Golden Globes finally join other awards shows that have used their podiums as platforms
This year it’s black dresses on the Golden Globes red carpet in a statement against sexual harassment and assault. At the 2017 show, Meryl Streep rallied the liberal ranks with her notable skewering of a new president.
Still, the Globes have been known more for snarky jokes and occasionally slurred speeches than for social commentary. Only recently has the ceremony put aside its party shoes and tried sociopolitical awareness on for size.
While the Globes gang was off ordering another round for the table, here’s what other shows have tackled over the years:
CMA Awards: Las Vegas massacre
Perhaps the Country Music Assn. Awards make the Globes look perpetually daring, but with 53 country music fans shot dead and more than 500 wounded at the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas last year, gun violence couldn’t help but become part of the show — or at least the pre-show. When organizers tried to forbid red-carpet questions about gun violence, host Brad Paisley was among the artists calling out the CMA out on its “mistake.” The restriction was rescinded, and the show’s in memoriam segment honored the massacre victims along with late musicians including Glen Campbell. Outside the arena on Facebook Live, Sturgill Simpson was busking and answering some hot-button questions to raise money for the ACLU.
Grammy Awards: Marriage equality
Queen Latifah officiated over the marriages of 33 couples in the Grammys audience, both straight and same-sex, during the 2017 show. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, featuring Mary Lambert, performed the LGBTQ-rights anthem "Same Love."
Then, after vows and rings were exchanged, Madonna joined in with a mash-up of her 1986 hit "Open Your Heart." A standing ovation followed.
SAG Awards: Trump travel ban
On the night of the 2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards, President Trump's travel ban was a mere two days old, and the guild's members were not about to let it go. The show started with Kerry Washington talking about how it was important for actors to have political opinions and Ashton Kutcher welcoming the viewing audience as well as "everyone in airports that belong in my America."
They didn't stop there: Julia Louis-Dreyfus told her own family's immigrant story, Sarah Paulson pleaded for donations to the ACLU and Taraji P. Henson talked about coming together as a human race.
Tony Awards: Orlando nightclub shooting
Host James Corden opened the 2016 Tony Awards with a condemnation of the bloodshed that happened the night before at Orlando's Pulse nightclub, a gay dance spot where 49 people were killed and 53 were wounded by a man declaring his allegiance to the Islamic State. "Your tragedy is our tragedy. Theater is a place where every race, creed, sexuality and gender is equal, embraced and loved. Hate will never win," Corden said. While those in attendance wore silver ribbons in memory of the victims, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Frank Langella and Andrew Lloyd Webber spoke on stage about what was at the time the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
MTV VMAs: Sexual assault
The MTV Video Music Awards have been about more than twerking and big yellow snakes. Saddened by reports of rape and assault at 1999’s rebooted Woodstock, the late Adam Yauch took the occasion of a Beastie Boys win for “Intergalactic” at that year’s VMAs to ask musicians and promoters to focus on "the safety of all the girls and the women who come to our shows.”
One TV reviewer described what was then an unusual moment as Yauch being “inspired to climb onto a rambling soapbox and give the creepiest speech in support of protecting women from sexual assault.” In a strange twist, now Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz is publicly supporting nine women who’ve leveled assault allegations against his father, composer Israel Horovitz. Times change.
Emmy Awards: Domestic politics
With late-night TV fixated on little other than the Trump White House at that point (and still?), it made sense that television’s big night last September would follow suit.
It wasn’t technically activism, but it was heavy on commentary, with Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon winning for their topical work as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on “Saturday Night Live.” And, of course, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made an appearance as Melissa McCarthy’s podium-pushing version of, well, Sean Spicer.
Hollywood was not entirely pleased about that last bit, calling Spicer’s actions nothing to joke about. As for activism, well, that came on the red carpet in the form of blue ribbons in support of the ACLU.
Academy Awards: You name it
After rattling off nearly two minutes' worth of thank-yous in 2015, supporting actress winner Patricia Arquette used the end of her Oscars spotlight that year to tackle women's rights. "To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else's equal rights," she said. "It's our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America." Backstage, she asked for support from men, gay people and people of color, and brought ageism into her argument.
In 1978, “Julia” supporting actress Vanessa Redgrave kicked off the acceptance speeches at the Academy Awards by addressing the fight against fascism and alluding to the Jewish Defense League, which had criticized her pro-PLO TV documentary “The Palestinian,” as a “small bunch of Zionist hoodlums.” Later in the show, presenter and "Network" writer Paddy Chayefsky fired back with, "I'm sick and tired of people exploiting the occasion of the Academy Awards for the propagation of their own personal political propaganda." She got the boos, he got the applause.
And then there was best actor winner Marlon Brando — or shall we say, Sacheen Littlefeather — in 1973. In what may be “The Godfather” of all awards-show activism, the actor sent a ceremonially clad Littlefeather to refuse his trophy, bearing a long written statement she said she would share with the press later. Brando, she said, “very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award and the reasons for that being the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry …. and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee.” After fielding boos outweighed by applause, the activist said, “I beg at this time that I have not intruded upon this evening.”
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