There is a lot of love out there for Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. One can imagine the excitement, then, when it was announced several weeks ago that the creative powerhouses would be co-hosting the 2013 Golden Globes in lieu of Ricky Gervais. This was a slam dunk for Hollywood — for the past few years, awards ceremonies have been characterized by poor scripts, awkward pauses, and overly harsh ribbing. It was also a slam dunk for womankind.
Never before have the Golden Globes been hosted by two women. This is a role that has traditionally been reserved for male actors, keeping in line with the tired old concept that comedy is a man’s realm. Still to this day, women in and out of the spotlight are confronted with the stereotype that women just aren’t funny. Fey and Poehler are two powerful, unabashedly feminist women in the media who are not afraid to challenge societal norms such as this.
They addressed their vested interest in women’s stories being as visible as men’s in their opening speech this past Sunday night. “What a year for women!” Fey proclaimed, referring to the creative triumphs of female filmmakers such as Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) and Lena Dunham (Girls). A moment of great comedy with a message came when former president Bill Clinton left the stage, prompting an awed Amy Poehler to say “That was Hillary Clinton’s husband!” With a delicate balance of wit and challenges to the status quo, the duo shined.
Major outlets did not pay heed to the feminist commentary of the night, and media reactions to the Globes generally focused on which shows and movies received which awards, as well as how amusing Fey and Poehler were. This is understandable, but also disappointing. An article by the Christian Science Monitor mostly sung the praises of Homeland, and a Los Angeles Times article explored how Fey and Poehler were funny with their delivery styles and facial expressions, but failed to explore the message they conveyed. While it is positive that the reactions were not about how Fey and Poehler looked in their dresses, it would have been better if the media had braved some commentary about women in the cinema.
Shifting the focus from the hosts to a Globe winner, Lena Dunham, who won Best Actress in a TV Comedy, is an interesting media presence to discuss. Her character on Girls promotes positive body image insomuch as she is not the traditional, stick-thin protagonist we are accustomed to seeing. In her acceptance speech, Dunham said the award was for every girl and woman who felt there wasn’t a place for her, a nod to all women who fail to meet society’s outrageous standards of beauty.
While Girls has been lauded for presenting the true story of how the Millennial generation interacts with romance, family, friendship, and work, Dunham has received significant criticism for telling the story from the perspective of white men and women only. Intersectionality, the experience of someone living at the intersection of multiple minority statuses (for example, woman, African-American, and differently abled) is not something to leave out in telling the story of a vast group.
Another notable moment of the night was when actress Jodie Foster accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award. I’d like to acknowledge her powerful moment when she publically identified herself as a gay woman in stardom. Role models of all sexual orientations should be in the limelight, and it is inspiring to see Jodie Foster be so open about herself and her family in such an important moment in her career.
Taken together, the 2013 Golden Globes was a woman-friendly night with room for improvement. Progress is being made towards bringing the realities of marginalized groups to the screen, but efforts need to be stepped up. Women are finally beginning to receive their due credit for contributions to comedy and the entertainment industry, but the serious messages underlying their systematic exclusion are not being heard.