Listen to Shonda. Via Twitter.
It’s award show season! That magical time of year when Hollywood’s best and brightest (read: whitest) come together to celebrate (read: jerk each other off) the films/music/television shows/podcasts/juice cleanses that tell the stories of “real people.”
There are a number of problems with award shows like the Oscars and the Golden Globes that I’m not going to touch right now. Instead, I want to focus on what happens before the shows even start, outside on the red carpet.
“Who are you wearing?”
“Let’s see those nails!”
“How long did you have to diet to get into this dress?”
And my personal favourite: “What’s in your purse?”
HOW IS THIS RELEVANT INFORMATION? If Brie Larson has a stick of gum, some lipstick, and the fucking Hope Diamond in her bag, does this impact your enjoyment of Room? Would you appreciate the cinematography of Joy more knowing that Jennifer Lawrence spent two hours getting her makeup done for this event?
Look, I get it. The lives of movie stars are pretty glamorous, and watching award shows like these is a bit of escapism for the average Jane Doe. It’s fun to imagine getting to wear a $10,000 dress and jewelry worth more than a car. So it’s natural to want to know some of the behind-the-scenes details. My issue is when the questions stop there.
Take, for instance, this red carpet interview with Matt Damon from the Golden Globes this year. Matt is asked about his nomination for The Martian, how he prepares for the Golden Globes, and his next project. (Also LOVE the terrific cutaway to a flawless Taraji P. Henson posing for the cameras.)
And now here’s an interview with Viola Davis. She’s asked if she’s nervous. Then Willie Geist flubs the showrunner on How to Get Away With Murder. And then she spins for the camera. All in all, it’s not that bad for an interview with a female celebrity.
It could be worse! It could be this interview between Guiliana Rancic and Ariana Grande at the 2015 Grammy Awards. Ariana was there as a presenter, and one of the top-selling female vocalists of the year. Why not ask her about her dress, then her jewelry, then how she feels about fashion in general? THAT’S TOTALLY WHAT PEOPLE WANT TO HEAR ABOUT AT A SHOW DEDICATED TO MUSIC.
Acting (at that level) is in many ways a ludicrous job. But it’s a job nonetheless, and one that many of these women have worked on for years. They have practiced and honed their craft, and they are deserving of recognition. By continuing to focus solely on their dresses, interviewers keep telling women that their actual talent and work ethic doesn’t matter.
It is heartening to see some changes, however small, on the red carpet. The #AskHer More campaign of a few years ago saw some traction and support from actors like Reese Witherspoon, and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls crowd-sourced questions on Twitter for the Emmys. Sample questions included “What is a charity you are passionate about, and why does it matter to you?” and “If you could go back in time, what would you say to your teenage self?” (Answer from Megan Mullally: “Don’t pluck your eyebrows.”)
Speaking up isn’t always easy. It means being branded as a loud-mouthed shit-stirrer. But speaking as one loud-mouthed shit-stirrer to another, I applaud any actors who demand better. It means you believe your opinions have value. It means you know you deserve to be heard.
And you do.