Fifteen years ago, Hollywood’s glittering superstars—among them Meryl Streep— were on their feet cheering for Roman Polanski, the convicted child rapist and fugitive from justice, when he won the 2003 Academy Award for Best Director. But famous sex criminals of the motion picture and television arts have lately fallen out of fashion, as the industry attempts not just to police itself but—where would we be without them?—to instruct all of us on how to lead our lives.
The Golden Globes ceremony had the angry, unofficial theme of “Time’s Up,” which quickly and predictably became unmoored from its original meaning, as excited winners tried to align their entertaining movies and TV shows with the message. By the time Laura Dern—a quiver in her voice—connected the nighttime soap opera Big Little Lies to America’s need to institute “restorative justice,” it seemed we’d set a course for the moon but ended up on Jupiter: close, but still 300 million miles away. And then Oprah Winfrey climbed the stairs to the stage, and I knew she wouldn’t just bat clean-up; she’d bring home the pennant.
Winfrey began speaking to crowds at the age of 3. “Little Miss Winfrey is here to do the recitation,” the preacher would say, and the whole congregation would lean in to listen to the remarkable child. As far as sexual abuse is involved, no one speaks with greater personal authority; the first time she was raped, she was 9. “I knew it was bad,” she said later, “because it hurt so badly.” From the second she started speaking at the Golden Globes, filling the ballroom at the Beverly Hilton with her rich, confident, and sui generis voice, she gave the night what it had so desperately wanted: emotional coherence.