Actresses against red carpet antics - for real?
AT THIS year's Screen Actors Guild Awards, Julianne Moore, Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston made headlines by taking the revolutionary step of refusing to stick their paws in the Mani Cam, first rolled out in 2012.
For anyone who has tragically missed this gimmicky red carpet arriviste, the Mani Cam is a camera-mounted box on which actresses are exhorted to show off manicures and borrowed jewels. Host Giuliana Rancic instructed actresses to walk their fingers through it "like a runway".
The results have been mixed. Jena Malone stuck her tongue out at it. Elisabeth Moss gave it the finger. Then came the three A-listers' snubs, which CBS News reported as a "sign of a growing gender-equality push in Hollywood".
As anyone who has watched a televised awards show can attest, the red carpet is part beauty contest, part catwalk and all gaming range, where viewers, along with paid hitters like E!'s Fashion Police, can gleefully excoriate celebrities - usually actresses - for their sartorial choices.
On the one hand, it may be hard to sympathise with gorgeous, highly-paid famous women who are usually outfitted in peerless haute couture at no charge. On the other, women quickly age out of Hollywood, are paid less than their male counterparts, are more likely to have their phones hacked and remain role models for some youngsters, all while being expected to attain perfection, making the red carpet's indignities seem a little worse.
At the Golden Globes last month, the red carpet seemed especially out of step with the ceremony's actual goings-on.
Inside the Beverly Hilton, Maggie Gyllenhaal, a Globe winner, drew thunderous applause for noting the new "wealth of roles for actual women in television and in film".
Outside, the gals at Go Fug Yourself, a comedy-fashion blog, criticised her dress for being "the colour of my mom's third wedding".
While red carpet inanity is nothing new, pushback has been gaining momentum, and not just from the anti-Mani Cam clan.
Last year, Cate Blanchett called out a camera operator who was scanning the length of her dress. Crouching down, she asked: "Do you do that to the guys?"
Upworthy places the evergreen "Who are you wearing?" foremost among the inane questions that journalists ask celebrities. The video exhorts journalists to "ask better questions", echoing the #AskHerMore campaign first propounded by the Representation Project and then taken up by Amy Poehler's Smart Girls organisation, which encourages youngsters to "cultivate their authentic selves".
But what these hashtag campaigns might not take into account is the amount of money that celebrities stand to make from what is self-promotional work.
"The red carpet has created a new economy for actors," said Bronwyn Cosgrave, author of Made For Each Other: Fashion And The Academy Awards. If celebrities "do a series of good looks" on the red carpet, Cosgrave said, they are better poised to land lucrative contracts.
She pointed to Lupita Nyong'o, who won an Oscar for her role as the tortured Patsey in 12 Years A Slave after working the awards season carpets. Nyong'o was selected as the face of Miu Miu and went on to a prized contract with Lancome.
Indeed, the money behind the promotional work has raised speculation that Moore, Aniston and Witherspoon opted against the Mani Cam not in response to #AskHerMore, but instead out of an unwillingness to advertise for a brand of nail polish or jeweller. Maybe answering dumb questions is a small price to pay in exchange for making up for Hollywood's pay gap.
The critique raises the question of whether there is complicity in the red carpet's predictable shallowness.
"If the actresses are fed up with the questions," Cosgrave said, "why are they obeying the publicists lining them up to answer them?"