The Golden Globes Get (Halfway) Woke

Damon Winter/The New York Times

If you were dream-casting the role of Golden Globes host for the season of #MeToo and #TimesUp, with black-clad attendees from TV series and films that confronted misogyny (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) and racism (“Get Out”) and a barnburner of a speech by a black female icon, you might not have picked the straight white guy.

Nor, apparently, would the straight white guy. From his opening line, Seth Meyers hung a light on the dissonance of a man’s being the master of this ceremony: “Good evening, ladies and remaining gentlemen.” Hosts of future awards shows, he said, were “watching me tonight like the first dog they shot into outer space.”

Mr. Meyers borrowed a bit from his late-night talk show, “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell,” in which Amber Ruffin and Jenny Hagel deliver comedy that would sound strange coming from him. Here, he set up a gag for stars including Jessica Chastain (“The Golden Globes turned 75 this year … ”), who sold the punch line (“ … but the actress that plays its wife is still only 32”).

Irony is Mr. Meyers’s thing, and he was deftly funny pointing it out. But the fact remains that the change in the air at the Globes is a recent and hardly complete process.

On the one hand, the speeches from the podium were often sharply conscious — and not just the acceptances. Natalie Portman, presenting the best director award for film, announced, “Here are the all-male nominees.”

And Oprah Winfrey, accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award, took the audience to church with a fervent, personal speech dedicated to abused women inside and outside Hollywood. “For too long women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men,” she said. “But their time is up.”

Mr. Meyers wisecracked in his monologue about the notion that Ms. Winfrey — who has played down her political ambitions before — might run for president. By the end of her speech, it sounded a tiny bit less like a joke.

Still, for all the consensus from the stage, the Globes still celebrated the power players of a system in which Harvey Weinstein, whose abuses precipitated the current moment, was active just a year ago. And at the awards, by and large, the men — half of any gender dynamic in Hollywood or elsewhere — let their “Time’s Up” pins do the talking.

Awards celebration has mingled with dissent before — like at last year’s Globes, just before the inauguration of Donald J. Trump. (He still took a few digs this year.)

It’s something else for the usually frothy Globes to be held at a moment when the industry, or at least a portion of it, is dissenting against itself.

The unsteady balance was apparent from the first footsteps on the red carpet. There were fewer questions about who the stars were wearing, and more about why. (Again, the women fielded a lot more of those questions than the men.)

But there was dissonance, too, in an awards-media system not usually equipped to handle matters weightier than a champagne bubble. “Let me just tell you, our coverage is woke!” said the E! correspondent Justin Sylvester, by way of introducing the 360-degree camera at the celebrity arrival area.

When woke met woke, it was sometimes a rude awakening. On the E! red-carpet special, Debra Messing called out the network for its treatment of its former news host Catt Sadler, who said she left E! because of a gender pay gap. “I was so shocked to hear that E! doesn’t believe in paying their female co-host the same as their male co-host,” Ms. Messing said.

For much of the night, though, it was a surprisingly ordinary Golden Globes. It wasn’t quite a celebration; it wasn’t entirely a protest. (Even the black color scheme — a visual statement for the women, less so for the ordinarily tux-clad men — conveyed the feeling of a half-demonstration.) The Golden Globes always pitches itself as a televised party, but what kind?

Maybe, as the color scheme suggested, the awards were meant to be a wake for a system of victimization. But it will be a good number of awards cycles, after the black outfits are put away, before we know if it’s quite dead.

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