Something was a little off on the Oscars red carpet.
The glamorous dresses were there, the cameras were flashing, but if you were watching the E! red carpet broadcast, things were decidedly awkward. And it might be because of the biggest elephant on the carpet this year, Ryan Seacrest.
The host of E!'s Live From the Red Carpet broadcast has recently been dogged by allegations of sexual misconduct, which surfaced again this week (they were first reported several months ago), when his former stylist Suzie Hardy detailed graphic accusations that included unwanted touching in Variety. The story came one month after E! concluded its investigation into Hardy's allegations, saying they could not be substantiated. The red carpet show went on, with Ryan at the mike on the red carpet.
However, as much as E!'s telecast tried to pretend that nothing was amiss, there was something more awkward than usual going on. While celebs including Allison Janney, Richard Jenkins and Mary J. Blige stopped by for a Seacrest interview, many did not, and the ratio of men to women was also sharply lopsided, favoring the men.
On ABC's rival broadcast, stars showed up who seemingly skipped Seacrest, including Matthew McConaughey, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, Timothée Chalamet and, notably, Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino, who have both accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment. (ABC also has exclusive rights to red-carpet interviews once its coverage begins).
Did the celebrities skip because of the allegations? It's impossible to say, but there was a noticeable lack of star power on the E! show as opposed to other Oscars, or even other awards shows this year. The network's red carpet show has prime placement on the carpet, and many nominees and presenters usually make it a point to give a quick interview.
The lack of interviews became more apparent as the red-carpet show cut frequently to a panel of fashion experts including Giuliana Rancic that analyzed the looks of actors and actresses Seacrest wasn't talking to. The segments at the roundtable were excruciatingly long, and at one point a host tried and failed to analyze a "glambot" shot of Spider-Man actor Tom Holland in a plain tuxedo, noting "what is there to say about it?"
There wasn't anything to say about it. Seacrest's allegations seemed to haunt the panel as it paid lip service to the Me Too and Time's Up movements in awkward, parsed statements about empowerment. But the commentators opted against addressing the hard issues head on. When mentioning that Casey Affleck was not presenting the best actress Oscar (the previous year's actor and actress winners are traditionally asked to present the top actings awards), the hosts didn't specify what "issues" kept him away. Those issues were his own allegations of sexual misconduct.
Overall, the red-carpet show was remarkably tone-deaf to a Hollywood in the middle of a sea-change moment after the allegations against Weinstein kickstarted a national conversation about sexual harassment and assault. When Affleck pulled out as a presenter, the Academy released a statement saying that the organization “appreciate(s) the decision to keep the focus on the show and on the great work of this year."
The allegations against Seacrest were as much of a distraction as those against Affleck would have been. Sometimes the show shouldn't go on as normal. Hollywood has changed since the Weinstein allegations, and there's no use pretending it hasn't.
Contributing: Maya King