Golden Globes: Hollywood's rowdiest awards show gets serious
The Golden Globes, that boozy, bumptious celebration of showbiz and the first big bash of awards season, took a more serious approach than usual Sunday night, with a red carpet draped in black, a host determined to tackle a serious issue, and an industry contemplating with mounting shame its sins against women before and behind the klieg lights and cameras.
"Happy New Year, Hollywood: It’s 2018, marijuana is finally allowed and sexual harassment finally isn’t," host Seth Meyers quipped in his opening monologue, setting up his tricky balancing act of acknowledging "the elephant in the room" without harshing everyone's fun.
"It's been years since a white man was this nervous in Hollywood," Meyers said.
The tone was set even before the show started, when the majority of stars paraded the red carpet in black gowns (here and there with a splash of color trim), in a pre-planned sign of solidarity for gender equality and the accusers in Hollywood's multiplying sexual harassment scandals.
Minutes before the show started, the mood in the ballroom was merry. Black attire dominated, but the usual chatter and mingling carried on.
Even the hosts of E!'s live broadcast of the pre-show arrivals on the red carpet wore black, including the indefatigable Ryan Seacrest. And many male stars switched out white shirts for black ones with their tuxes.
It made for an interesting look in place of what has usually been a riot of color at the Globes.
"We feel sort of emboldened in this particular moment to stand together in a thick black line dividing then from now,” nominee Meryl Streep (The Post) said in a red-carpet interview.
"I can tell you it's a very small gesture," said Alfred Molina. "Me wearing black isn't going to change anything, but from small gestures come big ones. I think it's important to let women know that you listen to them and believe them."
Eight actresses, including A-listers such as Streep, Michelle Williams, Emma Watson and Amy Poehler, brought gender and racial justice activists as their guests, from such organizations as the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the #MeToo movement, a black feminist organization called Imkaan, and the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, which represents women in the industry with the highest rate of sexual harassment.
Adding to the more earnest tone of the event was more intense security than usual. When one USA TODAY reporter arrived via Lyft, the car’s trunk, glove compartment and bottom were inspected, and a canine unit sniffed around the vehicle.
NBC's Al Roker tweeted about it approvingly. "I have never seen security like this for the @goldenglobes Checkpoint after checkpoint. They are not kidding around. And that’s good," he posted before the show.
I have never seen security like this for the @goldenglobes Checkpoint after checkpoint. They are not kidding around. And that’s good.— Al Roker (@alroker) January 7, 2018
Then there was first-time host Meyers, who nightly trounces President Trump with political jokes on Late Night With Seth Meyers.
He tackled the scandals head-on while still hailing the best of 2017's movies and TV at the annual awards staged by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
"Good evening, ladies and remaining gentlemen!" he started out, before launching into remarks that mixed scandal with inside-industry allusions.
"For the male stars in the room, this will be the first time in months that it won't be terrifying to hear your name read out loud," Meyers said, grinning.
He called out the disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein early: "Don't worry, he'll be back in 20 years when he becomes the first person to be booed at the annual 'In Memoriam,' " said Meyers, earning groans from the audience. "It will sound like that," Meyers responded.
In a new version of his late-night schtick, Meyers provided the setup to a joke and a star in the audience added the punchline: "The Golden Globes turned 75 this year but ..." Meyers began, and Jessica Chastain provided the punchline: "the actress who plays his wife is still only 32."
He and pal Amy Poehler engaged in an extended bit where she pretended to chastise him for "mansplaining." Finally, Meyers thanked the women in the audience: "I look forward to whatever you'll be leading us into next."
After all that went down in the industry in 2017, Meyers said in a pre-show interview with USA TODAY, there was no way to avoid scandal chatter, even at the Globes.
"We’re certainly not going to ignore it, but we want to talk about it in a way that’s cathartic, as opposed to reminding us all how awful it is," Meyers said. "That’s the tone we’re certainly trying to strike, which is to release the pressure rather than build it up."
There was no missing the almost grim determination of many female stars to declare where they stand and what they want from the industry. Debra Messing called out E! for alleged gender discrimination in pay for co-hosts — in an interview with E!'s Giuliana Rancic.
"Time is up," she said. "We want diversity and we want intersectional gender parity. We want equal pay. ... And that's something that can change tomorrow."
Hundreds of women in entertainment are so over it all that last week they unveiled Time's Up, a well-funded initiative dedicated to confronting abuse of power and promoting workplace equality in their own and other industries.
"We also recognize our privilege and the fact that we have access to enormous platforms to amplify our voices," their open letter said. "Both of which have driven widespread attention to the existence of this problem in our industry that ... countless individuals in other industries have not been afforded."
Messing wore black to honor the "brave whistleblowers who came forward and shared their stories of harassment and assault and discrimination," she said. "I'm wearing black to stand in solidarity with my sisters all over the globe, and I’m here to celebrate the rollout of this incredible initiative, Time's Up."
The activists and advocates who accompanied the stars say they have been inspired by the Time's Up initiative. They hope by attending the Globes they can help shift focus away from the perpetrators of sexual misconduct back to survivors, and create lasting change.
"I hope people see the momentum and the energy of the movement," said Ai-jen Poo, head of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, who was Streep's guest and held hands with America's most honored actress ever while being interviewed by Seacrest.
“People are aware now of a power imbalance, and it’s something that has led to abuse. It’s led to abuse in our own industry, and to abuse among the domestic workers field of work," said Streep, nominated this year for her role as publisher Katharine Graham in The Post.
Nominee Michelle Williams, accompanied by #MeToo founder Tarana Burke, told her during an interview on the carpet that "so much more interested in what you have to say than what I have to say."
Two years ago, awards season was roiled by outside scorn and self-flagellation because of #OscarsSoWhite, the movement to call out the lack of diversity in the industry.
Last year, the Globes show was dominated by politics and the 2016 election of Trump, who despite his industry connections continually dragged Hollywood. The disdain was mutual: Streep, who was the Cecil B. DeMille Award winner, delivered a fiery speech against him without mentioning his name.
This year the agitation is coming from the Weinstein scandal and #MeToo movement, accompanied by a tsunami of allegations of sexual harassment and assault that has helped fell powerful men across multiple industries — but especially in entertainment.
Weinstein, the blustering, volatile movie producer/mogul who dominated the Globes for two decades, was the first to topple, following devastating investigative reports in The New York Times and The New Yorker last October about allegations that he sexually harassed, coerced, assaulted or raped more than 80 women (at last count) in encounters dating back decades.
What followed has led to "Hollywood's culture in chaos," as The New Yorker recently put it, describing the upending of an industry in which all the old customs and rules, good and bad, have been thrown out and their replacements are still uncertain.
So the annual sybaritic shindig that is the Golden Globes opens at a moment when few in the industry know where they stand anymore and everyone is feeling their way to a new normal.
Contributing: Andrea Mandell and Bryan Alexander in Los Angeles