“This red? It’s my blood.” With that, Emma Thompson won the hearts of women all over America whose love/hate relationship with high heels ended, inevitably, in their removal.
Thompson’s moment aside, last night was remarkable more for upholding the status quo than breaking any barriers in terms of race or gender. In her opening bit with Amy Poehler, Tina Fey joked “The Blacklist is who is invited to my room tonight. Talkin’ to you, Somali Pirates. I am the captain now.“ Cut to Barkhad Abdi, the Somali native who played a ship hijacker in Captain Phillips. He’s black, you see, so it’s funny. Except that I had some small flicker of hope that, this being 2014, we had moved beyond jokes about race.
Asked about SNL’s lack of black female performers in a recent interview, Amy Poehler responded with “Ugh, I don’t want to talk about this. Pass.” It could have been a great moment for Poehler to talk about race issues in acting and comedy, or point out some black women she admired. But her “Pass” has repercussions for everyone in the industry, who will not get a chance to break in unless women like Poehler help make it a more open place.
Then, as my friend Ruth pointed out, “Every awards season I have to learn the names of a whole new batch of beautiful young women, but the men just stay the same.” The women of Hollywood, new and time-honored, deserve to be recognized for their great work. Margot Robbie, who is relatively new to the scene, was excellent in The Wolf of Wall Street. Amber Heard, a model/actress and paramour of Johnny Depp, presented an award, as did Paula Patton.
There is no denying that these newcomers are talented, but too often they show up as the Bright Young Thing counterpart to established Hollywood men. This is evident in the selection of their co-presenters at the Globes: Robbie with Wolf costar Jonah Hill; Patton with Aaron Eckhart (who is, let’s be honest, a poor man’s Cary Elwes). Only Heard presented with other male newcomers, Chicago Fire stars Taylor Kinney (Lady Gaga’s boyfriend) and Jesse Spencer (formerly of House MD). The problem remains in Hollywood that the men are allowed to age (jokes abounded about Leonardo Di Caprio and George Clooney bedding younger women) and women aren’t, unless they’re Meryl Streep or Julia Roberts (who, let’s be honest, was not doing herself any favors in that shirtdress getup). Hollywood wants younger, thinner, prettier women, and they will always be in supply.
Jokes about Matthew McConaughey’s weight loss (“For his role in Dallas Buyers Club, he lost 45 pounds, or what actresses call ‘being in a movie'”) hit close to home because this is a world that values pretty, ageless women, while the men are allowed to stay. Far fewer thinkpieces have been written about Jonah Hill or Seth Rogen than Lena Dunham, even though both men aren’t exactly svelte. No one is telling Mark Ruffalo to dye his graying temples or Christoph Waltz to get Botox. It’s a wild world, and as fun as these awards shows are, they reflect the prejudices as well as the celebrations of the industry that we all love, or love to hate.