What role will the war between Israel and Hamas play in Hollywood awards season?

As Hollywood heads into the heart of its awards season – a three-month orgy of frothy self-celebration and pop culture glamor – celebrities and their handlers find themselves with a serious decision to make: what to say , if at all, about Israel? Hamas War.

Movie stars are increasingly willing, even determined, to use awards shows like the Golden Globes, scheduled for Sunday on CBS, to draw attention to progressive causes and concerns. In recent years, honorees like Meryl Streep, Russell Crowe and Michelle Williams have incorporated topics such as sexual harassment, the global refugee crisis, abortion rights, Trumpism, climate change, into their acceptance speeches. Black Lives Matter, veganism and the war in Ukraine.

Viewers on both political sides sometimes bristle at what they see as an elitist reading. But in the Los Angeles ballrooms where these trophies are awarded and such speeches are made, the response is usually uniform praise. Stars dressed in haute couture stand up to offer ovations.

The war between Israel and Hamas is much more complicated.

“It’s such a dangerous subject – there’s no answer, especially in the noise of a red carpet, or in a frantic acceptance speech, that won’t offend anyone,” said Martin Kaplan, who runs the Norman Lear Center for Entertainment. , Media and Society at the University of Southern California. “Add alcohol to the mix, as is often the case at these awards dinners, and what could possibly happen?” »

Reaction to the conflict has rocked Hollywood, where there is a strong Jewish presence, as well as many other parts of America. On the one hand, there is ardent support for Israel. On the other hand, there are those who see the Palestinian cause as an expansion of movements for racial and social justice which swept the United States in the summer of 2020.

The stars were licensed movies. Agencies abandoned clients; customers have abandoned agents. Friendships were broken, with people accusing each other of hypocrisy and betrayal.

As the Golden Globes approach, kicking off awards season in earnest, some publicists and agents have advised their celebrity clients to keep quiet about the war between Israel and Hamas. One poorly chosen word could torpedo their Oscar hopes, and maybe even their career. A longtime Hollywood journalist who has clients in this year’s Oscar race summed up her advice on the subject as: “Run for the hills.” A few high-profile clients, she added, were walking red carpets but skipping interviews. Too risky.

Others worry that the silence itself is a political message. After Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7, most Hollywood unions were quick to condemn the violence. But one of the major unions, the Writers Guild of America, refused to issue a statement and stood by its decision despite enormous backlash from hundreds of its members.

Some major Hollywood communications companies, including Rogers & Cowan PMK and ID PR, have offered to wear yellow ribbons in support of the Gaza hostages. They consider this effort, run in part by Ashlee Margolis, who runs an entertainment and fashion marketing company called A-List, to be apolitical, although some might disagree.

“Wearing a symbolic yellow ribbon in support of the 136 women, children and men – Israeli and American – who were brutally kidnapped by terrorists and remain in captivity is not only powerfully humane, and certainly non-controversial, but camera-ready,” Melissa Zukerman, a managing partner of Principal Communications Group, said in an email.

The parade of ceremonies after the Golden Globes will include the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Independent Spirit Awards and the British Academy Film Awards, before culminating on March 10 with the Academy Awards ceremony. This year, the strike delayed the Emmy Awards and Governors’ Awards were also crowded into the hallway.

Most of these galas are accompanied by red carpets covered by journalists. Stars should expect to be asked about the war between Israel and Hamas, said Marc Malkin, editor in chief of Variety and co-host of the official show. Golden Globes preview on Sunday. “If they talked about it on Instagram or signed an open letter, it’s fair game,” he said.

This appears to include Israeli-born actress Natalie Portman, nominated for “May December,” who published on social networks expressing horror at the Hamas attack, and Jeffrey Wright, nominated for his role in “American Fiction,” who questioned the wisdom retaliation by Israel. Bradley Cooper, multiple nominee for “Maestro,” signed two public letters, one regarding the hosts urging them to “continue the fight for their freedom” and another calling for “de-escalation and a ceasefire immediate”.

Spokespeople for these candidates declined to comment or did not respond to questions.

The next self-congratulatory marathon could certainly go off without a hitch, with celebrities speaking out knowledgeably on this complex and controversial subject. But the odds aren’t in Hollywood’s favor. The film industry has a long, if not proud, history of tone-deaf behavior.

There was a time in 2008 when Sharon Stone, walking the red carpet, sparked a sort of frenzy by claiming that the earthquake in China, which left 88,000 people dead or missing, was perhaps karmic revenge for the country’s management of Tibet. In 2022, America’s living rooms were left speechless when, moments after Will Smith attacked Chris Rock on the Oscars stage, guests inside the theater gave Mr. Smith a standing ovation after his Best Actor acceptance speech in tears.

Awards shows used to have a fiery speech here, a political shout-out there – whether it was Marlon Brando sending a Native American activist to refuse his Academy Award for Best Actor in 1973, or Vanessa Redgrave’s denunciation of “Zionist thugs” in 1978. However, most of the time the stars strove to be stars, exercising their charm and saying nothing that might alienate only one ticket buyer.

That changed, and the Golden Globes led the way.

In 2017, Ms. Streep ripped into President-elect Donald J. Trump from the Globes stage. The following year, the Globes became a de facto rally for the Time’s Up movement, with actresses wearing black to protest sexual harassment and Oprah Winfrey giving a steamy speech. In 2020, Ms Williams made a passionate plea for abortion rights, while Mr Crowe drew attention to climate change and Australia’s bushfire crisis.

Last year, the Globes gave airtime to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who gave a speech about his country’s war with Russia.

Globes representatives did not respond to questions about whether this year’s show would veer into politics.

Producers of awards broadcasts say research, compiled primarily by Nielsen, indicates that most viewers don’t like it when celebrities turn their stage appearances into political bully pulpits. A recent Oscars producer said minute-by-minute audience analysis indicated that “vast swaths” of people turned off the television when celebrities started giving their opinions on politics. He spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential measures.

Comedian Ricky Gervais, who hosted the Globes in 2020, used part of his monologue to tell Hollywood that he was testing the public’s tolerance for mixing serious causes with awards bacchanalia.

“You are in no position to lecture the public on anything, you don’t know anything about the real world,” Mr. Gervais said, adding: “If you win, go up, accept your little reward, thank your agent and your god. » and get off stage.