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Three Thoughts About… The Golden Globes

Let’s have a virtual water-cooler conversation about last night’s awards-show spectacle

In the wake of the Weinstein revelations, the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up, it was clear Hollywood was heading into an awards season like no other in its history. The entertainment industry likes giving out prizes to movies that champion the underdog and disparage injustice in the world, positioning itself as a panacea to cure the world’s social ills. Racism a problem? No worries, we’ve got Crash. Slavery a horrible national stain? Hey, here’s 12 Years a Slave. The Iraq War is a disaster? The Hurt Locker will take care of that.

But the industry isn’t used to being called out on its moral failings — which were laid bare by its systemic gender inequality and its culture of silence regarding predatory powerful men.

Not surprisingly, then, the women ruled last night’s Golden Globes.

The tone was set early by the night’s first winner, Big Little Lies’ Nicole Kidman, who delivered a long but passionate and moving speech that spoke about the HBO series’ depiction of strong women — as well as the strong women, including her co-producer Reese Witherspoon, who helped make the show. Whether it was Greta Gerwig accepting for Best Musical or Comedy for Lady Bird or Frances McDormand delivering a typically no-bullshit speech after winning for Three Billboards, the female winners didn’t just seem excited to take home a trophy — they spoke from the heart unabashedly, as if empowered by each other’s anger as well as from the myriad women who had spoken out over the last couple months about their abuse.

“So many of you know I keep my politics private,” McDormand said from the stage, “but it was really great to be in this room tonight. To be a part of a tectonic shift in our industry’s power structure. Trust me, the women in this room tonight are not here for the food.” Even the throwaway jokes bristled: When Natalie Portman walked up with Ron Howard to present Best Director — which didn’t feature a single female nominee — she threw out “…and here are the all-male nominees,” which prompted Howard to laugh, look at his shoes and nod his head in shamed agreement.

If you want to find out who won what, approximately 150,000,000 other websites have that information available. Here instead are our three takeaways from the evening — including how weirdly un-Globes-y the evening was; which award recipient most sounded like she was running for higher office; and how the men played it as safe as possible (seemingly pretending they were in the midst of any old award show in any old year).

#1. The Golden Globes Decided Not to Be the Golden Globes

You know what you’re getting with the Golden Globes: drunk celebrities treating the show like a joke while an irreverent host makes snarky quips that attempt to send up the pomposity of the Academy Awards. The Globes have always enjoyed acting like the bratty younger brother to the prim-and-proper Oscars, but last night was a remarkably somber, respectful show.

That’s mostly thanks to Time’s Up, whose members include several Globe participants like Kerry Washington, Natalie Portman, Ashley Judd and Reese Witherspoon, who have advocated a society-wide end to harassment and for more stories by and about women. In his opening monologue, host Seth Meyers made cracks about disgraced entertainment figures like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Woody Allen, but the tone was less frivolous than in previous telecasts. The severity and the amount of the accusations against so many powerful men left the evening feeling like a mixture of solemn and defiant. It seemed appropriate that when an Andy Samberg and Amy Poehler bit fell flat during their presentation of Best Animated Film, Samberg just shrugged and said, “What you gonna do? It’s a weird year.”

All award shows are narcissistic and self-congratulatory, but these Globes — which consistently awarded shows like The Handmaid’s Tale and movies like Three Billboards, both of which spotlight the silent pain of marginalized women — had the air of pent-up anguish finally being released. When Best Actress winner Elisabeth Moss delivered an emotional speech thanking Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood “and all of the women who came before you and after you who were brave enough to speak out against intolerance and injustice and to fight for equality and freedom in this world,” the usual silliness of the Globes receded.

Sure, it’s the maybe the dopiest of all the dopey award shows, but the women in attendance wanted it to mean something.

#2. Oprah Sounded Like Someone Running for President

Early in the show, Meyers joked about his infamous 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner hosting job, in which he bashed Donald Trump’s presidential aspirations, and reportedly, actually inspired Trump to run for office. Meyers told Winfrey, “If that’s true, I want to say, ‘Oprah, you will never be president! You do not have what it takes to be president.’”

It was a pretty benign bit, but when Winfrey come to the stage near the end of the evening to receive her Cecil B. DeMille Award for career achievement, her comments had all the hallmarks of a good stump speech — or the sort of thing a rising politician delivers after accepting her party’s nomination for president. It started with an inspiring origin story, mentioning being a 10-year-old girl watching the Academy Awards when Sidney Poitier won Best Actor, becoming the first African-American man to do so. (“I’d never seen a black man being celebrated like that,” she told the crowd.) From there, she addressed some of the pressing political issues of the day — like the importance of a free press — and then segued into specific stories about those affected by racism and sexism, pointing to the plight of the late Recy Taylor, a black Alabama woman who was kidnapped and raped by six white men in 1944, her assailants never convicted. And she concluded with the kind of hopeful, soaring rhetoric that her friend Barack Obama used to do so beautifully:

“So I want all the girls watching here and now to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say, ‘Me too,’ again. Thank you.”

Such stirring words will only fuel speculation about Winfrey running for president in 2020. Generally speaking, I’m with MEL staff writer Miles Klee in believing that we should probably stop electing celebrities to public office. But in her display of poise and resilience at the Globes, Winfrey at least made you remember what it was like when hope dictated national discourse as opposed to anger.

#3. The Men Wore Black, But Seemed Not to Read the Rest of the Memo

If it was no surprise that the women owned the evening’s highlights, it was all the more discouraging that the guys were largely duds. Meyers was hosting the Globes for the first time, so it was understandable that he’d be bothered by nerves. And at least he tried to make light of the anger among women in Hollywood — and his discomfort and guilt at being a man in such a venue — by joking, “By the way, a special hello to [male] hosts of other upcoming awards shows that are watching me tonight — like the first dog they shot into outer space.” He added, “For the male nominees in the room tonight, this is the first time in three months it won’t be terrifying to hear your name read out loud.”

Whereas the women let fly with passionate and clearly thought-out speeches, the male winners mostly stuck to the same kinda thanks that drag down ordinary award shows. James Franco glibly praising Tommy Wiseau, the star and maker of The Room, couldn’t compare to Saoirse Ronan’s genuinely shocked reaction at being named Best Actress for Lady Bird or Laura Dern’s warm, contagious affection for her Big Little Lies co-stars. (And Franco’s win instantly inspired some online speculation into possible questionable behavior in his past.) Basically, when a dude came to the stage — Ewan McGregor, Sam Rockwell, Gary Oldman, Three Billboards filmmaker Martin McDonagh — the night ground to a halt. They just felt like guys going through the motions of an awards show, not seeming to grasp the significance of the evening.

Perhaps tellingly, the most moving speeches from men came from people of color. Sterling K. Brown’s acknowledgement of This Is Us showrunner Dan Fogelman creating an authentic black character was infused with meaning and genuine sentiment. Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, who won for the fantasy romance The Shape of Water, got emotional talking about how he’s “been faithful to monsters” across his three-decade career, admitting that the movies “have saved my life.”

Between now and the Oscars, there will be plenty of people walking up to stages getting prizes and offering a laundry list of thanks. But last night’s best moments actually seemed like they were about more than giving shout-outs to agents and rich, famous people patting each other on the back for their courage. For once, Hollywood types (the women in particular) actually seemed to use their platform to express something deep within themselves, rather than just hollow navel-gazing.