It's no secret that some viewers tune in to the Golden Globes to appreciate the glowing decolletage. But at Monday night's event the focus wasn't on the gems dangling from the necks of female nominees. Rather, it was on the family jewels of the men in the room.
To hear presenter Tom Hanks and winner Sacha Baron Cohen carry on, you'd have thought you were watching the Golden Gonads.
"What balls this man has," Hanks said - by my count, nine times - in introducing Warren Beatty, recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille award for career achievement. "And by balls, I mean artistic vision."
Accepting the award for best actor in a musical or comedy (for Borat), Baron Cohen said that in making his mockumentary, "I saw some dark parts of America, an ugly side, a side of America that rarely sees the light of day. I refer, of course, to the anus and testicles of my costar, Ken Davitian."
I gasped. I laughed. I squirmed. I wondered: Has popular culture reached a new level of (a) acceptance, (b) candor, (c) anatomical explicitness, or (d) all of the above, so that it's OK to juggle balls on prime-time TV?
Have we arrived at another John Wayne Bobbitt moment? I refer to the turning point in 1993 when, in describing his close encounter with a kitchen knife, it suddenly became permissible to mention the male member in a family newspaper.
Now, I like risque humor as much as the next girl. And I'm a sworn enemy of the sexist double standard (practiced in many newsrooms) that deems it acceptable to describe a woman as "well endowed," but not a man.
Still, for me, Hanks and Baron Cohen crossed the line between risque and raunch. I suppose that it's a step not toward equal opportunity but equal opportunism that men are now as publicly raunchy about other men as they long have been about women.
It occurred to me that this blast from the locker room may have been triggered by a perceived feminization of the Globes, where all eyes are on the women's dresses and va-va-voom, and the men don't rate the photo ops and attendant career boosts.
In this scenario, Hanks and Baron Cohen were instinctively marking their territory as frat boys might after a kegger. The actors didn't entirely succeed.
On a night when English thespians smoked the American competition, with Jeremy Irons, Hugh Laurie, Emily Blunt, Bill Nighy, and the resplendent Helen Mirren walking away with a disproportionate number of prizes, Baron Cohen was the exception to the rule of Brit wit. Nighy: "I used to think that prizes were damaging and divisive till I got one, and now they seem meaningful and real."
On a night when the big story was that of female newcomers (Jennifer Hudson and America Ferrera) and veterans (Meryl Streep and Mirren) winning prizes not for playing the wives-of, but for playing pop princesses and real queens, happily the golden goddesses outshone the gilded gonads.
Inquirer writers Karen Heller and Tanya Barrientos discuss the Golden Globes on their Broadcast at http://go.philly.
For additional photographs and a list of award winners, go to http://go.philly.com/goldenglobes.