Nicole Kidman strolled down the Screen Actors Guild Awards red carpet Sunday night looking as perfectly statuesque as ever—smiling for the cameras, clasping hands with fellow A-listers and her husband, Keith Urban.
And when the 50-year-old actor won the award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie, she folded her Big Little Lies costars into tight hugs before climbing on stage and making a stirring call to end ageism in Hollywood.
Then she mentioned the germs she brought along with her to the SAG Awards.
“I was working until 1 a.m., which is a fantastic blessing last night but I have the flu and I’m playing a pretty out-there, raw character right now so I’m having a little trouble shedding it, but I’m here and I’m incredibly grateful,” she said.
Judging by the response, you’d think Kidman won two trophies Sunday night—one (very much deserved) for her acting and another, by way of the media, for “pushing through” her illness.
Congratulations indeed, Nicole Kidman—but you really should’ve stayed home.
In some cases, “pushing through” illness is necessary. But on the whole, it’s a bad message to send the overworked masses who feel a lot of pressure to perform even when they aren’t feeling their best and, even worse, are at risk of making others sick, too.
It also perpetuates the notion that women, especially, have to keep pushing themselves hard at risk of their health. In a workaholic culture, that can be a double-edged sword—remember when Hillary Clinton campaigned with pneumonia? She was subject to all kinds of conspiracy theories when she had to leave a 9/11 remembrance ceremony early after experiencing dehydration.
Public health educators have been trying to prevent the spread of flu by urging people to get the flu shot or stay home if they’re sick. The message is simple: You’re not a hero for coughing and sneezing your way through a meeting in an enclosed office full of stale air.
Still, it can be hard to heed the advice of “Fever and cough, take the week off!’” when work commitments pile up in your absence. A new British survey found that two-fifths of employees who call in sick end up working anyway—answering email and taking phone calls from home.
Studies have found those among us who really love our jobs might be more vulnerable to presenteeism, or working while sick. Research published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found people who are very satisfied with their work situation and have a strong sense of commitment to their jobs tend to “go the extra mile” even when they’re ill.
While I’m not going to tell Kidman how to prioritize her life, there is literally a Wikipedia page devoted to all of her awards and nominations (according to them, she’s won 80 — and yes, Sunday night’s SAG win was her first).
Does she need to show up to every awards show, even if she is very sick? In the age of Skype, she could’ve sent her incredibly important message about ageism in Hollywood via video link. She could’ve fist bumped instead of hugging her co-stars tight.
But hey—maybe she had a stash of hand sanitizer in her clutch.
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