The primetime award show is returning to NBC. Here are what journalists and film critics had to say about the controversy that put it on pause.
Awards season is upon us and January has already kicked off with two of the most anticipated nights in Hollywood. Following the National Board of Review Awards Gala in New York City, the 80th annual Golden Globes will take place Tuesday night in Beverly Hills, California. With comedian Jerrod Carmichael as the host, the award show will make its big return to television screens following years of controversy tarnishing its name.
Since its founding in 1944, the Golden Globes have attempted to create a standard of excellence in Hollywood and internationally. However, since its two-year long scandal, many in the entertainment world are scratching their heads as to whether or not the Golden Globes will get it right this time around — or will they ever?
“It really took a crisis in order to allow this organization to evolve,” Hollywood Foreign Press Association CEO Todd Boehly told NPR.
A crisis, indeed, but what exactly was this crisis and what will the award show look like now?
Everything That Glitters Is Not Golden
The Golden Globes will debut on NBC/Peacock at 8 p.m. EST for the first time since the HFPA — the small voting committee consisting of international journalists who decide upon the nominees and winners of each Golden Globes ceremony — came under fire for a lack of diversity in its ranks. In addition, a February 2021 exposé in the Los Angeles Times revealed that zero members of the HFPA were Black. After these numbers were revealed, the plight of the Golden Globes quickly spiraled and award show culture as the industry knew it began to erode.
“The lack of representation since 1987 isn’t a shocking issue, but an embarrassing one. It asserts the actual value of another organization founded on dubious principles and loaded with morals,” journalist and film critic Ricardo A. Santana Fonseca told Boardroom. “Diversity in Hollywood should look like a conversation. For the Golden Globes to achieve representation, it needs to actively be self-aware of its future instances.”
Studios, publicists, managers, stars, and networks publicly boycotted the Golden Globes in 2022, with no red carpet and no celebrity presenters in sight. While there were audience limits in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many opted out until the HFPA made the necessary changes to reflect what film and television should look like as voters, actors, and everyone in between. Major media giants and studios including Amazon, Netflix, and WarnerMedia backed out of participation and Top Gun: Maverick star Tom Cruise even returned his statuettes as a sign of protest.
Ava DuVernay, director of Selma and A Wrinkle in Time, spoke out about the controversy on Twitter: “People are acting like this isn’t already widely known? For YEARS?”
Furthermore, as a result of a lack of Black voters and small numbers of voters of color, the HFPA was criticized for its failure to recognize work by Black thespians including Zendaya (Malcolm & Marie), Michaela Coel (HBO’s I May Destroy You), Issa Rae (Insecure), and famed filmmaker Spike Lee (Da 5 Bloods), whose children served as HFPA Golden Globe ambassadors at the 2021 ceremony.
“My initial thoughts were disappointing, but not surprising,” Sidnee Douyon, celebrity journalist and Deputy Editor of Travel Noire/Blavity, told Boardroom about her first impression of the news. “When we take a deep dive into looking at who controls award shows through television, film, music, sports, and fashion, there’s usually minimal to no representation from Black folks at the top.”
In addition to the HFPA’s lack of diversity, the group has also been accused of bribery, conflicts of interest, and the facilitation of problematic press conferences. According to the LA Times, the HFPA was also guilty of rejecting well-credentialed journalists from joining and reportedly accepted lavish perks and gifts from studios and networks, who would allegedly lobby members for votes for specific projects over the years.
The HFPA has since added 103 new members, with an eye toward diversity, bringing their ranks up to 200. The new voters are 22.3% Latinx, 13.6% Black, 11.7% Asian, 10.7% Middle Eastern, and 41.7% White. 58.3% self-identify as ethnically diverse, per an official news release from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
With the number of total Black voters increasing from zero to 14 total, NYC-based entertainment writer Shaye Wyllie deemed the small jump as nothing more than a “quota number.” Wyllie added, “It’s for the press so they can pretend they’ve done their job by inviting a few Black people to the table but what that means is that number is still too low to make an impact when it comes down to voting. 13% [of the new voters] is not enough to change the tide, but it is enough for them to say ‘we’ve changed, we’ve added more diversity’ and have them look the other way at the real issues.”
“Our work is not complete as we will continue to identify and recruit additional members and non-member voters to expand, diversify and strengthen the Golden Globe Awards while maintaining its unique international flavor,” Neil Phillips, Chief Diversity Officer of the HFPA, said in the official statement. “We remain committed to reshaping and growing the voting body while preserving the ability to make quality award decisions with integrity.”
All of these changes sound good, but what has actually changed? And is it genuine or performative? The HFPA has not only added over 100 new members to the voting coalition, but it launched what it calls a “groundbreaking” five-year partnership with the NAACP to increase diversity, inclusion, and equity efforts across the wide scope of the entertainment industry. Since the announcement in 2021, the HFPA and the NAACP Hollywood Bureau have collaborated to bring the “Reimagine Coalition” to life through its commitment to roundtable discussions with other advocacy organizations.
Moreover, HFPA president Helen Hoehne spoke with NPR about the HFPA’s accountability and its curation of a new voting committee all together, while allowing those outside of the committee to lend their voices to internal change.
“We adopted a new set of policies, eliminated a lot of the conflicts that we had,” she told NPR. “We implemented a new grievance procedure with a confidential reporting hotline.”
Phillips added during the NPR interview: “We are working to correct past wrongs, past transgressions, but we are really feeling like we’re in a position to take pride in some of that work. But most importantly, we aren’t done. The organization was called out, was exposed, justifiably so. They were in crisis, and we’ll continue to work on changing that just to try to be a better organization.”
In comparison to the previous ceremonies, this year’s Golden Globes will have a diverse range of presenters who represent the various racial backgrounds, ethnicities, and genders across entertainment and film. From Black Panther: Wakanda Forever actress Letitia Wright and Pose‘s Michaela Jaé Rodriguez to Generation Z breakout star Jenna Ortega (Netflix’s Wednesday) and Euphoria‘s Colman Domingo, this string of presenters for the 80th annual ceremony is a step in the direction of what the film industry truly is in 2023.
While we can have all the discussions that we want, what does true change look like for Black film creatives and film creatives of color?
MTV host and entertainment journalist Danteé Ramos chimed into the conversation about how we can continue to hold not only the HFPA, but the industry as a whole accountable for DEI and voting efforts.
“While I don’t really have that answer, that continues to come with conversations like these where we hold them accountable for their decisions, votes, and ways of representation,” the NJ-based Need To Know host told Boardroom. “The film industry is constantly changing as is the generation of audiences watching them so the lack of diversity, inclusion, and equity for all races and genders will arise, as people always want more change for the better. I think everyone at this point just wants a balance in numbers for fair representation and votes. All we can do is continue to speak out.”
This year’s nominees include Quinta Brunson’s Abbott Elementary (Best Musical/Comedy), Disney Pixar’s Turning Red (Best Animated Picture), Michelle Yeoh (Best Actress in a Motion Picture for Musical/Comedy, Everything Everywhere All At Once), Angela Bassett (Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture), Rihanna (Best Original Song, “Lift Me Up”) and Viola Davis (Best Actress in a Drama Motion Picture, The Woman King).
“Diversity and representation at the Golden Globes should look like the people, stories, and films it represents,” Douyon added. “Many people are starting to catch on to the excellence that Black people possess in TV and film and the award show should reflect that — with fair and inclusive winners, hosts, trophy men and women, and content. Make it look like us because honestly, we, Black and Brown people, are driving entertainment in 2023.”
The 80th annual Golden Globes will air live coast-to-coast on Jan. 10 from 5-8 p.m. PT/8-11 p.m. ET on NBC and streaming on Peacock.
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