With two small words, Natalie Portman effectively nailed the tone of last night’s female-centric Golden Globe Awards.
Ms. Portman was tasked with presenting the award for Best Director, alongside Ron Howard. As she announced the nominees for the category, she uttered a blunt and factually accurate qualifier.
“And here are the all-male nominees,” Portman said without hesitation as she leaned into the mic.
Following the award show, much of the internet chatter focused on the uncouthness of Portman’s off-script comment.
The Black Swan actress and award show veteran surely knew that her “jab” would be followed by reaction shots of the nominees. Most of the men looked visibly uncomfortable — though, it’s difficult to gauge how much of the directors’ unease was due to Portman’s critique.
So, let’s talk about Natalie Portman’s “all-male” comment.
Was it blunt, even rude? Yes.
Did it need to be said? Absolutely.
And before you say, “name a female director that should have been nominated instead,” let me scream “GRETA GERWIG” into an eternal void. Or, how about Dee Rees for the stunning and universally under appreciated, Mudbound? This is a rootless and lazy argument, which, if anything, underscores the necessity of Portman’s remark.
And on that note, there has NEVER been an all-female group of director nominees, and in all honesty, we’ll probably never see one. So, making these men uncomfortable for a few seconds is a small price to pay for the unhinged acknowledgment of a stacked deck.
All of this is not to say that the five nominated men in the category were wholly undeserving. They made good, even great, films. Portman’s message merely points to a larger issue in Hollywood: wide-ranging underrepresentation for women, people of color, and women of color.
Listen, confronting power paradigms, racial inequality, and gender disparity is not comfortable — for anyone. But, it is necessary if we want diverse stories from diverse storytellers. To get to a place where creators of all colors, genders, and backgrounds are recognized, we must first call out the voices that have dominated Hollywood and media in the past.
And Portman wasn’t the only woman who used the Golden Globe stage as a platform to question Hollywood’s power structures and to advocate for the movement, “Time’s Up,” which, according to its website, is an initiative that “addresses the systemic inequality and injustice in the workplace that have kept underrepresented groups from reaching their full potential.”
Ladies like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel‘s Rachel Brosnahan, Three Billboards‘ Frances McDormand, and Oprah Winfrey (who was there to receive the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award), all honed in on the “Time’s Up” message and spoke to the millions of people watching at home.
“For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up,” said Oprah in a soul-stirring speech.
How we address topics of inequality and abuses of power have, and will, come in many different forms — some more effective than others.
Which brings us back to Portman. For the general sentiments of Time’s Up to be imparted, women and allies are going to have to, at times, be rude. The solution cannot simply be zipping up a black dress or pinning a button to a lapel.
And to the people saying that Natalie Portman should not be applauded for doing something as simple as adding two unscripted words to a sentence… I agree.
Anyone could have prefaced the nominees by saying “all-male,” it just happened to be Portman — a woman who has been in the industry since she was 13, mind you. Let’s not make this about Portman herself, but instead about the larger truth in her words.
And on one final note to put this all into perspective: a woman has not won the Best Director category at the Golden Globes for 34 years. If you honestly believe that in the past three decades all of the best films have been directed by men, you need to widen your cinematic range. You can start with Lady Bird.