Monday, April 6, 2015

Cringe worthy questions on the red carpet.

The 57thAnnual Grammy Awards were hosted on February 8th.  Even though the award show was months ago, I’m still troubled by one red carpet interaction: 

While walking the red carpet, Taylor Swift was interviewed by Nancy O’Dell of Entertainment Tonight.  The interview started like any other with excited greetings and compliments, but quickly turned cringe worthy.  O’Dell almost immediately asked her cameraman to pan down Ms. Swift’s body.  While purporting to show off her dress, O’Dell added the following comment:
I just wanted to show the legs because, as I was telling you ahead of time, you’re going walk home with more than maybe just a trophy tonight, I think lots of men. 
And this is less than 30 seconds into the interview.  With an “icy stare,” Ms. Swift flatly answered: “I’m not going walk home with any men tonight.”

You can see the full interaction here, courtesy of Entertainment Tonight:

Articles describing the incident quickly appeared on the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, and Glamour, to name a few.  

Obviously, the comment is inappropriate and offensive.  We should not be objectifying women’s bodies like that and we shouldn’t be making such inappropriate suggestions.  But what is particularly troubling to me is the way that O’Dell went about it.  However unfortunate, we are used to seeing reporters objectify women on the red carpet – ask about their bodies, their diets, their clothes, their love lives – but rarely are reporters so blunt as to suggest that a star take home lots of men at the end of the night.  

Swift had been nominated for 3 awards that night – Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Solo Performance – and yet rather than an interview about her work or her passions, we got a disingenuous display of Ms. Swift’s body and inappropriate sexual comment.      

Unfortunately, this isn’t a unique experience.  Since February 2014, when The Representation Project launched the #askhermore campaign, there has been a movement to ask female celebrities more meaningful questions on the red carpet. 

According to one of its founders, #askhermore is a “call-to-action campaign and media organization established to shift people’s consciousness, inspire individual and community action and ultimately transform culture so everyone, regardless of gender, age or circumstance can fulfill their potential.”

This campaign is a direct response to the ridiculous questions women are asked on the red carpet.  This Upworthy video shows the types of questions women are asked and how some have responded: 

“Ask better questions” is certainly an understandable call to me – these are exceptionally bright, successful, and accomplished women, who are being asked not about their achievements or their minds, but about their clothes and their bodies. 

Last February, Jessica Goldstein wrote a thorough piece about the Representation Project and the #askhermore campaign.  Goldstein noted that the goal isn’t to do away with the red carpet or even to encourage female celebrities to skip it.  Rather, the goal is to change the trajectory of the questions to ensure that women are asked as meaningful questions as their male counterparts about their interests, their work, and their accomplishments. 

But she also notes that the red carpet is a kind of fashion spectacle that is supposed to be fun.  And in that sense, it’s not insane or unprofessional to ask about what celebrities are wearing.  As Goldstein admits though, the "red carpet has crossed some invisible line from tolerable frivolity to so-inane-it’s-insulting."

With responses like Ms. Swift’s and those of other celebrities (think Reese Witherspoon, Cate Blanchett, and others), hopefully interviews like Ms. O’Dell’s can become a thing of the past. 

1 comment:

Jessica S. said...

I agree with this post. Definitely, we need more self-awareness from reporters on what they ask female celebrities. In recent years, there has been a number of very creepy men who assault women on the red carpet for attention. Brad Pitt got attacked as well, but there is something just so perverted about a man crawling on the floor, getting under a woman's skirt. I am glad we stopped putting up with that type of behavior at least. The celebrity status and fashion angles have become so hyper-focused on that the questions and antics become inane. It would be great if they kept it simple, and just did the award show, entertainment event, or whatever. It feels as if they drag it out, leading to people filling in the time with distasteful actions because they have very shallow knowledge of all the works and talent at events.