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SAG Awards get ready for #MeToo close-up

Following a Golden Globes that made headlines with its Time's Up theme, the Screen Actors Guild is leaning into that ...

Posted: Jan. 18, 2018 6:47 PM
Updated: Jan. 18, 2018 6:47 PM

Following a Golden Globes that made headlines with its Time's Up theme, the Screen Actors Guild is leaning into that discussion with its annual presentation Sunday. Yet with several more star-studded ceremonies to come, questions linger as to how well Hollywood's awards apparatus can juggle serving as a rallying point for that movement with its more prosaic, self-congratulatory business.

Even before the Globes, which were punctuated by Oprah Winfrey's rousing speech, SAG -- Hollywood's largest guild, representing 160,000 performers and journalists -- had announced plans for an all-female presenter lineup. The event's producer told the Hollywood Reporter the goal was to offer "a unifying salute to women who have been very brave and speaking up."

Still, the entertainment industry's efforts to address sexual harassment and inequality, unleashed by allegations against producer Harvey Weinstein and a host of others, has stoked some reservations about whether award shows, and organizations like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, are particularly well equipped to tackle problems that require action by studios and other major employers.

As a further complication, two high-profile SAG nominees have been drawn into the current debate, with allegations leveled against James Franco -- a contender for "The Disaster Artist" -- and "Master of None" star Aziz Ansari, the latter facing less severe accusations in a Babe.net article that has triggered intense debate, including a rift among some of the women who have weighed in regarding its propriety.

Award shows have become lightning rods for such issues. The shifting focal points have included efforts to improve diversity that emerged after the #OscarsSoWhite campaign, last year's pushback against the then-nascent Trump administration and now the #MeToo wave. The Time's Up conversation continued beyond the Globes to the Critics' Choice Awards, televised Jan. 11 on the CW network, an event that Franco skipped.

The challenge lies in balancing recognition of such cultural moments with the traditional formula of award shows, including glowing tributes and acceptance speeches expressing gratitude to colleagues, representatives and loved ones.

The schism between those objectives seemed especially pronounced in coverage of the Golden Globes red carpet, where hosts sought to simultaneously discuss the Time's Up campaign -- with all the bad behavior that inspired it -- while insisting the evening still felt like a celebration.

The SAG awards generally draw a significantly smaller audience than the Globes, and tune-in could be depressed further by a vagary of this year's awards calendar.

TNT/TBS's 2017 SAG simulcast averaged 3.9 million viewers, according to Nielsen. But because the presence of the Winter Olympics in February has shaken up the awards schedule, this year's telecast will air opposite the NFC Championship game on Fox, traditionally one of the year's most-watched events behind the Super Bowl.

Thanks to its star wattage, the SAG Awards are the lone televised event among Hollywood's major guild awards that are seen as signposts for the Oscars -- the others representing producers (Jan. 20), directors (Feb. 3) and writers (Feb. 11). The Academy will unveil its nominees Jan. 23, with the awards -- marking the official end of the current "awards season" -- being handed out a week later this year, on March 4,

The SAG Awards air Jan. 21 at 8 p.m. ET on TNT/TBS. Like CNN, those networks are owned by Time Warner.

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