Denzel Washington is a living icon—a man so ensconced in our collective cultural consciousness that even his voice, his walk and his facial expressions are considered independent sentient beings. He was at the Golden Globes last night as his friend Oprah Winfrey received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement—an honor he also received in 2016 (consider, for a moment, how much of the shit you must be to get a lifetime achievement award in the middle of your career).
Denzel is also a 63-year-old black man. Which puts him squarely in peak-black-uncle range—when the last of your fucks have withered away like dandelion seeds blowing in the wind and your primary concerns are procuring comfortable pants and basing your interest in an activity on the presumed volume level of said activity. He’s in his frying-fish-while-rocking-an-alpaca-robe prime. And if he’s anything like the 60-something black men in my family, his default mood exists at the intersection of bemused, annoyed and Barcalounger.
And nothing exemplifies this more than the instant-classic screenshot of black Hollywood royalty—Denzel and Pauletta Washington, Oprah and Stedman Graham, Viola Davis and Ava DuVernay—sitting at a table: an image that has already been and will continue to be memed into oblivion. Everyone is engaged with their surroundings in some way.
Stedman is focused on the stage. Oprah seems to be making her best “Wait. Get Out didn’t win anything?” face. Ava looks like someone just said, “But the Cavs actually tried to trade Kyrie last year” and she’s about to offer her rebuttal. Pauletta looks amused, perhaps by the judgment Viola is casting on the whole entire universe.
And Denzel ... well ... Denzel looks like he’s reading a Thai-food takeout menu and can’t tell whether the 1-to-5 spice level means that 1 is the hottest or 5 is the hottest. Or maybe he has some secret Comcast hookup where he can watch unreleased episodes of NCIS on his phone. Or maybe he’s just taking a nap. I’m sure the seats there were comfortable. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how Pauletta convinced him to leave the house: “I know you don’t want to come tonight, babe, but they do have those comfortable seats you like.”
Basically, whatever he’s doing is whatever you’d expect a 63-year-old black uncle to be doing at that same moment, except with Hugo Boss on his feet instead of house shoes.