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How to Fix the Red Carpet

To start, get rid of Ryan Seacrest.

Photo: John MacDougal/AFP/Getty Images

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The awards show red carpet has always been something of a bizarre spectacle; this year, what with the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements and just the general tone of the world, its preoccupation with women’s bodies feels even more uncomfortable than usual. So is there a way to fix it (and, while we’re at it, make it fun again)? Some members of the Racked staff discuss.


Alanna (senior editor): Let’s talk today about awards shows, and specifically the red carpet — how it’s basically never changed since any of us have been alive, how celebrities are approached and discussed and what they themselves (try to) say, and if that’s a process that can be fixed.

To kick things off, I would love to have each of you guys say what your experience has been watching and covering award shows — has it changed over time?

Meredith (senior editor): I’d say, as a viewer, it’s never been something I really connected with, because the questions and answers felt so remote to me. As Not a Fashion-y Person, I was less interested in hearing what actresses are wearing than what it was like on their sets (I’ll even take a “George Clooney pulls pranks” story). As for covering it, the monotony and difficulty to make something new out of this very old system has bummed me out.

And this year, in light of #MeToo, I just feel weird — not that it’s inherently bad, but it’s WEIRD — talking about sexual harassment out of one side of our mouths, and people’s bodies and what’s on them and please do a little twirl out of the other. It’s just complicated!

Nadra (reporter): Yes, it has changed. I think people used to take more risks. Everyone has a stylist and does their best to look as inoffensive as possible. We won’t see someone walk down the red carpet in a swan dress like Bjork did in 2001. I loved Joan Rivers, but I think people got so afraid of making worst-dressed lists that it has stifled their creativity on the carpet.

Meredith: I super agree with that, Nadra, you really don’t see big swings anymore! Long live Bjork.

A true legend.
Photo: Ron Davis/Getty Images

Rebecca (producer/writer): I have always cared more about what the dress or look said about the actor’s personality rather than “here’s what my stylist told me to wear.” And that lends itself to the Q&A part as well, where you can have an interesting conversation about fashion and style that doesn’t feel forced, as long as the celebrity is wearing something they actually care about and have something to say about. Like, what would I wear if I had a million dollars and were extremely talented and people cared about what I wore!!! That is a fun thing to think about!

Alanna: Do you have thoughts on the question-and-answer/interview portion of things?

Nadra: I think because of #MeToo, and previously because of #AskHerMore, journalists on the carpet have been challenged to ask entertainers more thought-provoking questions. It’s difficult to do in that context, however. They only have a minute or two, if that, with each person, so I don’t know how substantive the conversations can be.

Meredith: The original point is just like, you’re entering a building and you’re dressed nicely, but by turning it into a process, it highlights how limited it is. I don’t think anyone wants full sit-downs on the red carpet, but it just brings up, like: What do we want from this?

Anyone whose answer is a big shrug should just be allowed to go in without chatting. I feel so uncomfortable when they seem to feel uncomfortable. But if they care, awesome, talk about it!

Rebecca: Yeah, there should be an aisle where the idiot celebrities who have nothing to say can just scuttle on through. (Unless you are going to give us a really hilarious quote, in which case, please remain talking.)

Meredith: I feel like it’s always Elizabeth Moss (who flipped off the mani cam, never forget) or someone being like, “IDEK I’m itchy.” Which is a good send-up, but also maybe we just don’t make them do that part of the job.

I want an OPT-IN red carpet, that’s all.

Rebecca: Yeah. I don’t need to hear David Harbour’s thoughts on Time’s Up.

Vulture

Alanna: What should the role be (if any) of talking about serious topics on the red carpet? Like, do you find it genuinely useful or mostly hollow and hurried?

Meredith: I almost just wish it were JUST photos, skip the talking, because the room for error is crazy. (Mostly on Seacrest’s part.)

Nadra: Well, speaking of Seacrest, he’s been accused of sexual harassment by his former stylist.

Meredith: Yeahhhhhh. I don’t wanna see him make a lady turn around this year! Or any year, but like, REALLY.

Nadra: I think if he still does the carpet, it could be extremely awkward.

Meredith: I hope they keep him in the booth with Ross. Or better: Keep him at home.

Nadra: Yes. I still remember this very awkward red carpet interview he did with Angelina Jolie. She was being very terse, and he kind of got an attitude. Turned out her mom had just died. (Also, speaking of Jolie — remember how much of a thing her leg became one year?)

Meredith: OOF. There’s just no room for humanity on the carpet.

Rebecca: I think it’s on the journalists to know who they’re talking to, and in the instance when they know a celebrity is going to have a talking point, like, say, Reese Witherspoon, just ask a vague question about “What this means to you?” and she’ll say what she needs to say. But yeah, the world does not need Giuliana Rancic asking like, Timothée Chalamet about #MeToo — no offense to Timmy.

Meredith: I’m like: I don’t think this is served by more serious questions, I don’t think it’s served by the questions or hosts we have now, I don’t think it’s necessary to promote the clothes, like... what is it for? It’s usually pretty dull; I worry this year it will be wall-to-wall mistakes. Like, I never need you to ask a nominee if they’re excited to be there. I can assume!

Nadra: I mean, I can see if you’re an up-and-coming designer and Cate Blanchett wears you on the red carpet, how big of a deal that is. I do think designers should get shoutouts.

Meredith: I made this argument last year, but I think that can happen in mags and on websites, on Insta and Snapchat — I just think the red carpet isn’t the best way to do it.

Nadra: Yes, using social media to promote designers is cool. I agree.

Meredith: Like, we all get the credits, IDK if her saying it to Kelly Osbourne is a bigger deal. I want to look on Insta and get the real behind-the-scenes, too; that’s more exciting to me.

The leg that launched a thousand memes.
Photo: Jeffery Mayer/Getty Images

Rebecca: But on the other hand, red carpets are supposed to be parties, and I love watching famous people hobnob in beautiful clothes when they know everyone is watching. It’s like watching The Bachelor if everyone on The Bachelor were rich and talented and took themselves even more seriously than they already do

Meredith: Huh, that’s interesting, I never think of it as a party. I think of it as like a weird work obligation. But I would 100 percent watch that party. I just want to see famouses talk to each OTHER. Those are my favorite red carpet moments.

Rebecca: For sure. How do we get more of that?!

Nadra: Some awards shows are more party-like than others. The Globes have that rep, the Oscars not so much.

Meredith: Oscars: cocktail party pre-show, PLEASE.

Alanna: It sounds like you guys are maybe calling for an end to red carpet correspondents-slash-hosts?

Rebecca: Everything should be mic’ed. It should be more like a reality show, where we jump to the most interesting convos.

Meredith: Rebecca, I love that SO MUCH. The current organization is weird and not helpful, but if it were, like, Allison Janney talking about heels with Taraji P. Henson, it would be my favorite show of all time.

Rebecca: I think the correspondents serve an important purpose where they FORCE the celebs to open their mouths. But if they were forced to talk to each other more, that would be ideal.

When dresses were fun.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images

Alanna: I think we did it, you guys, we fixed the red carpet! Any final thoughts?

Meredith: LOL, yay! Give Rebecca a development deal, I’ll be her manager. And Nadra’s right: still wanna see more big risks!

Rebecca: This doesn’t really have a place in anything else we discussed, but I think the problem is that couture fashion is still only designed for thin women who look like models, and our actors and actresses don’t (and shouldn’t) look like models. Like, it should not be this difficult for Leslie Jones to get a red carpet dress.

Meredith: It really brings back to the fore, like, who is fashion for and when is it for? And the answers we’re getting suck, and there should be better ones. I would love a red carpet that felt like I could someday be there if I were an aspirational version of me based on work and not an aspirational version of me based on diet and exercise, and because of what Rebecca’s talking about it feels so remote. That’s part of why I’ve never connected to it. I think there’s an E! News issue and there’s a designer issue and there’s a industry issue, but let’s start by making it a big party.