Oprah Winfrey stands out with #timesup speech at Golden Globes

Oprah Winfrey accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award for her 'outstanding contribution to the entertainment field' during the 75th annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony on Jan 8, 2018.
Oprah Winfrey accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award for her 'outstanding contribution to the entertainment field' during the 75th annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony on Jan 8, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

It was the pairing of one of Hollywood's most frothy events with one of the most serious issues the industry has confronted.

In the build-up to the night of the Golden Globes on Jan 7, activists for the #timesup movement asked participants to wear black and to speak about the survivors of sexual abuse and harassment.

The #timesup initiative was launched by women in Hollywood to fight such abuse and discrimination across various industries.

The outpouring of support of Twitter and other social media for #timesup, and #metoo, gave the impression that this event would be a game-changer. And instead of a night of industry self-congratulation, the 75th Golden Globes would be a force for good.

But except for one powerful and moving speech by Oprah Winfrey, it was largely show business as usual.

Unless you noticed the black dresses, viewers could barely tell it apart from the 74 other Globe nights.

The first inkling that activism was going to be a supporting player rather than a leading cast member appeared on the red carpet.

The television emcees barely mentioned the campaign.

Will And Grace star Debra Messing managed to squeeze in a few words about the #timesup movement, but she was the exception.

Even the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Meher Tatna, wore red, though with a Times Up pin. With nearly all women wearing black, the emcees on the carpet struggled with their comments on fashion, confining their talk to observations about hemlines.

And during the first few awards announcements, except for a brief statement by actress Laura Dern, picking up her award for Best Supporting Actress (limited series), there was barely a whisper about pay equality or sexual harassment.

Host Seth Meyers was duty-bound to address the issue in his monologue, of course, but he went for low-key, semi-apologetic jokes about how awful times were for straight white men like himself.

But that changed when Winfrey spoke. The actress and former host of one of daytime television's most popular chat shows turned it around with a soul-stirring speech that was triumphant, angry, sad and hopeful.

Receiving her Cecil B. DeMille award - given for a lifetime's achievement - she said: "For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up."

The crowd roared its approval. Perhaps Hollywood's elite wants to feel clean again having given the same award in 2014 to Woody Allen, a man who has had sexual abuse allegations made against him since the 1990s.

So upset was his adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow by the industry's praise of a man who she says sexually abused her as a child, she penned an open letter to the New York Times after the ceremony.

Up to the point Winfrey spoke, it looked like the #timesup campaign was going to be a branding disaster.

Instead of the campaign riding on the platform given to it by the Globes, the Globes would trivialise the campaign by treating it like window dressing, reducing a serious issue to a dress colour and a pin.

Let this be a lesson to anyone relying on Hollywood to take on a cause: It will take it on, but at some risk to credibility.