Incredibly, the Golden Globes now have more moral stature than the White House, Fox News and the Republican Party put together, which we know isn’t even that impressive an achievement. All the same, it’s downright funny how the Trump era has turned what used to be Oscar season’s cheesiest appetizer into a proud annual campaign rally for, of all things, the “real” America: the pluralistic, resolutely principled antidote to Trumplandia’s white-nationalist, blowsily corrupt one.
It started even before Trump’s inaugural last year, when the 2017 awards became the cockpit for Dame Meryl Streep’s unexpected, sporadically haughty conversion into a senior-citizen Jedi princess strafing the looming Death Star. Now it’s a budding tradition, guaranteeing we’ll tune in for a Left Coast demonstration of defiance and solidarity until the day Trump’s exit lets everybody go back to a boozier, more defanged version of Hollywood self-congratulation. If you ask us, last night’s Golden Globes were a manifest improvement on the average Democratic Party convention, thanks to the Globes’ much more unapologetically liberal agenda and more persuasive, less unnerved claim to provide the kind of leadership the country needs. We’re kidding, sure, but it might be nice if Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer at least took a few notes.
Most obviously, this year’s Globes had to have been the most feminocentric awards show in movie history, something Seth Meyers copped to right off the bat by comparing his role as the event’s white-guy host in the year of #MeToo to being the first dog shot into space. (It made a bit more sense if you recalled that the real-life pooch who got that dubious honor died miserably in orbit.) Meyers got in a few predictable, jittery barbs about Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen and Kevin Spacey, among others, but even he seemed to know that Hollywood’s abusive men had already become yesterday’s topic in a way. That’s because last night’s show wasn’t about women being victimized, at least not primarily. It was about women taking control.
Whenever the show went back to its male-centric categories, the home audience could feel the excitement dwindle.
Comically enough, our women friends who tune in mostly for the clothes were actually kind of bummed out by the evening’s big sartorial gesture, since nearly everyone wore black to help champion Time’s Up, the new initiative launched by some of the industry’s most powerful women to end harassment and unequal opportunity. This made life on the red carpet awkward for E! interviewers Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic, since they were more or less banned from asking about fashion. Their interviewees wanted to talk about discrimination instead.
Nicole Kidman, who is usually about as political as a Ferrari, set the tone early on by saluting “the power of women” when she won her best actress prize for Big Little Lies and sharing the news (to us, anyway) that her mother had been an advocate for women’s rights. Accepting her own award for The Handmaid’s Tale, Elizabeth Moss quoted the book’s author, Margaret Atwood, before vowing, “We are the story and we are writing it ourselves.” Later on, presenter Natalie Portman tossed in a zinger of her own by adding “all-male” to the list of best director nominees for drama, pretty much ensuring that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association will be cowed into remedying that next year.
During most of the evening, though, the statements with the most enduring impact were visual ones. With Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Lady Bird, The Handmaid’s Tale and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel all winning the top prize in their respective categories, viewers got weirdly accustomed to seeing the stage crammed with celebrating women whose male colleagues (and sometimes bosses) looked, if not outright sheepish, definitely aware they weren’t the only powerhouses in each group. Whenever the show went back to business as usual, meaning its male-centric or male-dominated categories, the home audience could feel the excitement inside the Beverly Hilton’s ballroom dwindle.
James Franco, especially, seemed to have wandered in from another awards show entirely when he picked up his best actor prize for The Disaster Artist, if not another planet. (He also managed to do something we’d have once guessed was impossible: insult Tommy Wiseau. Inviting Wiseau onstage and then shooing him away from the microphone when he leaned in cheated us, along with Tommy, of what could have been the evening’s most truly bizarre moment of glory.)
The big exception to the boredom kicking in whenever dudes were front and center was This Is Us acting winner Sterling K. Brown, whose status as the first African American to win in his category was a handy reminder that increased racial inclusivity is right up there with female empowerment on the industry’s—and dare we say the country’s?—to-do list these days.
And then, of course, there was Oprah, who could have only done more to electrify this crowd if she’d wrapped up her thank-you speech for this year’s Cecil B. DeMille award by formally announcing her candidacy for president in 2020. She certainly sounded as if that’s what she was building up to at times, and you couldn’t help realizing that all the talk about her supposed interest in the job may not be idle chatter.
Winfrey has always been incomparably shrewd about when to play it hot and when to play it cool, and those chants of “Their time is up! Their time is up!” could have busted a thermometer. See what we mean about what the Democratic Party could learn from the Golden Globes? Even if she doesn’t end up running for the highest office in the land, Schumer and Pelosi would be damned fools if they didn’t make sure Winfrey gives the keynote speech. After all, if they don’t start getting smarter about this stuff, their time could be up, too.