Jenna Bush Hager apologized Monday morning for her red-carpet fail in which she did a mashup of titles and called out a new movie: "Hidden Fences."
As Bush Hager was interviewing Pharrell Williams about his role in the music for Hidden Figures, she mistakenly called the movie "Hidden Fences." I chuckled, knowing the Tweet-storm that was to come.
The funny died down when it became a blizzard that extended to the morning.
On the surface, it seems an easy enough mistake to make. The hosts of the red carpet on NBC were culled from the Today show staff, perhaps in an effort to make the awards appear more serious or just as a reward for them having to keep a poker face most of the time. Either way, one could tell they were a bit out of their depth.
Al Roker mistakenly called Justin Timberlake's wife Jessica Alba, not Jessica Biel. And he whiffed on the name of one of Mel Gibson's seminal movies, Braveheart. Al got a pass, partly because he addressed the mistakes right then and there, poking fun at himself in the process.
But Bush Hager didn't do that, nor did Williams bail her out by correctly saying the name of the movie. To be clear, that wasn't his job. Check out his side eye when she messed up (see above).
For those of us who have seen Bush Hager on the Today show, she comes across as an authentic fan and a homegrown journalist. And, in the excitement of the night, and especially after the cast of Fences had been interviewed on the carpet, it was a slip. Just a slip.
But then Michael Keaton flubbed the movie's title, calling it the same thing. That's when what was a rookie mistake turned into a micro-aggression on a grander scale.
These two distinctively different movies have just one thing in common: The leads are played by black actors.
History dictates that a closer look probably should be given to why this would happen twice.
Today, Bush Hager talked about intent, saying she would never on purpose make anyone "feel lesser." So, let's talk about that powerful word. Judges hand down sentences using intent as a guide. And we judge ourselves by intent, explaining our daily flubs by saying, "I didn't mean it that way" or "it was just a mistake."
Why not extend that courtesy to others?
It's admirable that Bush Hager wouldn't cop to an excuse that was readily given to her by colleagues Natalie Morales and Roker, two people also interviewing on the carpet that night. What she gave in her heartfelt apology was an explanation. But, in some people's eyes, the gaffe is indicative of the problem many people face on a daily and historic basis: the problem of not being seen as individuals.
First-time Golden Globe winner Tracee Ellis Ross of Blackish pointed that out when she picked up one of the first awards of the night for best supporting actress: "This is for all of the women, women of color, and colorful people whose stories, ideas, thoughts are not always considered worthy and valid and important. But I want you to know that I see you. We see you. It is an honor to be on this show Blackish, to continue expanding the way we are seen and known and to show the magic and the beauty and the sameness of a story and stories that are outside of where the industry usually looks."
It's disheartening that the Golden Globe wins and heartfelt speeches by black artists Ellis Ross, Donald Glover, Viola Davis and Barry Jenkins were overshadowed -- and quickly. (Except for the #GoldenGlobesSoBlack crowd, of which I'm a member. Solidarity.)
There were other moments that could have bumped this gaffe to a distant memory, one that without video, people would be debating whether they actually heard it or not: the monologue that almost got Mariah Careyed when the equipment failed; the strangeness of host Jimmy Fallon impersonating Chris Rock hosting the show; the sheer disbelief on Glover's face when he won not once, but twice for Atlanta; and, heh, Ryan Reynolds spitting a candy into Jimmy Fallon's mouth (or Reynolds even being nominated for Deadpool); and the fact that Davis should have picked up another award for that dress and the stirring introduction of good friend and lifetime achievement award winner Meryl Streep.
Inclusiveness can take the W on this one, though, "Hidden Fences" be damned. But it leaves open a door for a conversation that's long been needed. What we need to do is follow the example of Rocky and Apollo Creed, who announced the final category, and pound it out.