Oprah for President? Her Golden Globes Speech in the Context of the Time's Up Movement

Curator's Note

In the aftermath of the #metoo movement, Hollywood stars continued their coordinated effort to counter systemic female sexual abuse and assualt. At present, the Time’s Up Defense Fund has taken on 1000 cases. The public have also demonstrated solidarity by taking to the streets to support the cause, and online through the use of digital technologies to engage with the movement. The Golden Globes 2018 ceremony was noteworthy in this context, with celebrities reinventing the narrative by drawing attention to the fight against sexual harassment and assault. Trending topics of the night on Twitter were not award winners, but rather movement-related hashtags: #metoo, #timesup, and #whyiwearblack. Viewers tweeted about #TimesUp approximately 473,900 times that night, another 178,500 tweets mentioned #WhyIWearBlack, while 174,300 mentioned the #MeToo movement.

The fight for gender equality permeated various aspects of the Golden Globes ceremony, with media coverage revealing Oprah’s speech causing the most conversation that evening. As the first black women to receive the Cecil B. DeMille award, Oprah used her speech as an opportunity to call for unity and inclusion in the fight for gender equality. Emphasising on truth and the need for change as key motifs, Oprah shared her experience growing up as a working-class person of colour with few role models to look up to. Drawing parallels with Sidney Poitier, her speech positioned herself and celebrities as role actors capable of bringing about positive societal change for a new generation, not limited to the entertainment industry. She highlighted the importance of both men and women coming together in building fairer and more equal societies. More significantly she addressed the change that was on the horizon by repeatedly contrasting light with dark. She refers to the victims’ “ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights,” and that “a new day is on the horizon,” drawing on the powerful imagery of the sun rising, alluding to light overcoming the dark.

Critiquing current US administration and importance of free media, Oprah’s politicised speech was reminiscent of Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention. Furthermore, her poignant delivery resulted in a viral social media campaign - #oprah2020 – calling for the TV presenter to run for presidency. This notion was endorsed by key personalities in the news and entertainment industries, including journalist Joy-Ann Reid, and director Steven Spielberg. Democratic strategists and activists agreed Oprah could potentially become President, indicative of the speech’s impact within the context of the movement.




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