It’s a term. A buzzphrase. A slogan to slap on an event and vaguely raise money towards. Women in Hollywood. The simple, invaluable idea that’s the basis for this column: women must be better represented both behind the scenes and in front of the camera in the media. While hugely important, this concept can seem sterilized when addressed so professionally, so archly. But at the 2015 Golden Globe awards Sunday, my idol Tina Fey succinctly established the problem Hollywood has with gender in two biting sentences:
“Steve Carell’s Foxcatcher look took two hours to put on, including his hairstyling and make-up. Just for comparison, it took me three hours today to prepare for my role as human woman.”
The Beverly Hills Hilton resounded with self-conscious laughter, and with it ushered in the Women’s Golden Globes. A show at times messy, as with Jeremy Renner’s bawdy comment on JLo’s set of “globes” (not doing yourself any favors Renner), but at it’s heart a desperately needed celebration of the diverse women in the room. This was a true testament to the women of Hollywood, beating and real and vividly complex.
We saw it in Julianne Moore’s triumphant win for “Still Alice,” her second nomination of the night. At 54, Moore sits squarely in the working wasteland for actresses, no longer a “hot young thing” and not yet a Meryl. Her success on Sunday alludes to a progression towards positive female characters, developed based on their personalities rather than their box-office-ability.
We saw it with Patricia Arquette, Best Supporting Actress winner for “Boyhood” and my mother’s favorite road trip discussion topic — “She grew up in a cult!” — who did nearly the unspeakable for her role. She allowed herself to age on camera, letting her face soften and body change sans surgery or chemicals over the 12 years of filming, in the way her middle-class single mother character would have. She was proud to do so, saying in a New York Times interview, “I need space to grow and get old and be a human being. I don’t want to be trapped in your ingénue bubble.” It was a rebellious move in an industry still controlled mostly by its dick, and her win serves to acknowledge this bravery.
We saw it too in Tina and Amy’s sharp joke about George Clooney’s Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award, and later in Clooney’s graceful praise of his wife’s arguably more significant achievements.
We saw it in “Transparent” showrunner Jill Soloway’s emotional testament to her own trans-parent, and her public support of all trans individuals.
But no one expressed the climate for women in Hollywood better than Maggie Gyllenhaal when she accepted her award for Best Actress in a Miniseries for “The Honorable Woman.” With her no-nonsense pixie cut and younger brother (and fellow nominee) looking on proudly in the audience, Gyllenhaal stood on that stage and for two minutes provided some desperately needed clarity.
“When I look around the room at the women who are in here and I think about the performances that I’ve watched this year, what I see actually are women who are sometimes powerful, and sometimes not. Sometimes sexy, sometimes not. Sometimes honorable, sometimes not. And what I think is new is that wealth of roles for actual women in television and in film.”
Finally, FINALLY someone pinpointing the importance of nuance in women’s representations, the value in complexity of character. Someone once told me that Maggie Gyllenhaal is the closest thing I have to a celebrity doppelgänger, and after this speech I’m clinging even harder to that very weak comparison. Because her words resonated with me (and I hope with the audience of that room) with their laid-bare honesty and frankness, with their inspiration and grace.
These were the Women’s Golden Globes, but not just of the new Hollywood “woman” — strong and slightly masculine and ball-busting and, still, always, sexy. No, these were the Golden Globes of every type of woman and every expression of femininity, whether in the form of Amy Poehler’s goofy grace, Amal Alamuddin’s blazing intelligence or Amy Adams’s fumbling earnestness.
Much of this year’s ceremony was forgettable, and some of it awkwardly offensive, from Renner’s comment to Margaret Cho’s queasy North Korean caricature. (Sorry Cho, but we didn’t need to see that the first time, and certainly not the second or third.) But it was the Golden Globes that gave women a voice, a fact frighteningly relevant given the just-announced Oscar nominations. All day Thursday my newsfeed was whirring in outrage towards the 2015 Academy Awards: no women were nominated for any directing or screenwriting awards, nor were there any people of color in any of the four acting categories. Even frontrunners in their respective categories Ava DuVernay (“Selma”) and Gillian Flynn (“Gone Girl”) were shut out. Yes, it’s a problem. Really it’s the problem; representation will never ever ever be equitable until the people making films and the people giving out awards better represent the population. But this very outrage reflects the important self-awareness we saw at the Golden Globes. It’s the first step in a twisted 12 Steps program for an antiquated industry; first you have to recognize you have a problem before you can solve it. Well, it’s clear Hollywood is beginning to recognize. I can’t wait to see what they continue to do about it.