Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A Few Thoughts On The Golden Globes

by Denis Ferrara

“YOUR SNEERING contempt for Hollywood women trying to fight, symbolically and actually, the tide of sexual harassment is just mean. As a young gay man you never faced this kind of humiliating treatment? You come across as a gay man who enjoys trashing women.”
THAT was a reader I will identify as “K,” who wrote in objecting to my thoughts last week on the impending Golden Globes, and the “decision” of all the stars to wear black in solidarity with abused and harassed women.  I thought it a pointless, shallow bullying tactic that had nothing to do with ordinary women (and men) suffering from the abuses of power.

By now, every second of the GG’s has been disseminated to the max. Within an hour of Seth Meyers waving goodbye, onstage at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, social media had already had its say, to millions.  It seems almost pointless to drag it up days later, when so many have moved on. Almost. 

I have a few thoughts about the winners, but not so much. I’ll get to that later.  (One of the reasons I have not had a particularly successful career, is that I am not competitive, and don’t really understand the emotional mechanics of competition — somebody wins and somebody is inevitably a “loser.”  I do realize the competitive spirit is healthy and normal. Somehow, I have avoided those qualities of health and normalcy.)
FIRST OF all, No, no, NO.  I don’t want Oprah Winfrey to run for president!  She is a fine figure of inspiration, and gave a very powerful speech, accepting her Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement — the first African American woman to receive this honor.  But we are now hearing that Oprah’s rousing remarks were, in effect, her first “stump” speech.  Please.  What this country does not need is a president elected on the cult of personality.  We already have one of those.  And just because Oprah’s personality is considered helpful and benign by her fans — that means nothing. (Remember, there are plenty of people who don’t like her.)  She’s not the pragmatic politician the presidency requires.
What unnerves me is that Democrats might whip themselves into some fantasy fever, forget the ruin of the party right now, and rather than looking for and building up young, exciting Dems, decide that Oprah is their next female “inevitable” — a likeable Hillary Clinton. This would be so wrong.  Hopefully, Oprah herself has no such ambition.  Can she be a help?  Sure. She has an astonishing platform, a voice that resonates.  Should she attempt a run for the presidency?  No.
WHILE fighting the abuse of power, women — and men — have to realize that one Hollywood night where everybody wore black and spoke with such surety, is not the end credits. 

The First World War was “the war to end all wars.”  The Holocaust horrors revealed by the Second World War were supposed to end anti-Semitism. Women finally getting the right to vote in 1920 was supposed to be the gateway to full equality on every level.  
The 1965 Civil Rights Bill was supposed to end the subjugation and inequality foisted upon millions of African Americans who had never truly been “emancipated.”  Gay men and women were supposed to be on the road to freedom, to “tolerance” and “acceptance” after a 1969 riot in New York.  At the same time, women rose up again, as they hadn’t been since the suffragettes, to claim further rights and respect.

Each progressive group, every leader, saw, as Martin Luther King did, the mountaintop.  To reach it, as King knew, was an endless battle against ingrained, inbred bias. We have made great strides, but the battle never ends.
And do we really think women are so gentle and understanding and fair that they never abuse their power or their employees?  (New York and Hollywood is rife with awful lady bosses — perhaps there’s no sexual abuse, but I know a few people who have worked for these women, who would prefer that, rather than a sadism, excused with “If I were a man, people would just say I was strong!”)

In fact, onstage at the Golden Globes we saw two exercises in an inappropriate misuse of power.  First, Natalie Portman who remarked just as the nominated names of Best Director were about to be read off, that they were “all men.”  The dearth of female directors is an issue — a serious one.  But Portman was shockingly off course to bring that up, seconds before the names of these men were read — to take away their moment.  I hope she has apologized.
Then, minutes later, the lovely Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon appeared onstage (Sarandon, apparently, didn’t get the entire wardrobe memo.  She wore a white blouse under a dark blazer.)  They were introducing the nominees for best actor in a drama, and had fun joking that all the nominated men had promised to donate half their salaries to the newly vitalized and important TimesUp organization.  Not funny.  But, let’s make those men squirm.
Rape, assault, coercion, a hateful, uncomfortable work environment, careers stalled or abandoned; these are not acceptable.  (Or, as in the case of ordinary women, careers painfully endured because they have no opportunity or means for escape or redress.)  

The eternal male/female conversation, the inherent, almost inevitable abuse of power — these issues are vital, and once again must be put on the table. (I say “once again” because sexual harassment has been big news for a long time; to listen to some people talk, you’d think the subject had been moribund until Harvey Weinstein.)  It does have more urgency and currency right now. 

There are areas of gray however, and these areas, too, must be discussed.  And having a modicum of compassion for some careers ruined on the basis of allegations — trial by media — this is a discussion our Hollywood women and men in black need to have as well, although they seem by and large too cowardly to do so. 

I support the courage, power, the equality and the complexity of women who have been made to feel “less than” — and worse than that.  I also support the equality, the power and the complexity of the human condition, which includes men. Reflecting, in Hi-Def, everything that has happened over the past two years in Washington, the current atmosphere in Hollywood is a combination of terror, exhaustion, righteous anger, self-righteous hypocrisy and an often messy but well-intentioned passion to somehow make it right. It is and will be fascinating to watch.
AND NOW — the fun stuff.  Although all the stars did indeed accede to orders and wore black, some wore statement black — that statement being, “This is an awards show, I am a glamorous woman!”  So, thank you Mariah Carey, Kate Hudson, Halle Berry!  You rocked your black.  Allison Janney, who gave — IMO — an even more stirring acceptance speech (for her “I, Tonya” win) than Oprah, wore a clever dress that had some black and beige — or was that her skin?  And a shot of color courtesy of a bird perched on her shoulder. (I’m still trying to figure out if it was real or not!)
But the big Screw You Black Dresses moment came from Catherine Zeta-Jones who appeared with her 101-year-old father-in-law Kirk Douglas.  Catherine’s gown was simply a negligee.  I understand Kirk was being honored somehow, but why his presence was needed onstage, especially with Zeta-Jones in her now-you-see-it-maybe-you-don’t get-up, was mystifying and terrible and hilarious in a way you don’t want to own up to.  It reminded me of the scene from “The Cheap Detective” with Ann-Margret, Sid Caesar and Peter Falk. 
Paul Drinkwater/NBC
Favorite winners? Laura Dern (“Big Little Lies”) ... Frances McDormand (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) ... James Franco (“The Disaster Artist”) — I also loved the love James expressed for his brother, Dave, too! ... and the GREAT Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards ... ”)  It is Rockwell whom I am pinning Oscar hopes on, in Best Supporting.  Also Timothee Chalamet, as Best Actor for “Call Me By Your Name.”  He was not Globe-ed, but the GG’s are not always the precursors to Oscar nominations.  And Chalamet has already collected quite a few honors. 

Seth Meyers? Meh. Again, why a host at all? Now — on to the SAG Awards!
Contact Denis here.