“No one wants to see me insult any of you rich, beautiful, over-privileged celebrities,” Golden Globes host emeritus Ricky Gervais said while presenting the award for best actress in a movie comedy last night. “So I’m not going to start picking on things you’ve done. Some of it immoral. A lot of it illegal.” It was the same smug, faux-shocking shtick that Gervais made famous with his three turns hosting the awards, but in the middle of this year’s surprisingly moving, socially conscious ceremony, the cynical moralizing felt jarringly out of place.
It wasn’t just that host Amy Poehler and Tina Fey had actually named names earlier in the night, using their opening monologue to take Bill Cosby to task on NBC, his own network. “In Into the Woods, Cinderella runs from her prince, Rapunzel is thrown from a tower for her prince, and Sleeping Beauty just thought she was getting coffee with Bill Cosby,” Poehler joked. (The pair then broke out their Cosby impressions as Jessica Chastain’s jaw hung open.) Along with advertising the perils of self-tanning and the wonders of double-sided tape, this was a night when Hollywood presented its most high-minded version of itself: progressive, humble, and aware of the world outside the Beverly Hilton’s walls.
George Clooney, Jared Leto, and the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press association all paid tribute to the slain cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, but the evening's earnest tone was best captured in a series of heartfelt acceptance speeches. Most charming was Gina Rodriguez, tearfully accepting the best actress award for her star turn in the CW’s “Jane the Virgin.” “This award is so much more than myself,” she said. “It represents a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes.” Accepting an acting award for HBO’s “The Normal Heart,” where he played a journalist dying of AIDS, the almost implausibly handsome Matt Bomer dedicated his award to “the generation that we lost and the people we continue to lose to this disease.”
Common delivered his acceptance speech for Best Original Song as a spoken-word performance that referenced Selma, Ferguson, and the two slain NYPD cops, ending with the exhortation, “Selma is now.” (Though at the Oscars, he might try to speed up his delivery to make room for his collaborator John Legend.) “Downton Abbey”’s Joanne Froggat cut short all of my unkind snark for an undeserved win with her tribute to rape survivors who watched her performance as Anna Bates: “I heard you and I hope saying this so publicly in some way means you feel the world hears you.” And Patricia Arquette dedicated her award to working single mothers like the character she played in Boyhood: “Thank you for shining a light on this woman and a million women like her and for allowing me to honor my own mother with this character.”
The Golden Globes’ voters—a ragtag group of 90 random foreign journalists—like to fancy themselves bolder than their less-boozy award-show brethren, especially in TV categories, and so perhaps it wasn’t surprising that “Transparent,” Amazon’s breathtaking half-hour sort-of-comedy, won for its debut season. But the award was gratifying, as was Rodriguez’s, and the increased visibility can only bring new viewers to “Transparent” and “Jane the Virgin.” Jill Soloway thanked her own “trans-parent,” whose coming out as transgender inspired “Transparent”’s debut season, and Jeffrey Tambor, accepting an award for his role as Maura Pfferman in “Transparent,” gave a pitch-perfect speech dedicated to the transgender community—“Thank you for your patience, and thank you for letting us be part of the change”—that should serve as a master-class in how to support the voices of the marginalized without congratulating yourself for being open-minded and brave. (Jared Leto, take note!)