The feminist revolution is upon us, and one of its most visible battles was waged last night in that most unlikely of places, the Golden Globe Awards. Once a second-tier award show known for being a place where presenters, tanked on free champagne, might diverge from the carefully grateful and reverent scripted remarks of the self-congratulatory superego of the Oscars, last night had an achingly relevant, burn-the-temple-down feel. Actresses stalked the red carpet, chic and severe in statement black, (some men, eager to proclaim their allegiance to the “Time’s Up” movement, protesting sexual assault, harassment and discrimination in Hollywood, donned black shirts with their customary black tuxedos, which didn’t even look as terrible as you thought it might), refusing to answer fluffy questions about their hair and makeup and dress designers. The mani-cam is a thing of the past, thank God; you got the feeling that Ryan Seacrest was all too aware that if he called anybody “darling” he’d soon be watching his own viscera burn in the cleansing fire of Beltane, and besides, the E! executives were too busy scrambling for an answer to Debra Messing’s pointed red-carpet query about why they pay their female correspondents less than their male ones.
Still, among all the magnificent examples of female anger last night, two gestures stood out to me the most (apart from Oprah Winfrey’s spectacular oration upon receiving the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award. I won’t say much about it, since you should go back and watch it yourself, but basically it was like if Barack Obama decided to drop in and deliver his speech from the 2004 Democratic Convention at, like, the People’s Choice Awards. It was that good. I don’t know if Oprah’s running for president, but I know without a shadow of a doubt that I would vote for her.) Both, perhaps unsurprisingly given their primacy in the feminist movement, were made by Jewish women–and famously Jewish women, not the kind where you go, oh, huh, she’s Jewish, who knew?
One was from the Empress herself, Miss Barbra Streisand, who was planted all night in the front row, if tables, in fact, have rows, looking at each presenter as though she thought maybe the cat had just taken a poopy but she wasn’t sure and couldn’t be bothered to go to the laundry room to look (who am I kidding. Barbra hasn’t seen the inside of a laundry room for over 50 years.) Resplendent in black velvet and a triple string of enormous diamonds that I am fairly certain were not on loan, she used her stage time ahead of presenting the Best Motion Picture/Drama award (AKA the big prize of the night, as the NBC interstitials kept reminding us, although I’m unsure as to why “Drama” is so much more important than “Musical or Comedy”) to point out the fact that no woman had won a Golden Globe for Best Director since she herself did in 1984 for Yentl (no woman had ever won a Golden Globe for Best Director before that, either.) “Folks, time’s up!” she exclaimed in outrage. It was a gorgeous Streisand moment, full of chutzpah: an impassioned exhortation to the industry to hire more female directors and give recognition to more female helmed and centered films, while also reminding us what a terrific movie Yentl is (not that some of us needed reminding.)
But it was really a tag-team moment to one earlier in the evening from Natalie Portman, who presented the Best Director award. After some standard well-meaning boilerplate from her presenting partner, director Ron Howard, Portman, acidly remarked: “Here are the all-male nominees,” before reading the list of…well…the all-male nominees. It was an astounding moment, audacious in its gutsy rudeness, remarkable for the way in which she didn’t punctuate it with a flirty laugh, or feel that she needed to take the high road in pointing out this obvious injustice (Greta Gerwig’s, whose film Lady Bird took home the top prize in the “Musical or Comedy” category, wasn’t nominated.) Guillermo Del Toro, the winner, whose name was also the first to be read, looked deflated, then shrugged, as if to say: “What can you do?”
What can you do? Portman’s remark, however brief, was a small measure justice of for every woman who has ever had her achievements qualified by patronizing men, infantilized or objectified at the pinnacle of her career by news organizations breathlessly putting the focus on her nails or her dress or the fact that she cried or was nervous or tripped on her way up the stairs, or who, say I don’t know, had Adrien Brody force his tongue down her throat when she was just trying to soberly give him an Oscar as an incumbent winner in front of a theater full of her colleagues. It’s payback time, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it, Guillermo. Nothing.
Rachel Shukert is the author of the memoirs Have You No Shame? and Everything Is Going To Be Great,and the novel Starstruck. She is the creator of the Netflix show The Baby-Sitters Club, and a writer on such series as GLOW and Supergirl. Her Twitter feed is @rachelshukert.