“What an amazing year it’s been for women,” Tina Fey shouted out Wednesday morning before she buckled over with a sustained and slightly maniacal laugh. Speaking to a room of celebrities, Hollywood execs and reporters in Los Angeles at The Hollywood Reporter’s annual Women in Entertainment event, Fey, accepting the Sherry Lansing Award for Leadership with her usual wit and humor, also said she wondered “how we can proceed in dignity in this increasingly ugly, misogynistic time?”
She suggested looking to her award’s namesake, Sherry Lansing, the former CEO of Paramount Pictures for inspiration.
“You know Sherry Lansing has witnessed some nonsense and some behavior that the young people today would call ‘triggering,'” Fey said. “And yet she was able to flourish with all of her humanity intact … Maybe that’s the mantra we can all take with us over the next four years.”
Fey said she didn’t want to come and talk about Donald Trump at the event, which included guests and presenters such as Emma Stone, Simone Biles, Jessica Lange, Susan Sarandon and Jon Hamm.
“When I get written up in Breitbart it’s because I want them to be mad that I’m making an all-female Hitler biopic,” she quipped.
But the president-elect was at least a consistent subtext to the proceedings of the morning, which opened with remarks from Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly,
“The subject of ‘women’ was everywhere this year,” Kelly said. “And sometimes, let’s face it, in disturbing ways.”
Kelly, however, said that she has “high hopes for (Trump) despite the tweets” and that there is “much to admire about Donald Trump,” which elicited a hearty “boo” from members of the audience and a middle finger from attendee Kathy Griffin.
“We should appeal to his best angels and hold him to account when the dark forces appear,” Kelly said. “If a fight is unavoidable then we fight with composure and with grace.”
The message across the board was action, and, as Fey said the power of saying “no” without negative repercussions, “whether it’s writing a pilot for a bad actor or the butter scene in ‘Last Tango in Paris’ or telling Roger Ailes to put his hamburger meat back in the freezer.”
Ryan Murphy, accepting the inaugural Equity in Entertainment award, spoke about how he is trying to make a difference for women, people of color and the LGBTQ community in Hollywood through his Half Foundation, which aims to put those marginalized groups in 50 percent of directing jobs.
“How as a minority could I have been so blind and so selfish?” Murphy said. “I was personally part of the system that was failing our business.”
In just 10 months of his program, he’s already made good on giving 60 percent of his directing jobs to women.
“What I’ve learned is if you have power and you want to bring positive change, everyone will conspire to help you do that,” Murphy said. “But you have to speak up.”