It’s that time of year again: award season. The endless parade of award show interviews and monologued thank-yous are upon us. Reading through the fresh array of stories from male actors and directors about the work that went into a particular role or project on the various nominee rosters this award season has also brought up the one male-leaning trend I loathe: husbands who profusely thank their wives, especially those wives who stayed home to tend to the house and the kids while their husbands were on set for months.
So, before I say anything further about specifically male behaviors, I’d like to put out a small disclaimer up front. I am all in favor of partners supporting partners. Support in a relationship is crucial, especially when your other half is chasing their dreams. But there’s something fundamentally irksome about watching a man get up onstage and spend a few minutes thanking his wife when it begins to become clear that the woman involved in each respective situation is juggling multiple job duties.
A prime example: At the 2017 Golden Globes, Ryan Gosling dedicated his speech to thank his “lady,” Eva Mendes. During the speech, he details how Mendes stayed at home to help her brother fight his battle against cancer, raise daughters Esmeralda and Amada and presumably oversee the running of a household. Mendes and Gosling remain tight-lipped about their personal lives, so there may be some wiggle room in the precise balance of duties in their marriage. The point remains the same: Gosling illustrates that while Mendes was at home juggling a variety of emotionally, physically and psychologically taxing duties, he was able to join the cast of the madly beloved La La Land.
It feels a bit unequal, doesn’t it? While we don’t know whether Mendes passed up roles while she was raising her daughters or helping her brother, nor do we know her mental and emotional state during this time (nor would I dare even conjecture), it becomes clear that no matter how much love and gratitude Gosling exudes, the speech he gave implies to some extent that the work he and Mendes did while apart is equal. This is simply not the case.
I don’t doubt Gosling’s gratitude. Nor do I doubt Mendes’ unselfish devotion to her family. But Gosling’s speech highlights this almost condescending practice we see during awards season — an event so steeped in thanks and praise it begins to feel superficial after a while — of thanking your other half (often the wife) for making bigger sacrifices of time and self so that their spouse to go and act, direct or work on a film in some other capacity.
Casey Affleck did the same thing at the 2017 Golden Globes. Matthew McConaughey, bless his Texan heart, did it during his 2014 Oscar acceptance speech for Best Actor. Tom Hanks did it during his 1995 Oscar win. Denzel Washington did it in 1990 when he won the Golden Globe for Glory. In 2005, as he accepted the Best Actor Oscar, Jamie Foxx mentioned that moments before the winner was announced, his daughter (his date for the evening) leaned over and whispered, “If you don’t win, Dad, you’re still good.”
And so the fine line between graciousness and ego-stroking gets toed. It’s not so much that male actors are more sanctimonious than female actors when giving acceptance speeches. Nor is it that they mean to condescend. But while we all acknowledge that the love will get spread during award season and everyone is trying to make those two minutes onstage count, we should also acknowledge that the work being rewarded is rarely equal to the work being thanked — namely, the work of the wives. From the sounds of the speeches, it’s the wives’ endless sacrifice and never-ending support that fuels these actors; what are they giving up for their wives?
As I wrap up, I leave you on this note: I’m not some love Scrooge. It’s great that the unseen wives of those awarded actors are getting their due to begin with. But knowing that with every new award season, we’re inundated with nearly overblown speeches that somehow only zero in on the endless giving of self of one spouse — be it time, support or career — so that their other half can accept a trophy, it’s a lot to take in. I can only hope the practice will shift a bit, even if we see more women pointing this habit out, as Amy Poehler and Tina Fey slyly did at the 2014 Golden Globes.
Here’s to hoping.
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