We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Golden Globes Recap
Last Sunday, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association hosted its 77th Golden Globes award ceremony, and major film awards were taken home by Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and 1917. In some memorable roles from the year, Renee Zellweger took home best actress in a drama for her portrayal of Judy Garland in Judy, and Awkwafina took home the honors for her lead role in The Farewell.
Ricky Gervais hosted the ceremony for his fifth and final time, and, true to form, he pulled no punches making jokes at the expense of the film-industry folks in the room. Among his more intense zingers were his comments convicting those present for having ties with Jeffrey Epstein, working for sweatshop-employing companies like Apple, and hushing abuses within the entertainment industry. “Our next presenter starred in Netflix's Bird Box,” Gervais started a joke during the evening, “a movie where people survive by acting like they don't see a thing. Sort of like working with Harvey Weinstein.” When people booed, he turned the focus back on them “You did it—I didn't! You did it!” I for one thoroughly enjoyed Gervais’ comedic call outs. —Mary Rose Somarriba
Michelle Williams Invokes “A Women’s Right to Choose” in Acceptance Speech
Upon receiving the award for her role in the show Fosse/Verdon, actress Michelle Williams said in her acceptance speech that, "as women and as girls, things can happen to our bodies that are not our choice," and, she went on, one of the choices along her career journey that led her to award was her employment of “a woman’s right to choose: to choose when to have my children, and with whom, when I felt supported and able to balance our lives as all mothers know that the scales must and will tip towards our children.”
Perhaps Williams meant for her remarks to have been a compliment to her current partner Thomas Kail, with whom she’s expecting a child—that he’s the kind of man she chooses to have children with—and those in the Beverly Hilton responded with applause. But I found the comments concerning. Was she suggesting she had a previous pregnancy result from an unwilling sexual encounter? Was she afraid to keep the child for fear it would hurt her career? It’s not entirely clear from her remarks, but we know Hollywood has serious issues with its treatment of women, and to me, the remarks seemed to touch on further depths of #metoo depravity—a glimpse into women's struggles to progress their careers in an industry that too often exploits their sexuality.
Williams ended with an urge for women to vote in November to make the world a place that looks “more like us.” Here’s hoping we can reach toward a future in which women are free from toxic work cultures, and free to let the scales tip to their children without fear it will hurt their careers. —MRS
Weinstein Goes to Trial in NY, Faces New Charges in LA
More than two years after reports about his alleged sex crimes appeared in the New York Times and the New Yorker, Harvey Weinstein's trial finally got underway this week in Manhattan. Almost simultaneously, prosecutors in Los Angeles announced new rape charges Weinstein faces in that jurisdiction.
In New York, Weinstein is accused of raping an anonymous woman in 2013, and forcing a production assistant, Mimi Haleyi, to perform oral sex in 2006. Besides these two assaults, he has been accused by scores of other women of sexual misconduct. Most of their allegations won't be addressed by the criminal justice system, whether due to statute of limitations rules or missteps on the part of investigators. Actress Annabella Sciorra, who appeared on The Sopranos, is expected to testify on behalf of the prosecution, detailing a 1993 incident in which she says Weinstein assaulted her in her own apartment.
In Los Angeles, authorities say Weinstein raped a woman he met at a Hollywood film festival in February 2013. The next day, he allegedly met another victim at a restaurant and lured her to his hotel room, where he assaulted her in a bathroom.
If found guilty, he faces up to 28 years of prison for the Los Angeles cases. In New York, conviction could mean a life sentence for the notorious former movie mogul. —Margaret Brady
U.S. and Iran Conflicts Cause Global Worry
Widespread media coverage prompts fears about an impending World War III as the United States’ conflict with Iran increased this past week. The upheaval began on New Year’s Eve when Iran-backed terrorists attacked the American embassy in Iraq, prompting an international concern for what this means for U.S. foreign policy.
As part of the attack, hundreds of terrorists charged the U.S. embassy in Baghdad in a protest against U.S. airstrikes that killed more than two dozen terrorists. President Trump responded to the attack by ordering the killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, a notorious terrorist who helped coordinate the attack on the embassy, who also held a leadership role in the Iranian government.
Upon his death, hundreds of thousands of Iranian citizens took to the streets of Tehran to mourn his death, American media tirelessly covering the event and reporting embittered chants of “Death to America” among the crowd. Fears about Iranian retaliation mounted, and Iran did in fact counterattack quickly, launching 22 missiles against 2 American air bases in Iraq. There was not, however, a single casualty, which some speculate was deliberate in order to avoid further retaliation from the United States.
As the world waits with bated breath to see how this conflict pans out, one hopes both that Iran’s unsuccessful missile counterattack signifies a de-escalation of sorts in the region and that Soleimani’s death will significantly weaken terrorist momentum. —Mariel Lindsay
Australian Fires Kill More Than 1 Billion Animals
More than 1 billion animals in Australia, have died in the raging bushfires that are increasingly out of control in the past week. It is summer on the continent, with record-breaking temperatures, severe drought, and dry winds that, combined, have created a fire season like none ever seen before. The fires are wildly out of control, and there is not, as of yet, a clear end in sight to this national emergency as authorities and firefighters work to slow the flames and get people to safety.
One photo, in particular, has captured the public imagination as it tragically highlights the desperation of animals fleeing for their lives from the flames destroying their habitats. Photographer Brad Fleet was documenting the devastation when he captured an image of a dead young kangaroo still clinging, incinerated, to the fence that blocked its escape from the fires.
The wife and children of famed Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter, are also speaking out about the effects of the fires on wildlife. Speaking with journalist Anderson Cooper on Monday, Terri Irwin touched on the plight of the koalas, saying that while they instinctively go to the tops of the eucalyptus trees to escape the fires, the very high oil content in the leaves cause the trees to explode when touched by flames. She added, “It is a battle for our ecosystem right now…we’re now in a position where we’re going to have to be more active to protect our environment.”
It is too soon to estimate the extent of the damage from the still-raging fires, but surviving animals will certainly suffer greatly when faced with landscapes lacking in food and resources. —ML
British Teenager Sentenced For Making a Rape Claim, Outraging Advocates
A 19-year-old woman from the U.K. was given a four-month suspended sentence by a judge in Cyprus on Tuesday, after her conviction for making a “false” rape claim. The teen had been put on trial in December after she recanted her accusation that she'd been assaulted by 12 men in a hotel room the previous July. She has said that Cypriot police forced her to withdraw her allegations, and insists she is not lying about the traumatic rape. Her attorneys immediately announced an appeal to the Supreme Court of Cyprus on the grounds that she did not receive a fair trial and was mistreated during the investigation. They may appeal to the European Court of Human Rights as well. Protesters showed up from as far away as Israel to support the young woman.
The judge said that he decided to give her a “second chance” by suspending her sentence and making her pay legal fees of about $165. The suspension means that the woman was able to go back to the U.K., accompanied by her mom, whom the BBC quoted as telling supporters: “I just want to thank each and every one of you for turning up today, having belief, having faith and making sure we get justice." —MB
Earthquakes in Puerto Rico Destroy One of Its Natural Wonders
The earth has been moving under Puerto Rico with fatal and heartbreaking results. Tourism authorities confirmed that one of the recent quakes has destroyed Punta Ventana, a rock formation that included a naturally occurring window in the stone.
Many Puerto Ricans are sleeping outdoors out of fear of aftershocks. A 6.4 magnitude quake that struck on Tuesday killed at least one person and knocked out power to 500,000. About 250,000 do not have access to clean water. One official has declared the situation in his town “worse than Hurricane Maria,” the deadly Category 5 storm that devastated the island in 2017. Hundreds of homes are either near collapse or already flattened by the more than 950 earthquakes and aftershocks the U.S. Geological Survey has recorded since New Year's Eve.
A 5.8 magnitude quake hit the island on Monday, and it was that tremblor that destroyed Punta Ventana, which translates to “Window Point.” The stone arch, which framed a beautiful view of the ocean beyond the coast, had begun to look vulnerable as smaller quakes shook the ground the week before. The rock formation was one of the biggest tourist draws in the area. Fortunately, neither tourists or locals were hurt in the collapse. —MB
Harry and Meghan Step Back From Senior Royal Status
On Wednesday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, better known as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, announced that they plan to step back as senior members of the royal family and “carve out a progressive new role.” This move includes the goal to become fully financially independent and to split their time between the United Kingdom and North America.
“This geographic balance will enable us to raise our son with an appreciation for the royal tradition into which he was born, while also providing our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity. We look forward to sharing the full details of this exciting next step in due course, as we continue to collaborate with Her Majesty The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Cambridge and all relevant parties,” they wrote on Instagram.
The couple linked to their website, where they laid out the steps they plan to take in an apparent attempt for more transparency as to why they are taking this historic step. As a part of their official statement, the couple announced that they will no longer participate in the “royal rota” system that allows select media outlets access to the royal family. Prince Harry has been quite vocal about his distaste for the media due to their unfair treatment of his mother Princess Diana and of his wife. Markle recently fought back tears during an interview as she discussed the media’s “unfair” and “untrue” coverage of her, and the couple are currently suing the Daily Mail for their treatment of the Duchess.
The story took more dramatic turn after the release of a statement from HRH’s press office, which made it seem as if the Queen may not have been on board or even informed of this move. “Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage. We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”
Furthermore, the BBC reported that no other royals including Prince Harry’s brother Prince William were consulted, and that other members of the royal family are “hurt” and “disappointed.”
Unsurprisingly, this announcement has sent shockwaves through the media, especially as it comes from a royal family who, although no stranger to scandal and tabloid coverage, are bound by centuries of tradition and protocol. While some observers applauded the move and others responded with jokes, dubbing the situation “Megxit,” still others responded more harshly and critically. London’s Madame Tussands went so far as to remove the wax figurines of Harry and Meghan from the royal display.
No matter where you stand on this issue, an op-ed in the Washington Post aptly articulated the new challenge facing the monarch after highlighting the difficult year the royals have had with media image, especially in light of Prince Andrew’s connection to Jeffery Epstein: “The crown system is weakened if the conversation becomes: If royals can choose only work they like, should those who fund them get a say in what they will and won’t support?” —Gabriella Patti
Facebook Bans Deepfake Videos, with Some Exceptions
Facebook has officially banned deepfake videos—that is, highly-edited, manipulated videos that include computer-generated facial imitations of real people. As the Washington Post reported, this “novel form of misinformation” has been banned just in time to stop the spread of misinformation leading up to the 2020 election.
While the policy does address deepfake porn, in which women’s heads are superimposed into pornographic situations, it does not address videos that have mislabeled footage, quotes that have been spliced or taken out of context, or videos that have been edited for parody or satire’s sake. Nor will this rule apply to political advertising. While it seems that Facebook could do more to stop the spread of false information, this is a step in the right direction. Further, because researchers found that roughly 96 percent of deepfake videos were pornographic, this is a win in the fight against the sexual exploitation and humiliation of women and girls. —GP
‘Prozac Nation’ Author Passes Away
Elizabeth Wurtzel, whose 1994 memoir Prozac Nation became a cultural landmark, died on Tuesday at the age of 52.
Wurtzel published the book at 27, winning praise for her blunt depiction of her experiences with clinical depression. In that context, she wrote about her parents' divorce, her days as an undergraduate at Harvard, and her drug use. Some literary critics dismissed the memoir as a narcissistic rant, but others detected the watershed moment at hand, as Prozac Nation set off national conversations about mental illness and pharmacology that continue to this day. Her influence in the world of writing was also profound, as she virtually invented the “confessional memoir” style that remains a trend today, particularly among young women writers. In 2001, Prozac Nation was made into a movie starring Christina Ricci, Michelle Williams, and Jason Biggs.
In 2015, Wurtzel wrote in the New York Times about her diagnosis with breast cancer, which had been caused by her BRCA gene mutation. In her article, “The Breast Cancer Gene and Me,” she pointed out that she was unaware of her BRCA status because she fell outside of the testing parameters recommended by insurance companies, and she had no strong family history of breast cancer. She advocated that all women with Ashkenazi Jewish heritage be tested because of the relatively high occurrence of the gene in that community. She also disclosed that she'd had a double mastectomy.
Wurtzel died at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan and is survived by her husband, James Freed Jr., who is also a writer. —MB
Good News of the Week
A woman in New York was surprised by a selfie on her birthday this week. As her sister held the camera for a photo of the two of them, the birthday girl’s out-of-town daughters and friends rushed up behind her to join in the photo. Watch the clip at the TODAY Show, and add this to your bag of tricks of ways to surprise a loved one.
Watch of the Week
We could use some relaxing vibes this week. Bridge Kibbey made her own arrangement of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor for harp, and NPR recorded it in a Tiny Desk Concert. Watch it here.