When nearly every major actor and actress showed up at last month’s Golden Globes dressed in black, it was impossible not to notice. Spearheaded by Time’s Up, the entertainment industry’s new coalition to fight sexual harassment, the dark dress code was a direct response to the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and the ensuing #MeToo movement. It was a totally new look for the Globes, which — like the Oscars and SAG Awards — have always been more about glitz and glamour than grand-scale political messaging.
Sartorial protests are fairly untrodden territory for film and TV awards shows, but for the Grammys, they’re nothing new. Last year’s broadcast alone was packed with political statements: Katy Perry performed “Chained to the Rhythm” in a Hillary Clinton-inspired pantsuit and “PERSIST” armband, Highly Suspect frontman Johnny Stevens wore an “IMPEACH” jacket, Schoolboy Q supported the Women’s March in a pink “GIRL POWER” hoodie — and who could forget Joy Villa’s instantly viral “Make America Great Again” gown? At the Globes and Oscars, meanwhile, wearable shows of activism were essentially limited to pins and ribbons; nice gestures, sure, but not exactly internet-breaking stuff.
Grammy performances, in particular, have been incorporating political clothing since long before Donald Trump won the GOP nomination. In February 2016, Kendrick Lamar appeared as part of a chain gang, performing songs from his seminal album To Pimp a Butterfly in a prison uniform and shackles. The year prior, Pharrell dressed his backup dancers in black hoodies as a tribute to Trayvon Martin. And in 2014, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis brought their marriage-equality anthem “Same Love” to life with a mass wedding officiated by Queen Latifah, featuring dozens of same-sex couples in their finest formalwear.
So what’s held the Globes and Oscars back from doubling down on these same issues in recent years? The live-performance aspect of the Grammys certainly offers an advantage; it’s easier to stage a protest when, well, you’ve got a literal stage (and more than a 45-second acceptance speech) to work with. There’s also the fact that when it comes to offering contracts to celebrities, most major fashion houses — Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton — overwhelmingly choose actresses over musicians, presumably with the reasoning that their public image is more malleable. And since most designer contracts stipulate that the star must wear the label on the red carpet (sometimes exclusively), that pretty much limits their protest options to Planned Parenthood pins and “F*ck Paul Ryan” buttons.
But there’s something else that gives Music’s Biggest Night an advantage when it comes to political statements: The Grammys are simply more diverse from both a racial and gender perspective. Consider the fact that all five of 2018’s Record of the Year nominees are artists of color, while Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — a movie that’s been called “hopelessly bad on race,” “problematic,” and “tone-deaf” — continues its awards-season sweep. And that since 1990, 11 female solo artists have won the Grammys’ Album of the Year award, compared to seven male solo artists; meanwhile, only five female directors have been nominated at the Oscars, ever.
The Grammys also celebrate new artists and honor achievements in musical genres like R&B and rap — categories classically dominated by artists of color — while the Oscars and Globes tend to celebrate the same people (mostly white and male) and projects (ditto) year after year. In doing so, the Grammys elevate the voices of creatives who are often overlooked, particularly black and Latinx people, women, and LGBTQ artists; incidentally, the same folks responsible for the vast majority of political fashion statements, speeches, and performances at awards show.
That’s not to say that the Grammys don’t still have work to do; despite nominating and showcasing the work of more diverse artists, the ratio of white to non-white Grammy winners is troubling. And a look at the 2018 Oscar nominees does offer some hope. Films that aren’t centered on the straight, white experience, like Get Out, Mudbound, and Call Me by Your Name, are up for multiple awards; two transgender people (A Fantastic Woman’s Daniela Vega and Strong Island’s Yance Ford) are nominated; and the more-diverse-than-ever Best Director category includes Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water), and Jordan Peele (Get Out). Still, though, the Academy has a long way to go in order to shake that #OscarsSoWhite hashtag.
Hopefully, by spotlighting talented women, LGBTQ creatives, and artists of color in the way the Grammys have for years, the Oscars will become a place to have these same crucial conversations about race, sexuality, and gender dynamics. As long as Hollywood red carpets are populated primarily by wealthy white people, after all, we can’t expect any sweeping changes: only pins, ribbons, and the occasional red carpet blackout.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis's marriage equality anthem "Same Love" may have rocked the Grammy Awards, but one Texas-based Christian rapper has condemned the track in a very disturbing way.
As The Houston Chronicle is reporting, Bizzle refutes the popular comparisons of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights movement to the civil rights struggles of the African-American community.
"You'd rather fight God than fight sin," Bizzle rhymes on the track. "The Bible is alright until it calls what you like sin/And I feel so disrespected that you were so desperate/You would compare your sexual habits to my skin."
He then adds, "You can play straight, we can never play white ... It angers you if I compare you to a pedophile, because he's sick, right, and you're better, how?"
As the Chronicle also points out, Bizzle has released songs "targeting the media messages" of popular artists like Kanye West, Nicki Minaj and Jay-Z in the past.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have come under heavy criticism since their performance of "Same Love" on the Grammy Awards, featuring appearances by Queen Latifah and Madonna, on Jan. 26. Among those to condemn the number, during which 33 straight and gay couples tied the knot onstage, was the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer.
"If you care about children, this thing ought to appall you because gay marriage is bad for children," Fischer said, according to Right Wing Watch. "In fact, same-sex parenting ... is a form of child abuse."