Ricky Gervais implored celebrities at the Golden Globes to please, don’t make those political speeches.
“You know nothing about the real world,” he said. “Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg.”
The response from many in the crowd: Ignore him.
This Globes didn’t have biting awards-show moments like Meryl Streep’s 2017 call-out of Donald Trump’s behavior or Robert De Niro’s 2018 Tony Awards utterance of “F*ck Trump.” But the ceremony was heavily political, touching on the escalating situation with the U.S. and Iran, the urgency of pro-choice politicians in office and the 2020 presidential election. Most frequently mentioned were the devastating Australia fires, as some industry figures connected them to climate change.
Despite Gervais’ put-downs, politics was inevitable. When the world is a tinderbox, how can they ignore what is going on outside the room?
“I’m so grateful to be here and celebrate this, but I also know tonight, January 5th, 2020, we’re not going to look back on this night in the history books,” said Patricia Arquette, accepting the supporting actress award for The Act. “We will see the country on the brink of war, the United States of America. A president tweeting out a threat of 52 bombs including cultural sites; young people risking their lives traveling across the world; people not knowing if bombs are going to drop on their kids’ heads. And the continent of Australia is on fire.”
Such figures as Ellen DeGeneres, Cate Blanchett and Pierce Brosnan also mentioned their concern of the raging fires in Australia, while Russell Crowe, a winner for Showtime’s The Loudest Voice, tied the disaster to climate change in a prepared message read by Jennifer Aniston.
“We need to act based on science, move our global workforce to renewable energy and respect our planet for the unique and amazing place it is,” said Crowe, who was not present. Laura Dern, a winner for Marriage Story, made an even more generalized reference to the need for global unity.
Some winners steered away from the headlines while identifying the topical importance of awards recognition.
Ramy Youssef, winner for his Hulu series Ramy, said, “We made a very special show about an Arab Muslim family living in New Jersey, and this means a lot, to be recognized at this level.”
But as the night went on, politics seeped into acceptance speeches, as winners felt obliged to use the platform to speak out.
Michelle Williams, winner for Fosse/Verdon, devoted her speech to the necessity of preserving a woman’s right to choose.
“So women 18 to 118, when it’s time to vote, please do so in your own self-interest,” she said. “It’s what men have been doing for years, which is why the world looks so much like them. But don’t forget we are the largest voting body in this country. Let’s make it look more like us.”
And even though the mentions of Trump were fleeting, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see the show a target of one of his tweets. After all, the president who was praised on Sunday evening was not him but his predecessor, Barack Obama. Phoebe Waller-Bridge, accepting for Fleabag, said, “Personally I would like to also thank Obama for putting us on his list. As some of you may know, he’s always been on mine.” Meanwhile, Jared Harris, accepting for Chernobyl, said that the movie’s central question is, what is the cost of lies? “That question becomes more relevant with each day’s news cycle.”
As audiences for award shows have eroded in recent years, Trump and Republicans have been quick to blame the decline on excessive moralizing on the part of liberal Hollywood. There probably are a number of reasons for the decline — whether it be the lack of crowd-pleasers among the nominees, the change in viewing habits toward streaming or simply a cluttered universe of kudofests.
But some GOP strategists expressed a bit of surprise that Gervais at least addressed their gripes. Matt Whitlock, senior adviser to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, tweeted out Gervais’ comments and the word, “Whoa.”
In his opener, Gervais called out hypocrisy of celebrities moralizing at a time when so many work for corporate behemoths like Apple, Amazon and Disney. “If ISIS started a streaming service, you know you all would call your agents,” Gervais quipped.
Then he uttered an expletive to make his point.
In retrospect, there was just no way that the Globes would be a politics-free zone. Not in this time of Trump. Not with what is happening in the world. And not with what the attendees were being fed at their tables.
Joaquin Phoenix, accepting for Joker, thanked the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for recognizing the link between animal-based foods and climate change, as the dinner menu included only plant-based foods.
He then mentioned the fires raging in Australia and said, “It’s great to vote, but sometimes we have to take that responsibility on ourselves and make changes and sacrifices in our own lives.”
Then, he hit on one of the right’s most frequent targets for Hollywood hypocrisy: the use of fuel-guzzling private planes.
“We don’t have to take private jets to Palm Springs for the awards,” he said.