Could it be that the movement to make entertainment award shows about more than mani-cams and “Who are you wearing?” is beginning to make some progress?
At last year’s Emmys, the advocacy group The Representation Project started the hashtag #AskHerMore to urge celebrity journalists to ask actresses and other women more substantive questions. But the hashtag didn’t seem to have much impact—especially when you consider that actress Sofia Vergara ended up on a rotating turntable clearly designed to flaunt her figure at one point during the ceremony.
The group tried again during the 2015 Oscars, with actors like Reese Witherspoon taking to social media to beg red carpet reporters to #AskHerMore. The theme of the campaign seemed to resonate that time, with Patricia Arquette weighing in on the gender wage gap during her acceptance speech (and the enthusiastic reactions she got from Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez spreading like wildfire on social media).
For this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, an online community dedicated to empowering young people to be their “authentic selves,” riffed on the #AskHerMore idea to create a new social media campaign. Using the hashtag #SmartGirlsAsk, the organization asked people to tweet red carpet questions that they actually want to hear the answers to. The campaign took off online, garnering tweets from celebrities, fans and even powerful women such as Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, General Motors CEO Mary Barra, and Hollywood bigwig Shonda Rhimes.
But did #SmartGirlsAsk actually have an impact on the red carpet?
Smart Girls was on the scene, asking the celebs questions from their Twitter stream, taping and live-tweeting responses. Poehler’s team was equal opportunity, cornering men as well as women with its videocamera—though the campaign did favor actors over behind-the-scenes nominees. Lesli Linka Glatter was the only directing nominee Fortune spotted. (Glatter was nominated for best direction of a TV drama for her work on Homeland.)
Katie Couric’s question made the cut, and was posed to another of the non-actors included in the #SmartGirlsAsk video stream: Jenji Kohan, creator of Orange in the New Black.
Meanwhile, over at E’s Red Carpet show, Ryan Seacrest appeared to be taking heed of the Twitter campaigns pleading for smarter questions, focusing his queries a bit less on fashion and asking more about nominees’ work on their shows and upcoming projects.
The change in tone on the red carpet also seemed to trickle over into the ceremony itself. In his opening monologue, host Andy Samberg worked in jokes about diversity and sexism. Pretending he misread the teleprompter, he said:
“The wage gap between men and woman hired for major roles in Hollywood is still an issue… Wait, I’m sorry I misread that. The age gap between men and woman hired for major roles in Hollywood is still an issue… Wait, I’m sorry I misread it again. It’s both! Still both. So crappy on two fronts.”
Then there were the pre-taped questions asked to nominees for Best Writing and Directing for a Comedy Series, in which Best Director winner Jill Soloway managed to crack a joke about feminist theory on national TV, saying: “The hardest part of writing is trying to be funny in the presence of the male gaze—g-a-z-e, not gays”
All in all, it was a good night for women in Hollywood, with women winning in categories that weren’t limited to best actress. Lisa Cholodenko and Jill Soloway won directing awards, Jane Anderson won Best Writing for a Limited Series (Olive Kitteridge) and Inside Amy Schumer, with six female staff writers, won for best Variety Sketch Series, a category normally completely dominated by men.
Now it’s up to the 2106 Oscars to keep the trend going.
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