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What the Director of ‘Hidden Figures’ Thinks of the ‘Hidden Fences’ Gaffe

Ted Melfi, the filmmaker behind the no. 1 movie in America, on Jenna Bush Hager’s and Michael Keaton’s verbal slip-ups at the Golden Globes

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

There’s a fine line between a verbal mistake and a subconscious admission of bias, and Sunday night’s Golden Globes presented a neatly packaged stress test for that divide. On separate occasions, NBC red carpet reporter Jenna Bush Hager (during a hilariously awkward exchange with Pharrell) and presenter Michael Keaton accidentally referred to the drama Hidden Figures, which topped the box office this weekend, as “Hidden Fences.” Confusing two dramas (the other is Denzel Washington’s Fences) with primarily African American casts could be seen as a simple error. Director Ted Melfi talked with The Ringer, in good humor, about the incidents and what happens when the internet gets its hands on a new blunder.

“I don’t know — people make mistakes, people make mistakes. Jenna Bush — as anyone who’s been on the red carpet knows, it’s a frickin’ mess. It’s a mess and it’s insane and you can’t hear anything and your brain is fried,” Melfi said. “She made an honest mistake, in my mind. So, if people in the Twitterverse say it’s subliminal, or what I’ve heard is it’s the same bias that’s displayed in the movie — come on. Maybe, maybe not, but ultimately she apologized and she almost cried today on [Today].”

Keaton’s flub, which happened a few hours later, felt almost like a comic callback.

“And then Michael Keaton gets up there. … Look, he wears glasses, so he was probably trying to read a teleprompter — if the teleprompter said ‘Hidden Fences’ we’ve got a big fucking problem,” Melfi said. “Let’s just say that if the teleprompter at the Golden Globes says ‘Hidden Fences,’ we’ve got a fucking big problem. But I don’t think so; I think people just made an honest mistake and Twitter just jumped on it, and we’ll take the free advertising.

“I think Twitter is the funniest place on the planet. [When it happened, people on] Twitter started tweeting all these mash-up[s]. 12 Years a Butler, The Color Precious. If you want to get hammered, you fuck with the Beyhive or Taraji [P. Henson’s fans].”