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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Explained: Why Tom Cruise returned his three Golden Globe awards 

The Golden Globes seem to have lost their sheen and appeal due to a recent controversy over its lack of diversity and complete absence of black members. How has the industry reacted?

Written by Ektaa Malik , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: May 12, 2021 11:58:03 am
Signage promoting the 77th annual Golden Globe Awards and NBC appears in Beverly Hills, Calif. on Jan. 5, 2020. NBC said Monday that will not air the Golden Globes in 2022. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

In a recent development, the Golden Globes, the annual awards that are bestowed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), have been at the receiving end of a lot of backlash. Lack of diversity and a complete absence of black members were the foremost reasons for the backlash.

The event, held annually, is a major name in the award spectrum and is often touted to be the trendsetters for major winners. The controversy around its lack of diversity has led to many big studios and production companies cutting ties with the HFPA.

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Actor Tom Cruise, who has three Golden Globe statuettes, has returned his awards as a mark of protest. Amazon and Netflix, too, have responded in kind.

From the looks of it, the Golden Globes seem to have lost their sheen and appeal. Here’s why.

What is HFPA?

The HFPA, founded in 1943, is a nonprofit organisation consisting of journalists and photographers who primarily report on the happenings of ‘Hollywood’ — the entertainment industry of the US. HFPA was the brainchild of LA-based foreign journalists who wished for a more streamlined way of disseminating news and information about Hollywood to the rest of the world. The organisation currently comprises 90 members from 55 countries. These members are the ones who organise, conduct and execute the annual Golden Globe awards, which celebrate the exemplary works in cinema, television and other entertainment related achievements. The Golden Globe Awards, last held in February 2021, are in their 78th year. Ali Sar, a Turkish journalist is the current president of the HFPA.

Why is everyone, including Tom Cruise, upset with the HFPA?

The die was cast at the 2021 award ceremony, held on 28 February — two months later than their usual schedule, courtesy the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic — when hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler brought to notice that the HFPA had not seen a single black member for the last 20 years. Ever since the ceremony, the momentum against the predominantly-white HFPA has only grown.

In a news report in Variety, it was stated that the difficult membership process was a big impediment in bringing in diverse members. According to the criteria, a new member is supposed to be ‘sponsored’ by two current HFPA members. The HFPA is relatively smaller to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the group which decides the Oscars, and Television Academy. The HFPA is also highly insular and access to HFPA members, for a foreign journalist working out of LA, can be very difficult. There have also been allegations of kickbacks to certain members, including hotel stays and set visits.

How has the HFPA reacted?

In early May, after the backlash, the HFPA came up with a number of proposed reforms, that included a 50 per cent increase in members over the next year-and-a-half. Additionally, an added focus of diverse and minority groups was proposed, and an ‘oversight board’ was also formed’. A slew of new administrative posts were added: a CEO, CFO, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer and chief human resources officer. On May 6, the HFPA voted on these reforms, with a majority supporting them.

How has the backlash impacted the awards?

Initially, the NBC, longtime broadcaster of the Golden Globe Awards, and Dick Clark Productions, the producer of the award show, endorsed the planned reforms. But TimesUp, the charity that came into being post the #MeToo movement, and 100 other PR firms criticised the reforms and rebuked them for not having a strict timeline. Amazon and Netflix, both major players in the streaming world now coming into their own as production studios, stopped all their activities with the HFPA as of May 7, till the time some major reforms are brought into action. Warner Media too boycotted the HFPA, stating that the proposed reforms were not enough to address the concerns of the industry at large. NBC, which had initially okayed the reforms, stated that they would not broadcast the Golden Globe ceremony in 2022. A statement from the NBC read, “change of this magnitude takes time and work, and we feel strongly that the HFPA needs time to do it right… we are hopeful we will be in a position to air the show in January 2023.”

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How have Tom Cruise and others added weight to the protest?

Actor Tom Cruise, has come out as a very strong supporter of the HFPA boycott. Cruise who has three Golden Globe statuettes — earned for his work in films Born on the Fourth of July, Jerry Maguire and Magnolia — has retuned them to the HFPA. The move is to highlight the lack of diversity, specifically no black members and also the questions surrounding financial benefits that the members of the HFPA received.

Actor Scarlett Johanssen, a five-time nominee for the Golden Globes, has also called for the boycott of HFPA. Johanssen stated that she faced sexist questions and remarks by certain HFPA members that bordered on sexual harassment. Her fellow Avengers co-star Mark Ruffalo too joined the boycott of HFPA. Ruffalo, who is a Golden Globe winner himself, wrote a detailed post on social media, and called the proposed reforms “discouraging… now is the time to step up and right the wrongs of the past,” he wrote. “Honestly, as a recent winner of a Golden Globe, I cannot feel proud or happy about being a recipient of this award.”

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