In recent years, Hollywood awards show, from the Emmys to the Oscars, have become a platform for actresses like Viola Davis and Patricia Arquette, to address racism and sexism. Throughout the history of televised awards shows, actors have often used acceptance speeches to share their political views. However, now the call for change is being directed inward, as more and more women in Hollywood are vocalizing their discontent and dissatisfaction with an industry that seems resistant to change, and has remained an exclusionary “white boys club” both on and off screen.
With these issues being given the feminist treatment by Hollywood actresses and other female industry power players, it is not surprising that the culture itself, namely awards show culture, has come under fire for its treatment of women on the red carpet. Critics of awards shows argue that reporters ask women banal or superficial questions about their clothes, makeup, and personal lives, whereas male actors are given more opportunity to answer “serious” questions about their craft. In response, the #askhermore campaign has called on media reporters to ask women more questions about their work, and to treat them more equitably on the red carpet.
Sexism on the red carpet extends beyond “shallow” interviewing, to the increasing use of technologies such as E!’s “mani-cam” and “glam cam 360” which puts women’s bodies on display, to be dissected and analyzed (i.e., Fashion Police). Increasingly, actresses like Elisabeth Moss and Cate Blanchett have resisted these uncomfortable displays, as can been seen in the accompanying interview clip. Blanchett calls out the E! camera for its unnecessarily close, slow pan up her body. Her response reveals how invasive these emerging red carpet technologies have become, and many actresses are understandably, refusing to participate.
This shift in awards show culture reveals how these programs have become sites for the production of postfeminist sensibilities, as made visible in the red carpet’s fascination with, and scrutiny of women’s bodies via gendered technologies (note Rancic’s reference to the camera’s “tiara”!). I want to suggest that Hollywood’s postfeminist/commercial logic makes it difficult to resolve these growing tensions between what is increasingly happening on stage (feminism!) and what happens outside (sexism!).