Was Natalie Portman Right to Call Out Golden Globes’ All-Male Directors?

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Was Natalie Portman Right to Call Out Golden Globes' All-Male Directors?: FeatureflashSHM/REX/Shutterstock

Natalie Portman is easily one of the more accomplished women in Hollywood, with many titles and honors to her name: Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA, to name just a few. But now the actor, producer and director can claim yet another honor: “savage queen” of the 2018 Golden Globes.

Portman was granted this latest accolade (unofficially, by Twitter) following the presentation of Best Director with Ron Howard. After Howard announced the category, Portman added calmly and deliberately, “And here are the all-male nominees.”

Portman’s comment was just one of many remarks about gender made during the Globes, the first major awards ceremony held following the publication of the career-shattering exposés about Harvey Weinstein, which prompted allegations of assault and abuse of power about dozens of men in the entertainment industry. The Jackie star’s quip also provided the opportunity for the cameras to zoom in on the nominees’ individual reactions, and the directors appeared extremely uncomfortable.

And that’s exactly why it was so effective. While some may argue that Portman’s observation distracted from the men’s accomplishments, her brief comment was incredibly and appropriately effective. Men winning awards for being bosses is nothing new. To quote one of the top-earning movies of the year, it’s a “tale as old as time.” What needed to be honored, instead, was who wasn’t there–and why.

The all-male nominees in directing highlighted the ongoing tension regarding gender and leadership that permeates every industry, especially entertainment. Despite the near-universal acclaim lavished on critical darling Lady Bird, director Greta Gerwig did not receive a nomination, despite earning such praise as a New York Times review that gushed, “What Ms. Gerwig has done—and it’s by no means a small accomplishment—is to infuse one of the most convention-bound, rose-colored genres in American cinema with freshness and surprise.“

Similarly snubbed was Wonder Woman’s Patty Jenkins, the first female director to helm a superhero film–a film that was also holds a 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and earned more than $412 million domestically. Dee Rees—director of festival hit Mudbound, which earned an acting nomination for Mary J. Blige—was not recognized, either.

In fact, only one woman has ever won the Golden Globe for Best Director, and that was Barbra Streisand, 34 years ago. Streisand is one of just four women who have been nominated for Best Director–since 1943. The winner herself lamented this fact during the show, and noted on Twitter that that all three of 2017’s biggest box-office draws—Beauty and the BeastWonder Woman and Star Wars: The Last Jedi—featured female protagonists.

Portman’s comment illustrates this ongoing conflict in Hollywood, an industry known for its liberal tendencies but that somehow continues to suffer from a severe lack of diversity. Voters clearly liked Lady Bird, as it nabbed a prize for star Saoirse Ronan, as well as winning Best Musical or Comedy. Indeed, the omission of female directors highlights a longtime hypocrisy of celebrating performances of complicated and strong women–when they are written and directed by men. (The same could be exemplified by the praise of Robin Wright’s performance as Claire Underwood in House of Cards, or Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep, alongside Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the real-life presidential election.)

The “all-male” comment was one highlight in an evening of pointed activism devoted to changing the gender norms in Hollywood. Portman is involved in Time’s Up, an initiative dedicated to fighting sexual harassment and providing assistance in obtaining legal representation to survivors of sexual harassment. Her newly launched Instagram account is dedicated only to posts about the movement.

With universal post-Globes praise going to Lady Bird, as well Portman, Oprah Winfrey’s acceptance speech and the women working for Time’s Up, all eyes now turn toward the Oscars, as only one female director has won that prize but with efforts having recently been made to diversity votership. Can Hollywood’s biggest awards event take a cue from Sunday night?

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