The typical red carpet of a Hollywood awards show is a parade of colorful, sometimes skin-baring dresses competing for attention. Reporters and show hosts chat up the cavalcade of celebrities with questions about who they’re wearing, and make light-hearted small talk about the films they appeared in or what they have going on in their lives.
But this year’s Golden Globes promise to be very different.
A coalition of 300 women—actors, directors, producers, writers, agents, and entertainment executives—calling themselves Time’s Up recently announced a number of efforts to fight systemic sexual harassment in Hollywood and other workplaces. Among them is a request that women walking the red carpet at the Golden Globes do so wearing black, to make their protest and their solidarity tangible on screen.
It’s a big ask, not just for the women themselves but for the cottage industry of fashion brands, stylists, makeup artists, and media that has grown around what actress Eva Longoria described to the New York Times as “our gowns and colors and our beautiful faces and our glamour.” For one night at least, this industry will be disrupted, as the movement forces changes to red-carpet conventions and the coverage around them.
Time’s Up and its request that actresses wear black have upended the usual behind-the-scenes dealmaking involved in getting actresses to wear certain designers or jewelry brands, according to the Hollywood reporter.
The fashion press itself is also already visibly struggling with what promises to be an awkward situation to navigate. The Cut, New York Magazine’s fashion section, said that it won’t do its normal dress rankings this year. “This year, to rank red-carpet looks is to say, Activism looks good on you. Or worse, It doesn’t,” Emilia Petrarca, a fashion news writer at The Cut, wrote in an explanation of the decision.
The New York Times didn’t specifically reference Time’s Up, but in a story published two days after the group’s announcement—which it also ran as a full-page ad in the Times—it talked about its plans for “post Weinstein” coverage of red carpets. “The red carpet is now a prime soapbox to speak out about harassment, sexism, racism, industry practices—as well as Hollywood success—and we want to continue to cover that,” wrote Choire Sicha, the editor of the newspaoer’s Style section. To signal how seriously it is taking its coverage of the event, the paper has assigned Damon Winter, a reporter who won a Pulitzer covering the 2008 Obama campaign, to cover the Golden Globes red carpet.
How effective all the black dresses in particular will be at keeping the focus on sexual harassment will only become clear during the broadcast. But red carpet reporters risk coming off as completely tone deaf if they keep their questions to the standard light banter and questions (particularly to women) about “who” they’re wearing. The point is for the black dresses and those wearing them to keep attention focused on the toxic culture that precipitated the protest.
Still, some have criticized the push for actresses to wear black, most strongly actress Rose McGowan, who has accused the producer Harvey Weinstein of raping her. In a tweet that she has since deleted, she called the move a silent protest that would create no real change, as people went on accepting their awards. “I despise your hypocrisy,” she said.
Robin Givhan, the Pulitzer-winning fashion critic at the Washington Post, agreed that wearing black was no way to take a stand (paywall), writing:
Why choose a kind of full-body uniform that drains women of their individuality and paints the issue at hand with a single, nuance-free stroke? Sexual harassment pours out of our shared culture and spreads in myriad, horrible ways. It affects women in countless degrees and variations of awful. Putting on a black dress is too easy. It doesn’t begin to communicate the treachery and loss. And it obscures any belief in a way forward.
It’s clear, however, that the push from Time’s Up has already begun disrupting business as usual. And it’s the status quo, after all, that needs to change.