The tone of the Golden Globes red carpet was more serious this year following the unmasking of a number of powerful men in the industry as serial harassers, including producer Harvey Weinstein, director Brett Ratner and actor Kevin Spacey, among others. Navigating the #metoo moment on the carpet was always going to be a challenge: Red carpets are the main stage upon which Hollywood plays out a glamorous fantasy, where beautiful people wear unaffordable dresses, tuxes and jewels—America’s closest approximation to royalty. But the revelations about harassment in the industry proved that beneath the glitz of Hollywood lay an insidious and sexist system. When the women of Hollywood pledged to fight sexism with the Time’s Up campaign, the perception and reality were bound to collide in uncomfortable ways.
Both NBC and E! made a concerted effort to pivot the conversation from what women were wearing to the #metoo movement. Interviewers on both channels asked nearly every female star they encountered why they wore black in protest of Hollywood sexism and what they hoped to accomplish going forward. And the women—almost entirely wearing black—wanted to talk about this issue. Actors including Kerry Washington and Jessica Chastain were fiercely outspoken. Debra Messing, Eva Longoria and others called out E! for paying female cohosts of its shows less than the male cohosts.
After years of begging red carpet personalities to “ask them more,” they finally got substantial questions, and they lit up when asked about Time’s Up. Some of the women even brought feminist activists with them to the awards show to promote their messages.
But the Ryan Seacrests of the world are not investigative journalists or columnists who specialize in gender issues. Their careers have been built on sustaining the fantasy of Hollywood, not interrogating it. In a moment like this, they need to be asking more serious questions. They took steps in that direction, but on the whole, they faltered.
Specifically, the interviewers on NBC and E! directed most questions about harassment towards the women they interviewed on the red carpet, not the men. The imbalance created a strange dynamic: Most men were able to spend their interview time plugging their projects, while the women were responsible for bearing the burden of taking on sexism in Hollywood in little soundbites.
The red carpet reporters refused to ask the men about the fight against sexism that has rocked the industry despite the fact that many male actors sported “Time’s Up” pins on the red carpet in solidarity with their female counterparts. That was true even for men who played domestic abusers or harassers in their work and might be more inclined to speak on those issues, like Big Little Lies’ Alexander Skarsgaard and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’s Sam Rockwell.
There were a few exceptions: Both Armie Hammer, speaking on E!, and Denzel Washington, on NBC, speculated about the future of the Time’s Up movement. But the reporters asked few men what they would do themselves to stop harassment in the industry—a fair question for which every actor should have a prepared answer.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the onus fell upon women—again—to stand up against sexism alone. Still, reporters must ask questions not just of the victims, but also of the bystanders who stood silently and watched their colleagues take advantage of women. Harassment and assault flourished in a system of secrecy. Talking about the problem, many argue, is the only way to stop harassment.
It wasn’t just the fault of the journalists: During the Golden Globes themselves, the vast majority of the men who gave acceptance speeches never even mentioned #MeToo or Time’s Up. They might be afraid to speak up. As Seth Meyers joked in his opening monologue, this is the first time in three months when men won’t be terrified to hear their name called out in public.
But it’s a journalist’s responsibility to ask the hard questions of these men, to push them to consider what they will do to help the movement along. As awards season progresses, the questions need to be better. If red carpet hosts are worried about dampening the evening’s celebratory spirit, they can take the opportunity instead to highlight the triumphs of the women who spoke out against Hollywood’s toxic culture. Maybe they’ll inspire men to do the same.