Tell us about your outfit: who are you wearing, what nail color did you decide on this year, what are your diet secrets? It has been nearly a century since the ongoing tradition of red carpeteering in celebration of filmmaking achievements had trundled its way into popular consciousness.
And yet, throughout the decades, conversation on the red carpets has always remained the same. The on-carpet interviews followed a very particular structure that, at one time, was exciting and particularly limited to the rhetoric of that era. Now, however, it has become seemingly hackneyed and misplaced.
It is true that styling celebrities for red carpet events has always been a fantastic platform for designers – big and small – to promote their hard work and undoubtable artistry in an effectively unencumbered way, and thus it would be unfair to label all typical red-carpet banter as pernicious.
But, in a time when women are coming forward to bravely speak out against the strict abuse of power that leads to systemic sexual misconduct and misogyny in the workplace, there remained the familiar trajectory of asking women on red carpets how they lost their baby weight while simultaneously pressing men on their opinions on the films of that year, who or what will win, or hinting for an actor to remark on the relevance of various themes explored in the work they’re promoting.
This bifurcated style of interviewing is part of a long history of implicit sexism that perpetuates a division between presumed values of men and women: men (particularly white men of power) are and always have been valued for their thoughts and intellectual merit while women, just like the trains of their dresses, drag along behind these men while being valued only sartorially or for their looks.
For many years women in the film industry have been increasingly vocal about their disdain for this inequality in interviews, but Sunday night’s Golden Globes ceremony brought all this animosity and frustration to the forefront of the red carpet. This year, nearly all the women on the red carpet wore black dresses in a loud and powerful protest against abuse of power, sexual misconduct and the massive wage gap between men and women in Hollywood in support of the #MeToo movement. The women arrived proudly wearing black, with several of the world’s hardest working feminist activists and organizers as their dates, and a recalcitrant attitude towards the trite questions of little importance. And, in turn, all the women interviewed on the red carpet were asked difficult questions about the meaning of their protest, followed by eloquent answers marked with brevity and vigour in subject. Conversely, most the men on the red carpet got to experience what it’s like to be left out of the interesting conversations and abandoned in the dust to discuss their Armani suits.
After the previous months’ revelations about powerful men in Hollywood abusing said power to pursue their lascivious fantasies of taking advantage of women, the protesting tone at this year’s Golden Globe awards was monumental. Not only was it incredibly refreshing to see red carpet journalists engaging the female interviewees with guile and respect, it was furthermore revolutionary to see women taking away the power that has historically been used to oppress them by exposing and protesting various forms of abuse.
The #MeToo movement, which encourages women to come forward with their stories of abuse, has made great strides in terms of sparking a long overdue dialogue, but the fight is nowhere near over. Abuse of power takes its shape in many forms.
For actor Kevin Spacey it was in the form of sexually assaulting a young man on a film set – a revelation that lost him his role in Ridley Scott’s acclaimed film All The Money in the World, for which Scott re-filmed all of Spacey’s scenes in their entirety with actor Christopher Plummer as a protest against abuse in Hollywood.
For Ridley Scott, abuse of power then came during his defiant decision to re-shoot, when he paid Mark Wahlberg $1.5 million for the revisionary period, and convinced Wahlberg’s female co-star Michelle Williams to do it for “practically nothing,” translating to less than $1000 total.
What we saw at the Golden Globes was important for this type of information to be revealed, but the conversation cannot stop there, and let’s hope this refreshing air of feminism continues to blow through not just Hollywood but all industries ridden with inequality and abuse of power.
Image: Gage Skidmore