If no one sees you hand out a trophy, does it even matter? That was the existential dilemma hanging over this year’s Golden Globe Awards, which were held privately after NBC declined to televise the ceremony following last year’s diversity controversy. “Controversy” is too mild a word, actually, because it suggests the fact the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HPFA) reportedly had no Black members among its 87-person voting committee is something that could theoretically be defended.
So, in what could be perceived as an act of contrition, the HFPA even decided against streaming this year’s ceremony online. Winners were announced almost apologetically on Twitter – which robbed Pose star Michaela Jaé Rodriguez of what would have been an iconic on-stage moment (and an opportunity to strike a further blow for LGBTQ+ visibility) when she made history by becoming the first trans performer to win an acting award.
So, what now for the Golden Globes – can they reclaim their customary position in the awards season calendar? Though they’ve never had the prestige of the Oscars, they’ve managed over the years to position themselves as a kind of cheeky younger sibling: a little wilder, a little naughtier, but still pretty influential. In a way, they’re the Roman Roy of awards ceremonies, right down to frequent curveballs like nominating Sia’s widely derided Music for two prizes last year. Without a televised ceremony where Ricky Gervais gleefully roasts the A-list or Amy Poehler and Tina Fey deliver a zinger-filled opening monologue, they seem fatally undermined.
Well, the HFPA’s members have definitely done themselves a favour by voting for a very respectable batch of winners this year. Will Smith (King Richard) and Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos) seem to have cemented their status as Oscar frontrunners by winning the lead acting prizes in the drama categories; Andrew Garfield (Tick, Tick… Boom!) and Rachel Zegler (West Side Story) have underlined their upward momentum by emerging triumphant in the musical or comedy categories, which are traditionally a tad weaker.
Equally, no one could argue with Succession‘s hat-trick (including acting accolades for Jeremy Strong and Sarah Snook) or Kate Winslet collecting the fifth Globe of her career for her shattering work in Mare of Easttown. Giving Billie Eilish a prize for understanding the assignment with her cool and classy Bond theme, even though it’s now nearly two years old, is also a good look for the Globes.
The next step is for the HFPA to double down – genuinely – on what president Helen Hoehne has called “a journey of change”. In October the body announced that it had added 21 new members – six of whom are Black – while banning gifts and favours and implementing new diversity and sexual harassment training. This remodelling needs to continue at pace. It’s OK for the Golden Globes’ ceremony to play out as a bit of a joke – an in-joke that Hollywood not-so-secretly enjoys – but the organisation behind it needs to be serious about representing the industry (and wider world) that it clearly loves being part of.
So far, it seems that the jury is still out. Will Smith has yet to acknowledge his win online, while Nicole Kidman posted a pretty cautious acceptance on her Instagram account: “Thank you for the acknowledgement! Lucille [Ball, whom she portrays in Being the Ricardos], this is for you and all the other incredible women nominated.” Ariana DeBose, who won the film categories’ Best Supporting Actress prize for her dazzling performance in West Side Story, seemed to address the HFPA directly when she tweeted: “There is still work to be done, but when you’ve worked so hard on a project – infused with blood, sweat, tears and love – having the work seen and acknowledged is always going to be special. Thank you.”
The Golden Globe Awards has always prided itself on being the party where Hollywood’s great and good feel comfortable getting loose and a little bit messy. If it wants to survive, the HFPA needs to convince these power players that they can feel fully comfortable stepping into their house.