During the red carpet pre-show before the Golden Globes, Hollywood's first big event after the industry was rocked by an onslaught of sexual assault allegations, all eyes were on the coordinated black dresses worn by actresses and activists and the defiant statements they made during interviews. On the Oscars red carpet Sunday, however, the focus turned to the man who generally asks the questions, kicking off a night that was always going to have a heavy emphasis on the #MeToo movement with a point-blank example of an industry's struggle to reckon with its own sins, economic imperatives and increasingly archaic star system.
With just a few weeks before the Oscars, the normally unflappable Ryan Seacrest was hit with renewed allegations that he sexually harassed the personal stylist who worked for him at E! between 2007 and 2013. The network said that it quietly investigated the claims and did not find sufficient evidence against its star, but the stylist -- who was fired by E! -- struck back in a story with Variety, detailing Seacrest's alleged transgressions; they were later backed up by an anonymous former co-worker.
As a result, Seacrest was at the center of a red carpet crisis, with many calling for E! to cut him from the show, but instead, the network allegedly decided to have a 30-second delay on their broadcast. If they did put on the delay, censors didn't catch Taraji P. Henson's wry reference to karma, which many on Twitter took as a reference to the allegations. Many actors avoided talking with the one-time king of the carpet; the nominees that spoke with Seacrest were Christopher Plummer and Allison Janney.
As the New York Times noted, there was no mention of #MeToo on the E! broadcast, despite the shadow it cast over the event. Meanwhile, ABC's red carpet show broached the topic within the first 15 minutes.
The focus on the #MeToo movement on ABC continued into host Jimmy Kimmel's opening monologue. Kimmel, who has taken to frequently making political statements in his show, touched on Hollywood's entrenched misogyny with several jokes, including one at the expense of Mel Gibson, he of several domestic abuse incidents.
"Here's how clueless Hollywood is about women: We made a movie called 'What Women Want,' and it starred Mel Gibson," Kimmel cracked. He added that the Oscar statue was far more beloved than the one-time superstar: "Oscar is a very respected man in Hollywood, just look at him, he keeps his hands where he can see them, no penis. He is literally a statue of limitations."
Kimmel also shouted out the success of "Wonder Woman" at the box office, and pointed to the heroine's spurning of the entire gender in Best Picture nominee "The Shape of Water": "Thanks to Guillermo, we will always remember this year as the year men screwed up so badly, women started dating fish," he joked.
After Kimmel's monologue, the issue largely disappeared for well over an hour, as the show focused on celebrating the accomplishments of the nominees. And it was in celebration that the social import of the show next became apparent: The Chilean movie "A Fantastic Woman" won Best Foreign Language Film, and in doing so, became the first film with a transgender lead to win an Oscar.
Less exciting to Twitter pundits: the Oscar won by Kobe Bryant, for producing the Best Animated Short. He has rehabbed his image since, with a valedictory tour upon his NBA retirement followed by the Lakers sending his jersey to the rafters, but his victory immediately stirred up memories of the ugly rape allegations against him in 2003. He was acquitted in the case, but his lawyers used brutal tactics that dragged his accuser through the mud, an approach that would create widespread outrage today.
You can read the transcripts for the Kobe rape case yourselves. His lawyers so smeared the rep of his accuser that Colorado then put a law on the books to prevent anything like that from happening in a court of law again. https://t.co/z3y3N43zHV
The animated categories were particularly troublesome this year, a rarity for the usually family-friendly segment. Pixar's "Coco" won Best Animated Feature, and that is indeed an incredibly family-friendly movie -- it's all about family, in fact -- but the awkwardness came on stage… or didn't come on stage, to be more precise. There was no mention of Pixar founder and Disney animation head John Lasseter, normally an Oscar fixture, as he has been on leave since multiple sexual misconduct allegations against him surfaced this fall.
It took nearly two-and-a-half hours for the show to once again overtly reference the #MeToo movement. In a sober segment, three of Harvey Weinstein's most prominent victims took the stage together: Ashley Judd, Annabella Sciorra and Salma Hayek stood up and directly addressed this moment in history before introducing a montage of movies written by a diverse lineup of screenwriters.
"This year, many spoke their truth and the journey ahead is long, but slowly, a new path has emerged," Sciorra, whose career was waylaid by Weinstein's abuses, said.
"The changes we are witnessing are being driven by the powerful sound of new voices, of different voices, of our voices, joining together in a mighty chorus that is finally saying time's up," Judd added.
Hayek finished the presentation, affirming the power of diversity and representation. "So we salute those unstoppable spirits who kicked ass and broke through the biased perception against their gender, their race and ethnicity to tell their stories," she said, to great applause.
Emma Stone had a minor moment, too, as she presented Best Director. "These four men and Greta Gerwig created their own masterpieces this year," she said.
But one of the more powerful moments came when the second-last award of the night was handed out, and Best Actress in a Leading Role winner Frances McDormand ("Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri") unleashed a rally cry for women in Hollywood to be given more opportunities. After asking all of the female nominees to stand with her, she said, "Look around, ladies and gentlemen, because we all have stories to tell."
"Not tonight at the parties. Invite us to your office, or come to ours, and we'll tell you about them," she continued. "I have two words for you tonight: inclusion rider."
This time next year, we'll see how much the Academy's efforts were talk, and how much the industry really wants to change. The women who did speak out were met with cheers from the audience, which is the same group of people who vote for the Oscars, so the ball is in their court.