebrities making superficial soundbites that had been pre-approved by their anxious public relations officials? Or would there be something of substance? Something, that after months and months of sickening news, could make an audience feel empowered or hopeful?
“It’s time for us to make a difference,” said “Big Little Lies” actress Laura Dern, and so, she tried to do just that. Dern wore black, and politely said thank you when Ryan Seacrest congratulated her on her work. Then she introduced the woman standing next to her, a face likely unrecognizable to those watching E!
“Can you talk about Alianza?” she asked Mónica Ramírez, president of Alianza Nactional de Campesinas, an organization that works to protect the rights of women farmworkers.
Women farmworkers, on the E! Red Carpet? Ryan Seacrest is here for it. He is here to talk to Meryl Streep – but she brought along Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and they want to talk about the power imbalance that leads to abuse. He is here to talk to Eva Longoria, but she, like Debra Messing, wants to talk about former E! anchor Catt Sadler, who quit the network last month when she said she found out she made half of what her male co-anchor earned.
“We stand with you, Catt,” Longoria said on-air, with Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman at her side.
“I love Catt. We love her,” Seacrest said, and then he was back to the Red Carpet business. Here came “All the Money in the World” star Michelle Williams, who twice in the course of two minutes reverted the topic of conversation from her movie to the woman by her side: Tarana Burke, the activist who founded the “Me Too” movement more than 10 years ago.
“You know why we’re here? We’re here because of Tarana. You may think we’re here because I was nominated for something but that’s really not the case,” said Williams, who was nominated for Best Actress in a Drama.
“I am moved beyond measure to be standing next to this woman,” she continued. “I have tears in my eyes and a smile on my face.”
The real tears would come later in the night – the moving awards speeches, Oprah, the sheer enormity of it all – but on the red carpet, actresses were loathe to make the conversation about these serious topics one that viewers would want to change the channel on.
“A lot of people might think black is a somber color, but the atmosphere here is so celebratory, so empowering,” said Alison Brie, who was nominated for her performance in the woman-dominated Netflix show “Glow.” Wearing black was encouraged by those behind “Time’s Up,” a recently-launched legal defense fund to fight sexual harassment and workplace inequality.
Brie showed the cameras how she took the charge one step further, stretching her leg out on the red carpet to reveal that what looked like a black ball gown was actually a jumpsuit.
“Tonight is about women wearing the pants, so I chose to literally wear the pants,” she said.
And about those other people in pants, the actors.
Well, they were a lot more likely to be asked about their work than about sexual misconduct. In fact, it was a little disturbing to some how little the men were asked about all of this. Who could decipher which actors put on black in support of Time’s Up, and which were just in their go-to tuxedos?
But one of the few men who were asked about it came with a ready answer:
“Yes, it’s important tonight but it’s important to follow through,” Denzel Washington told NBC host Al Roker. “It’s important to see what’s going to be happening a year from tonight.”
A year from tonight, the ritual will surely be back. The red carpet, the poses, the flashing lights, the soundbites. The dresses will be colorful again, and the audience will remember when nearly every celebrity wore black – maybe as a showy stunt, or maybe as the thing that made just a bit of a difference.