Why Joaquin Phoenix’s answer to a journalist at the Golden Globes makes women collectively sigh
Originally published January 2020
Awards ceremonies like the Golden Globes are always a good opportunity to delve into the apparent inequalities still prevalent in society. Usually they fall under the category of a sexist comment by a host (like when the first female Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg was asked to ‘twerk’ on stage by French DJ Martin Solveig immediately after being given the award) or perhaps Ricky Gervais accusing the Golden Globes crowd of knowing about Harvey Weinstein’s abusive behaviour “Bird Box. A movie where people survive by acting like they don't see a thing. Sort of like working for Harvey Weinstein".
Fun for all the family right? But one off-the-cuff comment made in the press room after this years’ awards ceremony highlighted yet another struggle women in the film and television industry regularly face.
Joaquin Phoenix, fresh from the lead actor win for his performance in Joker, wandered onto the stage appearing receptive and jovial, divulging the tale of how he came to be in front of them (he told the journalists he had “no idea” he was going to be answering questions). Once settled, the first question came from a male reporter who asked the actor how he “prepared” for the challenging role as the Joker. As the question was asked, Joaquin’s face went from distracted to disbelief with a single eyebrow raised; eyes focused on the reporter.
“Isn’t this old news? I feel like I’ve talked about this for six months. I feel like I’ve answered these questions…you want to hear a different version of it? Try and change it slightly?”
Joaquin proceeded to lunge into how he did research the role, but couldn’t do it without scolding the journalist first. Sure, he is within his right to be annoyed at a repetitive question.
But it’s a luxury that most women in the industry don’t have. How many times have we heard actresses being asked what they are wearing? How they balance being a working parent? When will they become a mother? Are they in a relationship? Sometimes, high-profile actresses will hit back at one of these questions and the world seems to lose their collective sweet mind.
In 2012, Scarlett Johansson was asked a sexist question from a reporter after he asked her co-star Robert Downey Jr about the personal development of his Iron Man character throughout the Avengers franchise. Instead of asking Johansson a similarly intelligent question, the reporter decided to ask her how she ‘got into shape’ to play the role of Black Widow. “How come you get the really interesting existential question, and I get the like, “rabbit food” question?” Johansson responded.
Another retaliation to the misogynistic status quo came from Jennifer Garner while promoting the film Gone Girl with Ben Affleck “Every single person who interviewed me…asked me ‘how do you balance work and family?’ As for work-life balance, Ben said no one asked him about it that day. As a matter of fact, no one had ever asked him about it. And we do share the same family. Isn’t it time to change the conversation?”
"Women are asked the same questions over and over, like a really crap carousel"
While these two examples show women hitting out at the tone of conversation; it’s an unfortunate truth that these instances are anomalies. Women are asked the same questions over and over, like a really crap carousel, yet are expected to be polite, courteous and respectful. Sometimes, just sometimes, I like to imagine Kate Winslet losing her s*** after being asked just one more time if Jack would’ve survived if he was able to fit on that piece of wood in the 1997 film ‘Titanic’. Who am I kidding? Women don’t lose their patience…