The Golden Globes has always been a different kind of awards show. One in which celebs sit at tables well-stocked with Moet, food plates are passed during speeches and star power is measured in how long it takes for a winner to walk from their seat to the stage.
This year, the 75th edition of the ceremony happens to arrive as the #MeToo movement merges with the #TimesUp movement, shining a spotlight on a pattern of sexual abuse and assault within the entertainment industry. For better and worse, artistic achievement took a backseat to artistic expression. It wasn’t about who won as much as what the winners said — with women’s issues front and center.
So it’s appropriate that the following morning, the one person everyone is talking about most is Oprah Winfrey. In accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement, the media megastar and business mogul delivered a rousing speech that evoked a heavy dose of hope and change that’s been in short supply of late. She welcomed “phenomenal men” to the battle for equality and struck an inclusive tone, seeking “hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights” — prompting headlines of a possible White House run.
Could Winfrey really be up to the task in 2020? She hasn’t ruled it out. Trump and Obama have both shown — in very different ways — that winning the presidency is about presentation more than anything else. It’s entirely possible that Winfrey’s long list of accomplishments, which range from starting a television network to founding a girls boarding school in South Africa, have built the strength, resolve and leadership needed to withstand the harsh brutality of a national campaign.
With the Trump administration clearly on her mind, Winfrey also spoke of a press “under siege” and the “value” of journalism. Those feelings were echoed earlier in the evening when the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced a pair of million-dollar grants to support independent journalism. It’s sadly ironic that the telecast was being presented on NBC, a network whose news division not only appeared to tolerate Matt Lauer’s long record of sexual harassment, but also turned away Ronan Farrow’s expose of Harvey Weinstein — a vetted investigation that served as the catalyst for the biggest news story of the year when finally printed in The New Yorker.
As host, Seth Meyers sought to balance laughs and sensitivity — at one point almost apologetically noting it was the wrong year for a male to lead the ceremony. However, Meyers strength is in delivering sharp political commentary and his monologue was surprisingly shy on targeting President Trump. It was a missed opportunity for some in-the-moment energy during a newsworthy weekend in which a tell-all book about the White House set off a flurry of online complaining by the Tweeter-in-Chief.
The audience attending the awards at The Beverly Hilton was collectively dressed in black to provide a united front against harassment, discrimination and abuse. The men generally stayed within their black-tie comfort zone, making it hard to view a tuxedo as a form of political protest. But the women managed to tastefully mix dark tones with elements of glamour, including lavish designs, plunging necklines and sparkling jewelry. Stars like Gal Gadot and Margot Robbie weren’t shy in displaying jewelry from Tiffany & Co, who in turn promised donations to the Time’s Up online legal fund.
Between the heavy topics that dominated the evening and Oprah’s shining moment, it’s unfortunate the evening’s big winners were ultimately nudged out of the headlines. In any other year, the surprise dominance of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” or the recognition given to unconventional films like “Lady Bird” or “The Shape of Water” would’ve been the biggest news of the evening. In an example of poor timing, a field of Best Director nominees was downgraded on stage as “all male” by presenter Natalie Portman. The presumably unscripted remark was well-intentioned and made a good point, but was unfair to the filmmakers who worked hard to earn their spot and don’t have the power to choose the gender of their competitors.
Timing is everything and finding the right balance between art, politics and expression goes far beyond words spoken during an awards show. If anyone understands that balance, it’s Oprah Winfrey, someone who may be eager to carry her power and influence into something far greater in the years ahead.