Golden Globes 2020: After The Political Capture of The Red Carpet

Golden Globes 2020: After The Political Capture of The Red Carpet

All good intentions notwithstanding, fashion has mutated to something else. It is handmade by political expression. Especially in the West

“Two pairs of Stan Smith sneakers and a sense of self.” These were among the things American actor and comedian Kate McKinnon listed (“a shot at life too”) to mount her speech to introduce TV personality and gay rights advocate Ellen DeGeneres at the Golden Globes 2020 awards ceremony on January 6 in Los Angeles. DeGeneres was honoured with the Carol Burnett Award for her outstanding contribution to television.

McKinnon clearly ran a success marathon as a gay comedian in her inspired Stan Smiths. That was the warmest nod to a wearable brand on the Golden Globes stage by way of a sinuous metaphor.

Because the best of what was otherwise worn and noticed had little to do with shimmering gowns, tuxedos, sensational shoes or eye-popping baubles. The once upon a time stars of a red carpet event, these elements of haute couture and high fashion, that would show the transit from international catwalks and fine jewellery ateliers to celeb studded events and the influence of stylists, thus gobsmacking the world with powered prettiness are now losing their scintillating influence.

In the ‘brave-but-a-bit-confused-willing to reflect-and-mend-its-ways’ new world, what is said on a stage while presenting or accepting a trophy or how an actor voices her current socio-political concern is the “New Look”. The actor and the achiever has become bigger than the star. Someone with a well-defined sense of self that needs internal acceptance and external rehearsal to come out on a stage and walk the talk. That attitude is fast nudging out the formerly held dominance of the Next Black Tux, the Sexiest Gown, the Tallest Stiletto and the Shiniest Bauble.


It is a significant moment in red carpet couture. Its climb-down from being the high and mighty mirror of affluence, success and power, sexiness, beauty and the era of personality cults.

At the Golden Globes for instance, there was symbolic representation of the entire long list of “once upon a time” red carpet couture rituals. A stunning Charlize Theron in her favourite Dior. Okay so it was green instead of white or red that she has preferred over the years but still it was Dior. Gwyneth Paltrow came in a sheer caramel Fendi dress leading all transparency issues. Billy Porter had his couture-costume, with oh my god, look at this, detachable angelic wings. Priyanka Chopra Jonas waltzed in ravishing pink with a Bulgari diamond necklace—a favourite red carpet colour, diamonds, and vintage curls, wearing her husband on her sleeves—old star power formula. There were “big” statements too—Olivia Colman’s red sleeves, JLo’s acutely outsized bow on her dress and Kerry Washington’s awful, boob suit with a jewelled harness inside. A little bit of everything if you must segregate into best and worst lists.


Photo: Valerie Macon / AFP

British actress Olivia Colman at the 77th annual Golden Globe Awards.

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images/AFP

Gwyneth Paltrow at the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards.

And yet what we remember is Tom Hanks’ emotional speech, how Joker (best) actor Joaquin Phoenix called out his peers for worrying about climate change and then travelling in private jets, Brad Pitt for his lighthearted take on his ageing movie life and why the opportunity to be “kind” shouldn’t ever be passed up. There was Patricia Arquette calling out President Trump and someone mentioning abortion rights. All the food served was vegan. Later, designer Stella McCartney put it out on social media that the tuxedo worn by Phoenix for the Golden Globes would be repeated by him for the entire awards season to reduce waste.


Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images/AFP

Brad Pitt at the 77th annual Golden Globe Awards.

Photo: Frederic J. Brown / AFP

American actor Joaquin Phoenix at the 77th annual Golden Globe Awards.

Hollywood is woke. Stars are woke, worried, they try harder to understand the rights of those wronged. Going up on the stage is not an opportunity just to tear up and cheer oneself, it is a moment to say and mean something. It is no longer about the tuxedo or the gown, certainly not about styled vanity or borrowed brands and jewels.

Back in India, no woke speeches are made by film celebrities. The few stars who do have a point of view against the establishment do not use an awards ceremony (lest they shoo away the sponsors and the sponsors shoo away the stars). So the red carpet in India is a vain little jungle, stars compete on clothes and appearances; self-consciously thank stylists while being anxious about the “verdict” of a small breed of style bloggers. Oddly or perhaps not, clothes and couture matter more on Indian red carpets than they ever did. This trend is out of tune with the times because India is currently inflamed in all kinds of protests. A time when poetry is threatened with sloganeering, paintings are becoming posters and literature runs the risk of becoming propaganda. But fashion remains what fashion is meant to be, fussed with itself.

In the West, it is the opposite. Stars are no longer judged for good or bad couture, for the brilliance of borrowed diamonds or the dizzying glamour of crazy heels. They are judged by how they articulate their political selves.

All good intentions notwithstanding, fashion has mutated to something else. It is handmade by political expression.

Question is if we should bemoan it? The climate has changed after all.

Fashion must too.

Banner: Olivia Colman wearing a ring featuring the ERA (Equal Representation for Actresses) 50:50 logo.

Image courtesy: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images/AFP–3459