The 2021 edition of the Golden Globes, which aired on NBC last Sunday, was a debacle in all sorts of ways. It was a shockingly poorly produced show, doing nothing especially creative with video conferencing tech, and inexplicably leaving the losing nominees on the screen while the winners talked. There were also interminable dumb comedy bits, seemingly featuring everyone who was ever a castmate on Saturday Night Live of hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey.
The show honored some movies that were quite good, but albeit mostly unseen; Nomadland, the fine film that won the Best Film – Drama category, didn’t debut on Hulu until the week before the show.
Overall, the broadcast was a singularly unpleasant experience that likely had viewers tuning out throughout the night. And once the ratings came in, they were a catastrophe — but this is one that the usual suspects can’t quite blame on “wokeness” — since this year’s awards had much less political talk than most award shows of recent years.
Overall, the broadcast was a singularly unpleasant experience that likely had viewers tuning out
But there was one aspect of the show that was especially bizarre: There were various references throughout the night to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization that votes on the awards, not having any Black members. Fey and Poehler scolded them for this in the monologue, and representatives of the HFPA later came on stage and vowed to do better.
For those watching the Golden Globes who don’t follow the Hollywood trade press, which I would imagine is most people, they would have the distinct impression that the HFPA is currently under fire for exactly that thing and only that thing. The truth, though, is a lot more complicated than that.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is a somewhat obscure group of fewer than 100 journalists who cover — or in some cases, used to cover — Hollywood for international outlets. The HFPA has presented versions of the Globes going back to the 1940s, and there have occasionally been controversies about them, especially when Pia Zadora was inexplicably given an award in 1982. That award, it was heavily implied, followed a junket for HFPA members to the Las Vegas hotel owned by Zadora’s husband.
Over the years, the HFPA has frequently been pilloried for handing nominations and awards to lightly-regarded movies, and an impression has been created that, if not exactly bribed, HFPA has tended to award movies that throw better parties and hand out superior goodie bags.
Most years at the Globes, the hosts, whoever they are, direct some jokes at the HFPA. But usually, they’re of the “who ARE these people?” variety, rather than openly accusing them of corruption.
But that all got blown up on February 21, when The Los Angeles Times published an expose about the HFPA. The piece, by Stacy Perman and Josh Rottenberg, discussed a lawsuit by a rejected applicant, which accused the organization of perpetuating a “culture of corruption.”
And while the suit was dismissed, multiple members of the HFPA told the newspaper that they were hoping the suit would succeed.
The piece also claimed that few of the members of the group work for major news outlets and that at awards time, HFPA members “are routinely granted exclusive access to Hollywood power players, invited to junkets in exotic locales, put up in five-star hotels and, as Globes nominations near, lavished with gifts, dinners, and star-studded parties.”
The Times also revealed that the organization “regularly issues substantial payments to its own members in ways that some experts say could run afoul of Internal Revenue Service guidelines,” to the tune of a total of $2 million last year.
One example laid out in the story tied this year’s nominations for the critically reviled Netflix series Emily in Paris to a junket in which more than 30 HFPA members were flown to France and put up in a five-star hotel.
A separate piece in the Times, meanwhile, pointed out that the organization currently has zero members who are Black.
An Awards Omission
It should perhaps go without saying that it’s not a good thing that the HFPA has no Black members. But that’s a problem they can easily solve, and almost certainly will solve, by adding some, likely very soon. The fact that multiple Black performers — the late Chadwick Boseman, Andra Day, John Boyega, and Daniel Kaluyya — won awards on Sunday night was perhaps a step in the right direction. And it’s better that they promised to correct that, as opposed to not doing so.
But left out of the Golden Globes broadcast was the other scandal: the one showing that HFPA members may very well have been bought off, and making the awards themselves potentially not on the level.
HFPA members may very well have been bought off
Not an easy thing to joke about on a broadcast, I realize, nor is it especially natural to earnestly say you’ll “do better” when it comes to, say, no longer accepting expensive gifts or shady junkets from the people whose work you’re judging.
Because honestly, that sort of thing is what the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and the Globes themselves, have been about for as long as most of us have been alive. If they were to back off of it, there pretty much would be no more Hollywood Foreign Press Association.