LOS ANGELES — The powerful Hollywood women who set out to define an anti-sexual harassment agenda at the Golden Globes on Sunday, the first major awards ceremony of the #MeToo era, declared the evening a resounding success. But questions abounded about why men did not speak out onstage about the issue.
Attendees on and off the red carpet heeded the call to wear black in a show of support for sexual harassment victims. Meryl Streep, Emma Watson, Amy Poehler and five other actresses held red-carpet interviews with the feminist activists who joined them as guests. Woman after woman took to the stage and made deeply personal vows to help bring gender balance to Hollywood and harassment to an end.
“It’s amazing, and I’m so proud,” Eva Longoria, who attended draped in black, said during a break in the ceremony. She was one of hundreds of entertainment industry women who created Time’s Up, the initiative that aims to end sexual harassment across the country by, among other steps, establishing a legal fund and passing legislation.
“This was what this show was about,” Geena Davis, another Time’s Up organizer, said at a Globes after-party.
Men wore black, too, and sported Time’s Up lapel pins, signaling, at least outwardly, that they supported the initiative. “A lot of people are fired up that needed to get fired up,” said the actor William H. Macy, one of many men who used the red carpet to voice their support. Publicists had also been sure to send along talking points in advance.
But with the exception of the ceremony host, Seth Meyers, the men who took the Golden Globes stage made almost no mention of the Time’s Up initiative, or the systemic problems that led to its creation. James Franco, who won best actor in a movie comedy; Martin McDonagh, the best-screenplay winner; Sam Rockwell, best supporting actor; and Gary Oldman, who nabbed the best dramatic actor prize, did not raise the issue in their acceptance speeches.
“The male disconnect in that room is my overall take away,” Melissa Silverstein, of the blog Women and Hollywood, wrote on Twitter.
So, what happened?
According to a few men who walked away with Globes, they had heeded a message that emerged from the #MeToo movement early on, when they were roundly encouraged to hush up.
“I do feel it’s time for men to shut up and listen,” Mr. McDonagh, the writer-director of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” said in an email, adding that it was important to show solidarity, too. It was a sentiment echoed by Graham Broadbent, a producer of “Three Billboards,” who wrote by email that it was “a night for listening and learning, and hopefully the beginning of much needed change and healing.”
And Guillermo del Toro, who collected best director for “The Shape of Water,” said by email that coming on the heels of the rousing speech by Oprah Winfrey — who urged men to listen too — he felt it was “important to acknowledge the woman power in my immediate circle of work/collaboration and how they made it possible to create the film.”
Their answers shed light on the tricky territory that men find themselves in when they want to declare themselves allies in the fight against sexual harassment.
Publicists and agents guiding male clients through this unusual awards season said it was highly likely that some of the men were terrified of making missteps on the world’s stage.
When every word men utter about Time’s Up and the #MeToo movement is pored over, parsed and often harshly criticized, silence is often the best option, but obviously not a fail-safe one, Hollywood insiders said, since that ended up drawing some criticism, too. Some felt it would be a lose-lose either way.
Matt Damon had proven to be just one cautionary tale, they said. His attempts to draw distinctions between varying levels of sexual misconduct — distinctions that some people believed in privately yet would not dare say publicly — set off a firestorm of criticism.
Representatives for Mr. Franco and Mr. Rockwell said their clients could not be reached, but noted that during interviews with reporters backstage after their wins, the men readily responded to queries about the Time’s Up moment.
“Women feel empowered to say something. I think they deserve that, and I think the rest of us should just listen,” said Mr. Rockwell, a star of “Three Billboards.” Asked what else men could do to sustain change, he replied that he didn’t really know the answer, but having compassion and stopping being a bully should be part of it. “What we’ve all been doing since this happened is taking a big deep look at ourselves for sure,” he said.
When Mr. Franco was asked backstage why he was wearing a Time’s Up pin, he replied: “I’ve always said that whenever any group is treated differently or given less rights or less equality than any other, it’s everyone’s responsibility to stand up and make change.”
And Mr. Oldman said that Harvey Weinstein, the producer who has been accused of harassment by dozens of women, had always given him “the creeps” and that he welcomed this movement. “A wheel is turning. It’s turning a notch in the evolutionary wheel,” he said. “We’re still coming out of the mists of time. What we do, what we say, how we do it, who we say it to and who we do it to, is very, very important. If that’s exposed, then it’s a good thing.”
How painful this change might be and the friction that calling for it might cause were revealed, writ small, in a notable moment on Sunday night, when the presenter Natalie Portman called out the “all-male nominees” in the best director category.
The jab drew whoops in the ballroom, prompted Ms. Longoria and Kerry Washington to high five each other, and was lavished with praise on social media.
The faces of the five nominated directors, however, told a different story. Their reactions varied, from unimpressed to abashed and pained — all of them uncomfortable.
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