“We are not asking who are you wearing. We are asking why.” This was the persistent brag of the E! channel throughout its red carpet coverage of the Golden Globes. There would be, damnit, none of the usual E!on-air review of designers, price-tags or apparel Dos and Don’ts. Bo-ring. Every year, I watch this particular show only to despise the rich and celebrated, just as any sane person should. After all, a hatred of the ruling class is love of one’s own class. But this year, all those rich, celebrated pricks had agreed to wear black garments to falsely reveal their “solidarity” with the likes of me. I was not convinced by this Hollywood quick-change at all.
Still. Plenty of other cheerful persons were. Vox.com, otherwise notable for its meticulous 2016 makeover of war hawk Hillary Clinton into progressive peace kitten, gave us one of those Something That Doesn’t Matter and Why It Matters articles that fuel the shit part of the Internet. Think wearing black dresses to the Golden Globes is just a gimmick? Think again!, etc.
Apparently “the conversation” about women — yes, this entire fanfarade is about women, as most things in the liberal West seem to be these days — is “impactful”. Leaving aside that “impactful” is a crime of written English that should be punishable by mandatory hand-laundering of Harvey Weinstein’s plushest bathrobe, what the actual poop? The author of this article asserts no more than “it matters because it matters.” I have better things to do with my Internet time than hate vapid question-begging. Such as, for example, hating people in pretty dresses described to me hatefully by hosts of the E! network; a cheap annual luxury cruelly denied.
I’m sure the absence hurt the broadcasters more, though. Of all the costs to “solidarity” ever made in the history of struggle, this one by E! must have been the most painful. Talk about the self-sacrifice of the worker comrade. Not even Trotsky in his exile would have known the agony of a TV network long devoted to fashion snark agreeing not to ask Reese Witherspoon, or any other lady, about her look. They have done it forever.
Yet. It would have been a critical failure of “solidarity” to ask Witherspoon of her custom-made Zac Posen gown. Or of her role as the “storyteller-in-chief” for Elizabeth Arden, whose cosmetics were applied to her lovely face last night by her preferred artiste. Or of her Jimmy Choo heels or Bulgari diamonds etc.
E!, the same network which had until last November brought us Fashion Police — hilariously malevolent when hosted by the late Joan Rivers, just plain malevolent after the great comic’s death — was not permitted to judge the value of jewels, the misery of stilettos and the intimacies between designer and diva. All the usual E! spite for the powerful and their costumes was hidden, and I didn’t like it one bit.
I was forced to find out on my own what the leaders of this “solidarity” movement of women had chosen to wear to an awards ceremony described, apparently without sarcasm, as a “powerful moment” by the Sydney Morning Herald. I found out that Nicole wore Givenchy, Lizzie wore Dior and that Dame Helen chose Harry Winston diamonds. Were these conflict diamonds, mined by slaves? They usually are. Why don’t you talk to me, Helen Mirren, and tell me all about it.
She couldn’t. No one could. The only luxury brand that could be broadly named was Marchesa, notable only for its absence at the Golden Globes. A nonattendance that will — if you’ll stay with me here — help explain why all those women wearing fancy things refused to talk about them. For the sake of “solidarity.”
Once, Marchesa was regularly donned at such events. In September last year, Vogue praised the brand for its “fairytale-like creations” and did not wonder that its magical frocks were so favored by the “red-carpet crowd.” In October of last year, allegations were printed that movie producer Harvey Weinstein had treated several women of the entertainment industry as though they were swill and he a rich, libidinal hog afflicted with narcissistic appetite of a type heretofore unseen in either psychiatric medicine or animal husbandry. (I’m paraphrasing here.)
As it turns out, Weinstein is wed to Georgina Chapman. Chapman has filed for divorce since October’s allegations in The New York Times but remains a designer at Marchesa. Marchesa will stay taboo, I guess, until the Weinstein-Chapmans finish dividing their assets. In the meantime, Meryl Streep spoke of the non-Marchesa, all-black gowns worn by her worker-comrades as, “a thick black line dividing then from now.”
Anyhoo. As you may recall, those Weinstein allegations inspired the “me too” movement. Can’t remember? Well, late last year, a load of celebrities publicly talked about indignities they had faced at work, ranging from lewd comments to sexual assault. Many non-famous women used social media to do the same. Everyone forgot that similar widespread moments beloved by media and entertainment personnel, such as “Yes All Women” and “Men Call Me Things,” had failed to produce much but rage. There was no thick black line dividing then from now. This was due, in large part, to the reluctance of justifiably angry victims of workplace abuse to organise as workers.
A labour organisation, however, politely reminded the women of Hollywood that organising as workers might be a nifty idea. US farmworkers of the Alianza Nacional de Campesinas wrote to the “me too” superstars that although they did “not work under bright stage lights or on the big screen,” they too experienced harassment and violence at work.
As 70,000 workers had signed the letter, it became impossible for the women of the entertainment and media sectors to continue examining only their own plight. So, the “Time’s Up” initiative was upchucked in time for the Golden Globes. You can read the jejune manifesto, recommending a black dress code, in The New York Times. Frankly, the correspondence from the farmworkers is a far better read.
I mean, seriously. The Time’s Up letter evinces the sort of obliviousness generally blown out of the arse of the undergraduate by second year. “Too many centres of power,” it says, “Lack gender parity.” The letter then goes on to thank the women of the Alianza for their “solidarity” without once acknowledging that it is not, so much, the absence of women in centres of power but the fact that power is itself so centralised that humiliation, harassment and abuse are permitted to routinely occur.
I can’t even be bothered arguing to an adult audience against the moral superiority of women these days. A person in unstable, low-paid employment, such as a farmworker, is not going to have a better time of it if the agricultural conglomerate that owns most of their working life puts a woman on the board. There is no more room for compassion in profit than there is for basic economic logic in Meryl Streep’s head.
Is there any person more devout in her own nobility than Meryl Streep? Sure, she might have uttered the words “A dingo took my baby” with one of Hollywood’s least awful Australian accents, but the woman is a deluded shit. Or, possibly, a bit of a dummy. Hardly as “woke” as an adoring press believes her to be.
Perhaps it is forgotten that as jury president of the Berlin Film Festival, Streep answered a press question about the under-representation of people of colour in film with, “There is a core of humanity that travels right through every culture, and after all we’re all from Africa originally. Berliners, we’re all Africans really.” This is Streep-speak for, “I, Meryl, am a universalising force of art who can represent all the people of my colonies.”
And. No. This wasn’t in 1972 or something when we could say, “Oh, everyone was a blithe racist back then.” It was two fucking years ago, and occurred just as public debate about the marginalisation of people of colour in mainstream cinema was at its peak. Apparently, “the core of humanity” that can explain to Meryl the overwhelming exclusion of people of colour from employment sectors that are not Uber does not adequately explain sexism. Which is why she wore a backless frock, or a “thick black line dividing then from now.”
Effing spare me. Spare us all from the delusional white liberal feminist who takes a woman of colour to the Golden Globes red carpet as though she were a Swarovski clutch. I am certain that some of the white actors who took along activists “dates” to the Golden Globes meant very well. This does not mean that these twits think very well, or even adequately.
By no means, of course, should we question the motivation of the activist “dates” present on the red carpet. If Laura Dern had invited me to the Golden Globes as a radical accessory, I would have accepted without hesitation and then stolen her gift bag after screeching on live TV, “let the neck of the last Hollywood taxation lawyer be wrung by the guts of the last movie mogul” or similar. I hope that the idea of true solidarity, which is what we find in unions that represent their members, gets at least one tenth boost that Laura’s career will. I hold out no hope at all, of course, that persons in the entertainment and media industry will get it through their heads that the best protection against abuse at work is not a crap speech by Oprah about inspiration, but actual organisation.
Probably on my own, here. I am sure that there are many delighted that a few really famous white woman actors got an “activist” date to bolster their own brand. I am certain that there are many who think that the Golden Globes herald the “most politically charged awards season in history.” Certainly, this is the opinion of Vanity Fair, a publication with no memory that the Vietnam War or the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr or the surveillance state perfected by President Obama were all fairly “charged” issues played out in previous awards.
I am certain that there are those who will continue to look to Hollywood as the site for struggle against centres of power, rather than power’s shameful propagandist that makes the American case, “You can change the world if only you believe!”
You can change the world only if you believe that a black gown is not quite so effective as a solidarity between workers that does not advocate for more women “in boardrooms”, per Time’s Up. And if you believe that Nicole Kidman’s acceptance speech — which concluded with “Wow. The power of women” — is as likely to shake things up as Meryl Streep’s next film depicting another fucking powerful woman.
This article was first published on Daily Review, the CFR’s Australian partner.