Why is Oprah Winfrey deserving of the Cecil B. DeMille award? Well, because she's Oprah. That should be reason enough for her to win any award. (If you told me Oprah was being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, I'd say, "Of course. It's about time.") The Golden Globe Awards' Cecil B. DeMille prize, specifically, is determined by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Board of Directors to honor the recipient's "outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment."
"Oprah has a way of connecting with people," Meher Tatna, president of the HFPA, told ET on Thursday. "That is her gift. She reaches through the TV and reaches people and connects with them. She is a role model for strong, independent women everywhere. She's respected. I mean, it was a no-brainer for us."
DeMille himself was the first recipient of the award in 1952 and past honorees include Walt Disney, Judy Garland and, more recently, Barbara Streisand, Robin Williams and Steven Spielberg. Last year, Meryl Streep received the award, and Winfrey's deservingness of this honor has long been indisputable. (Despite just a single Globe nomination, for 1986's The Color Purple, her impact on the entertainment community cannot be overstated.) That she is being honored now proves timely, though, as she may be the perfect person to speak to where we are, and perhaps the only honoree who could match Streep's own rousing call to action:
When Streep delivered her speech, on Jan. 8, 2016, mere weeks before Donald Trump's inauguration and his executive order calling for a Muslim ban, she used the Cecil B. DeMille award as a platform to defend immigration and freedom of the press. "All of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now," Streep said. "Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners and the press."
It was not a moment for Streep to pat herself on the back, as coastal elite are oft accused of, but one in which she addressed and challenged the political climate of the moment. "There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hook in my heart not because it was good...There was nothing good about it. But it was effective, and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart," she said. "Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose."
In many ways, this year's Golden Globes has been defined by the emergence of the #MeToo movement, first created by activist Tarana Burke and galvanized in the wake of sexual assault and abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein, and this week's creation of the Time's Up initiative, a pledge by 300 actresses and other women in the industry to combat systemic harassment in Hollywood and beyond. Even before the latter's announcement, a missive went out instructing anyone walking the Globes red carpet to wear black in protest of sexual harassment.
If last year was about resistance, this year is also about revolution, and Winfrey is keenly suited to speak on that.
"I'm not happy that it happened the way that it did, but this moment is, I feel, a seminal moment. It's a really powerful time for everybody to get woke," Winfrey previously told ET. "Not just about sexual harassment, but about the way you view somebody who has less power than you do. This is really a question about power and the misuse and abuse of power. I think this is a time for those of us who do hold some to come together and to see what we can do to further this moment."
While an excoriation of the plague of sexual abuses in Hollywood would make for a scorching speech in itself, the conversation is greater than that. It is about confronting systemic imbalances and striving for parity. It is about intersectionality, about recognizing sexism and racism and other pervasive prejudices. It's about elevating voices of women who have long been silenced, and it's about listening. Yes, this is a moment to denounce predators, but the flip side of that coin is about empowering their victims, as well as women in general. In a year in which she has not only increased her acting and producing work (with projects such as A Wrinkle in Time and Queen Sugar) while also continuing her entrepreneurship, philanthropy and activism work, who is more empowered than Oprah?
"She would be powerful reading the phone book," host Seth Meyers told ET at the red carpet rollout for Sunday's show . "I assume it'll be bigger than that, better than that."
The 75th Golden Globe Awards will be handed out live on Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, from the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, on NBC at 8 p.m. EST. Moët & Chandon is the official champagne sponsor of the event.
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