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More Than a Dress Code: How Time's Up Changed the Globes

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It’s been little more than three months since The New York Times broke the story on Harvey Weinstein’s decades-long abuse of power, igniting the #MeToo movement that has been rocking American culture ever since. Sunday night, at the 75th annual Golden Globes, the #resistance finally got its red carpet debut—and it showed up in head-to-toe black.

Of course, we knew this was coming. Black has been the unofficial dress code for the ceremony since early this month, when a coalition of A-listers announced the newly formed Time's Up platform, aimed at eradicating inequality in the industry and beyond. “For years, we’ve sold these awards shows as women, with our gowns and colors and our beautiful faces and our glamour,” Eva Longoria said last week. “This time the industry can't expect us to go up and twirl around. That's not what this moment is about.” 2018 was going to be different.

In the sense that wardrobes went more or less monochrome, that was true. But while the red carpet succeeded in looking like a (glitzy) funeral procession, there was at least one group of people who didn’t seem to have talking points about how to work in the evening’s theme: From Giuliana Rancic to Missi Pyle and beyond, the hosts were clad in the prescribed color, but what was largely missing from their repartee were questions about why black was the shade du jour. Apart from the attire, it generally felt like the same old Globes.

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That possibility was part of the “wear black” problem from the very beginning. Would it be a hollow gesture or a strong solidarity cue? When you’re wearing a designer gown, rubbing elbows with the famous and elite at an exclusive entertainment-world event, changing the palette to black doesn’t seem like an especially significant sacrifice. There’s optics, and then there’s action—and the women still showed up in their gowns, with their beautiful faces and all their glamour. An awards ceremony is an awards ceremony, no matter what it’s wearing.

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Which is not to say that there weren’t moments where stars managed to shake things up. Debra Messing calling out E! for the network’s discriminatory pay practices was an early red-carpet highlight; as Emma Stone’s date, Billie Jean King was a brilliant (though brief) orator on equality. Meryl Streep brought along MacArthur Genius and director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance Ai-jen Poo, while Angelina Jolie brought her longtime friend and collaborator Loung Ung, who wrote the book on which the director’s film, First They Killed My Father, is based.

Neither last nor least, Michelle Williams brought Tarana Burke, who created a “me too” campaign long before we knew the word “hashtag.” All these women used their moment with the microphone to talk advocacy and equality issues, whether they were outright asked about it or not. The truth is that these are people we expect it from, who have a history of using their platforms to shine a light on important causes.

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Then there were the men who largely looked like they do every other year, with the addition of a few Time's Up buttons, black shirts, and, in the case of Armie Hammer, a faux lapel flower seemingly fashioned from black taffeta. James Franco gushed about The Disaster Artist, Ewan McGregor hinted that he’s hoping to get behind the camera on his next project, and Hammer basically recited a love letter to his Call Me By Your Name castmates. But no one appeared to go especially out of his way to push the Time's Up agenda. Maybe that’s because they were saving it for onstage speeches later in the night. But it was a strange night to stay silent, given the opportunity to be an ally.

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Over the course of the two-hour carpet, the hosts seemed almost determined to avoid the Time's Up topic, save for complimenting the decision to wear black and repeating “We stand in solidarity” on a short loop. To borrow a line from last year’s awards ceremony social campaign: We need to be asking them more, all around. But while the cynical among us might think the all-black dress code an empty gesture from pampered, out-of-touch Hollywood elite, the protest did have an effect. It was impossible to watch the red carpet and not know what was going on. This was particularly evident on Facebook, where the pre-show was streamed live for the first time ever next to a stream of viewer comments. The sea of black dresses were a signal to a world watching that something has changed this year.

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