This past Sunday saw the beginning of the Hollywood awards season with the Golden Globes in Beverly Hills. In the year that has passed since the last ceremony, the entertainment industry has been forever changed by widespread accusations of sexual assault and harassment. The changes the industry has undergone were evident, not just in the tone of the ceremony, but in the guests’ dress code. As part of the ‘Time’s Up’ initiative against sexual assault, an all-black dress code was enacted. There were few exceptions; some male guests opted for a completely black ensemble to show their support. It may have been heartening for some people to hear their favourite actor or actress pledge solidarity but in terms of effecting real change, the all-black outfits were simply an empty gesture.
During the red carpet pre-amble, E! Hosts Giuliana Rancic and Ryan Seacrest promised not to ask attendees “who” they were wearing, but why they wore black, to mixed results. David Harbour, best known as the sheriff on Stranger Things, fumbled through a response to being asked what ‘Time’s Up’ meant to him. Wearing an entirely black ensemble and a Time’s Up pin, the actor hesitated, before answering “time’s up on women not getting the respect they deserve in the workplace.” Issues such as the gender pay gap are definitely issues which need to be addressed, but Harbour refused to acknowledge the explicit aim of the campaign – to end sexual assault. Tellingly, all the male winners of awards donned black, yet didn’t mention Time’s Up or #MeToo in their acceptance speeches.
Seth Meyers was chosen to host the show, perhaps a choice out of left-field for a ceremony which aimed to elevate women. For his customary monologue, Meyers declared, “It’s 2018 – marijuana is finally allowed and sexual harassment finally isn’t,” which was met with raucous cheers by the attendees. As a viewer, the whole thing felt like a sham. Meyers’ declaration that “sexual harassment isn’t allowed” is plainly untrue as we’ve yet to see any legal recourse for the accused harassers and rapists of Hollywood.
A Twitter exchange between actresses Rose McGowan and Asia Argento – both survivors of assault by Weinstein – revealed the extent to which the all-black gesture fell flat. In a tweet thread posted at the start of the ceremony, Argento congratulated McGowan for being the first one to “break the silence.” McGowan responded to the message of support condemning those “fancy people wearing black.” She also described the dress code as “Hollywood fakery.” Ultimately if the ceremony did not honour and uplift survivors of sexual assault in Hollywood, then what was the point?
Meryl Streep, who has come under scrutiny for her close long-standing association with Harvey Weinstein, brought Ai-jen Poo, the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, as her guest to the event. While Ai-jen Poo should undoubtedly be lauded for her work to ensure safe working conditions for women, on Streep’s part this seemed self-serving, in the same way that her 2017 anti-Trump speech at the Golden Globes went viral and garnered her widespread praise.
Positive change is, however, definitely possible and already taking place. Ridley Scott’s decision to oust the now notoriously predatory Kevin Spacey from All The Money in the World and reshoot all 22 of his scenes with Christopher Plummer, was an admirable one. Decisions such as these, which cost money, which involve personal and professional sacrifice, are much more valuable than a Time’s Up pin, which will be discarded when the night is over.