This year’s Golden Globe awards event – considered to be the younger, more untethered and relaxed sibling of the formal Academy Awards or Oscars – was a muted affair as it was privately held at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Los Angeles on Sunday night. In a major departure from the norm, the results were announced only on social media sites, and there was no telecast or live streaming this time.
A press release from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) said, “Health and safety remain a top priority for the HFPA. There will not be an audience on January 9th, and the following precautions are being taken for select members and grantees who will be in the room: Proof of vaccination and booster shot, along with a negative PCR test within 48 hours, is required for entry; All guests will be masked and socially distanced at all times while inside the ballroom; There will be no red carpet.”
The reason, however, is not as much the Covid-19 pandemic as it is the industry-wide boycott of HFPA.
The Globes are given out by HFPA every year in early January. One notable exception was the 2021 iteration when owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the major awards were delayed. The ceremonies were also pared-down due to requisite social distancing norms.
Why is HFPA in hot water?
Like the heat the Academy and the Oscars have faced due to scant representation for people of colour in the nominations and winners lists (epitomised succinctly by the 2015 hashtag #OscarsSoWhite), the Golden Globes have also received flak. It mostly comes down to HFPA, a non-profit group of international film journalists and photographers working with the entertainment industry, to choose what and whom to award.
While the disaffection against HFPA is not new (among other things, the members have been accused of accepting bribes in exchange for votes by studios), the organisation landed into a fresh controversy after a Los Angeles Times report from February 2021, a week before the 2021 edition of Globes was held, said that the there are diversity and transparency issues in HFPA. Out of the 87 members (then; now there are 105 members), said the report, there are a number of people of colour, but not a single black person.
The report also said that the organisation and its members work as a coterie, blocking the entry of those who might compete with them and treating journalists outside HFPA as threats.
The report also quoted the former HFPA president Philip Berk, who had acknowledged in his 2014 book that” territorial protectionism” in the organisation was “carried to the extreme”.
Interestingly, Philip Berk was accused by actor Brendan Fraser in a GQ profile in 2018 of groping him in 2003. HFPA conducted an internal investigation and admitted the act, but also said that Berk meant no harm.
The LA Times report kicked off conversation and scrutiny about racism, financial impropriety and dubious journalistic ethics in the Golden Globes and the awards season as a whole.
Soon after, NBC – HFPA’s network of choice – refused to broadcast the following year’s (2022) Globes. It said it may continue the broadcast from 2023, provided HFPA undergoes satisfactory reforms.
WarnerMedia, Netflix, Amazon, actors, and others have also boycotted the ceremony. Tom Cruise returned his three trophies in solidarity. Ava DuVernay, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo Regina King, and Kerry Washington also spoke against the issues plaguing HFPA.
What was HFPA’s response to the boycott?
HFPA announced an extensive timeline of sweeping reforms that included an overhaul of bylaws, changes that address ethics and code of conduct and improvements in diversity and inclusion in its membership in order to ‘once Again Partner Meaningfully With Hollywood’.
In August, the then HFPA president Ali Sar said in a statement. “Three months ago, we made a promise to commit to transformational change, and with this vote, we kept the last and most significant promise in reimagining the HFPA and our role in the industry. All of these promised reforms can serve as industry benchmarks and allow us to once again partner meaningfully with Hollywood moving forward.” In early September, German journalist Helen Hoehne was elected as the president of HFPA.
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In October last year, the organisation admitted 21 new journalists from diverse backgrounds.
Will the Globes be back on TV next year?
Perhaps. NBC may have pulled the plug this year, but as mentioned above it had also stated that it may come back the following year. A spokesperson from the network said, “We’re encouraged by the passage of the amended bylaws. This marks a positive step forward and signals the HFPA’s willingness to do the work necessary for meaningful change.”