In Frothy Awards Season, What Role Will Israel-Hamas War Play?

As Hollywood heads into the heart of its awards season — a three-month orgy of frothy self-celebration and pop culture glamour — celebrities and their handlers find themselves with a serious decision to make: what, if anything, to say about the Israel-Hamas war.

Movie stars have become increasingly willing, even determined, to use award shows like the Golden Globes, scheduled for Sunday on CBS, to bring attention to progressive causes and concerns. In recent years, winners like Meryl Streep, Russell Crowe and Michelle Williams have incorporated topics like sexual harassment, the global refugee crisis, abortion rights, Trumpism, climate change, Black Lives Matter, veganism and the Ukraine war into acceptance speeches.

Viewers from both political sides sometimes bristle at what they see as elitist lecturing. But in the Los Angeles ballrooms where these trophies are awarded and such speeches are made, the response is usually uniform praise. The couture-clad A-listers leap to their feet to offer ovations.

The Israel-Hamas war is much more complicated.

“It’s such a treacherous topic — there’s no response, especially in the sound-bite scrum of a red carpet, or in a breakneck acceptance speech, that won’t offend someone,” Martin Kaplan, who runs the Norman Lear Center for entertainment, media and society at the University of Southern California. “Add alcohol to the mix, as is often the case at these awards dinners, and what could possibly go wrong?”

Susan Sarandon, center, at a protest in New York City in November. United Talent Agency dropped her after she made public statements about the war in Gaza.Credit…Stephanie Keith for The New York Times

Reaction to the conflict has convulsed Hollywood, where there is a large Jewish presence, along with many other parts of America. On one side, there is ardent support for Israel. On the other are those who view the Palestinian cause as an extension of the racial and social justice movements that swept the United States in the summer of 2020.

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