Red-carpet interviews aren’t known for their depth.
Talking to celebrities wearing ridiculously expensive outfits isn’t exactly a Brookings Institution roundtable. But what passes for acceptable conversation these days has devolved to an alarming degree. And it has become the most insipid when it comes to female stars.
Call me crazy, but screaming “What are you wearing?” at actresses as they walk by is not the pinnacle of journalism.
Granted, a red carpet is made to show off fashions. I get that. But I can see all the pretty frocks with my own eyes. I don’t need to go deep into the psychology (or lack thereof) of a look. Nor do I need women to, literally, be placed on a pedestal and displayed like trophies on the Glam Cam 360. There has to be something better they can ask female celebrities to do than stick their hands in the Mani Cam, right?
But we all know both are coming. The Academy Awards telecast Sunday will be preceded by red-carpet specials filled with well-coiffed people saying to other well-coiffed people, in all earnestness, “Tell me about the dress.”
The good news is that the backlash against the incessant dumbing down of what passes for red-carpet interviews has begun. At this year’s Golden Globes event, co-host Amy Poehler helped lead the charge with a call to #AskHerMore on the red carpet.
Poehler’s Smart Girls online community group for young women started the hashtag to get interviewers to ask about more than just a female celebrity’s dress (or shoes or purse or accessories). The viral-content site Upworthy followed suit with a video compilation of vapid question after vapid question being flung at stars, with the kicker to “Ask Better Questions.”
Look, no one is expecting a point-by-point analysis of the Islamic State’s global reach or a stirring debate about the historic levels of income inequality in our country. We know Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic are no Woodward and Bernstein, but they have got to have something else they can talk about.
It’s not asking too much for the people holding the microphones to pose the same kind of questions to female celebrities as they do male ones. Ask about the movies they’re starring in, ask about the projects they have coming up, ask about how they got into their characters.
I love the Academy Awards, but the thought of sitting through another vacuous red-carpet special beforehand makes me want to throw my nondesigner shoes at my screen. Asking better questions isn’t just about equality, it’s about good television. You are guaranteed to not get an answer more interesting than “Prada” or “vintage Gucci” by just asking about a dress.
So on Sunday, when Michael Keaton gets asked about his stunning career comeback in “Birdman,” how about you ask Julianne Moore about the possibility of finally ending her Oscar drought with “Still Alice”? Ask Reese Witherspoon about carrying that backpack in “Wild.” Ask Meryl Streep about witch archetypes for “Into the Woods.”
Fine, go ahead and ask about the dress, if you must. But for the sake of your bored viewing audience, please also ask her other, better questions, too. Who knows, you might be pleasantly surprised by what she replies.