When Nicole Kidman took the stage as the first winner at Sunday’s Golden Globes, she wasted little time setting the tone for the rest of the evening. “Wow. The power of women,” she said, clutching her trophy for best actress in a limited series or TV movie for her work as an abused wife in Big Little Lies. “I do believe, and I hope, we can elicit change through the stories we tell and the way we tell them.”
But when it came time for Alexander Skarsgård to accept his award for playing Kidman’s onscreen husband and the man who abuses her, he was unable (or unwilling) to seize the moment by addressing the issues that loomed over the entire evening. Instead, he gushed about his “extraordinarily talented” costars, and thanked Kidman for “the greatest experience” of his career.
Skarsgård’s silence was deafening. Maybe he felt like he couldn’t top Kidman’s fiery opening message. Or maybe he was under the impression that fastening a shiny “Time’s Up” pin to his lapel—in honor of the sweeping Hollywood initiative dedicated to promoting gender equality in the workplace and combating the abuse of women by powerful men—was enough of a statement. But as an actor being rewarded for playing a domestic abuser, Skarsgård was in a unique position to say something, anything, about the abuse of women in Hollywood and beyond. He missed his opportunity.
And he wasn’t alone.
All night long, as women clad in all-black stepped up to the plate and beat the drum loudly for the dawn of a new age in Hollywood and the world at large, their male counterparts failed to rise to the occasion. Best Actor winner James Franco heaped praise on his brother and stiff-armed Tommy Wiseau. Gary Oldman thanked Winston Churchill. Guillermo del Toro asked for more time on stage. Yes, they were wearing all-black—but that could have easily been a case of tradition masking as solidarity.
Outside the Beverly Hilton’s gilded gates, we were reminded that despite the stirring feeling in the room, Hollywood is far from cleansed. Ally Sheedy, who worked with Franco on a play in 2014, fired off a series of cryptic tweets suggesting the newly minted winner was guilty of nefarious behavior, while others pointed to his history of pursuing young girls online. Reminders of Gary Oldman’s dark past—which includes an ugly episode of domestic abuse—also surfaced on social media.
Meanwhile, it was up to Natalie Portman to remind Hollywood’s assembled elite that amid all the back-patting, the all-male group of Best Director nominees was a stark reminder that in Hollywood, the patriarchy is alive and well. And it was next-to-impossible to miss the hypocrisy of Justin Timberlake donning a Time’s Up pin, not long after his newest movie, the Woody Allen-directed Wonder Wheel, hit theaters. (Allen’s daughter, Dylan Farrow called out those who support the Time’s Up movement but continue to work with her father, whom she has accused of molesting her as a child.)
Of all the men who took the stage on Sunday, only Seth Meyers addressed the events of the last few months head-on. And let’s face it—as host, that’s just part of the description. When reached by email by The New York Times, Globe winner Martin McDonagh attributed his silence to his belief that last night was “time for men to shut up and listen.” Del Toro said that it was “important to acknowledge the woman-power in my immediate circle of work/collaboration and how they made it possible to create the film.”
But on a night when Laura Dern called for “restorative justice” in Hollywood, the normally apolitical Frances McDormand praised the “tectonic shift in our industry’s power structure,” Oprah had us dreaming of a female president and Elisabeth Moss declared a new age of female-led storytelling, the hesitation from the men in the room felt like an emotional letdown. But hey, at least they got a snazzy new pin.