The influence of the #MeToo movement was obvious from the minute the stars stepped on the red carpet this year. Almost every guest pledged to wear black in support of the women in Hollywood and all industries who have come forward with stories of sexual assault, power imbalance, and gender inequality, as well as Time’s Up pins to support the recently launched initiative dedicated to confronting those same issues in an organized, powerful way.
But just how different the typically vapid line of questioning would be on the red carpet this year—instead of asking, “Who are you wearing?” the hosts were instructed to ask, “Why are you wearing black?”—became dramatically and gloriously clear near the very top of E!’s Live From the Red Carpet telecast, when Debra Messing was interviewed by longtime host Giuliana Rancic.
The Will & Grace star wasted no time taking E! to task for its own practice of gender inequity and pay disparity, speaking in support of longtime E! News host Catt Sadler, who recently left the network when it was discovered in contract negotiations that her male co-host, Jason Kennedy, was making nearly double her salary, despite the fact that both had similar resumes and experience with the network.
While speaking about why she was wearing black on the red carpet, Messing said, “I was so shocked to hear that E! doesn’t believe in paying their female co-hosts the same as their male co-hosts.”
Messing didn’t blink or stutter while calling out the very network she was being interviewed on, a powerful gesture indicating just how serious many of the actresses who have been galvanized in recent weeks are taking this opportunity for activism. Calling out the hypocrisy of a network was a bold and necessary move; we’d venture that not many actresses would feel empowered to do it—let alone a network owned by NBCUniversal, which airs her show Will & Grace.
In the weeks leading up to the Globes and in the first hour or so of red carpet coverage, E! has exhibited a palpable tone of self-congratulation for shifting the focus of the red carpet towards these meaningful issues, despite its years of fostering the very culture it’s now self-pleasingly seeking credit for rebelling against. And all while the network itself is a prime example of the problem: one of its most visible hosts left the network because of gross pay disparity.
Messing’s statement may have been foretold by an Instagram Amy Schumer posted earlier Sunday, including a photo of Sadler and imploring Globes attendees, “If you’re on the carpet tonight or at home post in support and ask @eentertainment what happened? We thought you would be for pay equality and say #imwithcattsad @iamcattsadler.”
In response to Sadler’s announcement in December, E! said at the time, “E! compensates employees fairly and appropriately based on their roles, regardless of gender. We appreciate Catt Sadler’s many contributions at E! News and wish her all the best following her decision to leave the network.”
In addition to Messing’s public blasting of E!’s pay inequity during the network’s telecast, the influence of the #MeToo movement on the proceedings could be seen with the activist guests A-list celebrities brought with them to the Globes, walking alongside them on the red carpet and participating in interviews together.
Meryl Streep brought Ai-jen Poo, the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Michelle Wiliams brought founder of the #MeToo movement and Senior Director of the Girls for Gender Equity, Tarana Burke. Emma Stone was accompanied by Billie Jean King. Susan Sarandon brought community organizer Rosa Clemente, while Laura Dern, Emma Watson, Amy Poehler, and several other actresses brought prolific activists as guests.
Throughout the weekend as well, celebrities encouraged people at home to wear black in solidarity on Sunday, and post why under the hashtag #whywewearblack.
Does some of this feel stunt-y? Sure. And who knows how many red carpets this wokened awareness will last for. But surely producers, network executives, and red carpets recognize that all of this makes for much more captivating and interesting television than asking Michelle Williams what she ate for breakfast the morning of the Globes, or Emma Watson if there were pranks on the set of Beauty and the Beast.
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