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Monday 9 December 2019

Awards in the age of #MeToo

Post-Harvey Weinstein, this year's Oscar season will be unlike any other. Meadhbh McGrath looks at how the sexual harassment scandals will be addressed

Making a stand: Meryl Streep at last year’s Golden Globes
Making a stand: Meryl Streep at last year’s Golden Globes

At this time of year, Hollywood is usually gearing up for a marathon of film industry back-patting, hysterical speeches and hours of self-indulgent in-jokes as the Golden Globes, and the annual awards season, gets underway.

But this year is different. Following the expose on film producer Harvey Weinstein's history of alleged sexual harassment in October, claims of sexual misconduct have piled up against the likes of Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman and Louis CK, leaving Hollywood with little reason to celebrate itself.

Now, more than 300 actresses, writers and directors, including Cate Blanchett, Reese Witherspoon and Eva Longoria, have launched 'Time's Up', an initiative to fight sexual harassment in the entertainment industry. The campaign, which has so far raised $13m to fund legal support for victims of sexual misconduct at work, is described as a "unified call for change from women in entertainment for women everywhere".

Will this change be felt in this year's Oscar race? We take a look at how it could impact the glitzy awards shows.


Nominees and presenters are planning to turn the red carpet black at this Sunday's Golden Globes. Saoirse Ronan, who has picked up a string of awards for her role in Lady Bird, confirmed she will be wearing all-black "to open up the conversation and raise awareness" about gender inequality and harassment.

Saoirse Ronan, who has vowed to wear black at this Sunday’s awards show
Saoirse Ronan, who has vowed to wear black at this Sunday’s awards show

While critics such as April Reign, who started the #OscarsSoWhite movement in 2015, have suggested it would be better for actresses to stay home rather than wear black, Reese Witherspoon explained it is just one part of the Time's Up campaign.

"A show of solidarity at an awards show is one very small piece. It really is a statement that women are deeply unified, we always have been, and that we stand up for those who can't speak up," she told the New York Times. Male guests, including Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, will also wear all-black (which presumably means swapping their white dress shirts for black ones), and the protest could end up being a running theme throughout awards season.


The #AskHerMore campaign has been ongoing since 2014, urging red carpet reporters to expand the scope of their questions beyond "what are you wearing?". It's difficult to imagine the likes of E!'s Giuliana Rancic deftly segueing from gowns to sexual misconduct in the brief Q&A with each star, but Eva Longoria has said actresses will be seizing the opportunity to speak out.

"There's a misconception that this is a silent protest. Instead of asking us who we're wearing, they'll ask us why we're wearing black. We're using that platform and using our voices to say we can change this ideology, and shatter the sexism that teaches men that women are less," she said.

It's a tough but necessary conversation - let's just hope the reporters are equipped to handle it.


The Screen Actors Guild - which comprises the largest voting body of the Oscars, the acting branch - announced that all the presenters at its January 21 awards show will be female. "This is a unifying salute to women who have been very brave in speaking up," said Kathy Connell, the show's executive producer.

As to whether this all-female reboot will continue as far as the Oscars, we'll have to wait and see.


Joking about sensitive topics can test a comedian - James Corden made the mistake of going too easy on Weinstein at a charity gala in October, and was met with stony-faced silence, which ultimately left him pleading "come on!" and later, releasing a formal apology.

How close to the bone will the hosts and presenters actually go at awards shows this year? Golden Globes host Seth Meyers has said his opening monologue will address the harassment scandals, a subject he has dug into on his show, Late Night. In reference to Weinstein's former attorney's description of him as "an old dinosaur learning new ways", Meyers quipped: "Dinosaurs don't learn new ways. They go extinct! If you're a dinosaur, then this is your Ice Age, buddy."

Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel has spoken out about health care and gun control on his late night show, but was criticised for failing to take Weinstein to task. He defended himself by saying he didn't set out to become the "moral conscience of America", but he won't get away with going soft on the explosive allegations on the night.


Moonlight's Best Picture win may have been a little overshadowed by the La La Land mix-up, but many interpreted the win as a reflection of the Academy's eagerness to use their votes to send a message about race and masculinity in a particularly fraught time in American history.

Things have only grown more fraught, and it's likely Oscar voters will take a similar tack and highlight women in front of and behind the camera. Many of the contenders - Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, Wonder Woman, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Call Me By Your Name and Get Out - have a lot to say about gender, race, sexuality or police brutality.

Early frontrunners like Churchill biopic The Darkest Hour and Dunkirk, a period drama starring almost no women, may now struggle to find recognition.

Although it takes years for movies to get made, certain films and performances are resonating more this year because they feel like films of today that reflect and critique the current moment - and voters may choose to rewards them for it.

Irish Independent

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