If Tom Cruise can’t save the Golden Globes, who can? This week has been a pretty bad one for America’s second most prestigious film and TV awards – with a major Hollywood revolt against corruption and lack of diversity culminating in Cruise handing back the three gongs he won for Born on the Fourth of July, Jerry Maguire and Magnolia. Just to be clear, this is a guy who has never won an Oscar, a BAFTA or a Screen Actors Guild award – a superstar who now has to space out his three Razzies and single Kids’ Choice blimp to stop his mantlepiece from looking too empty. Everyone from Netflix to Scarlett Johansson has joined the protest – and the entire industry has now blacklisted the press association that runs the Globes. So what’s the problem?
Back in February, The Los Angeles Times ran an investigation into the small group of international “journalists” (known as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, or HFPA) behind the Globes, and found out that the people actually voting for the awards were corrupt, biased, and very white. The HFPA markets itself as a respectable organisation of leading world journalists, but the Times found that most members (there are only 87) have barely ever written a single word. Among the elderly socialites, failed producers, ex-bodybuilders, washed-up beauty queens and bit players, some also supplement their fake-journalist salaries by re-selling award show goodie bags on eBay and scalping ceremony tickets for thousands of dollars. Overnight, the Globes meant nothing.
On the other hand, it’s debatable whether they ever meant that much in the first place. Started in 1943, the Globes have always been seen as the award that isn’t really worth winning. In 1958, the president of the HFPA resigned reportedly because the voting was already too corrupt. By the mid ’60s, the ceremony had introduced the dubious role of “Miss Golden Globe” – a chance for the daughters of Hollywood players to present trophies as glorified Grid Girls, often to help kickstart a modelling career. Accusations of bribery resurfaced every few years (the best being when Johnny Depp stinker The Tourist got a nomination, right after all members of the HFPA were allegedly flown to Vegas for a private Cher concert), as did questions about racism and inclusivity.
Easy pickings for comedy writers, the Golden Globes were a frequent in-joke for years. They were mocked in a dozen episodes of The Simpsons – and on the end of a vicious jab from Modern Family: “You win an Oscar, you buy a Golden Globe”. It was almost a surprise that the HFPA leaned into the image in 2010 and hired Ricky Gervais to host – inviting him to turn the opening monologue into a roast. Five ceremonies later, even Gervais couldn’t stomach it anymore, starting with “I don’t care anymore… We’re all gonna die soon and there’s no sequel”, before attacking everyone in the room with the kind of speech that guaranteed he won’t ever get asked back (“You’re in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world… if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your God and fuck off”). Responding to the latest boycott, Gervais summed up the situation in a three-word tweet: “The Golden Balls”.
But are the Globes that much worse than all the other film and TV awards? While it’s true that the Oscars, BAFTAs and other big academies have reformed their voting policies and jury boards to try and eliminate bias and misrepresentation, they all arguably still have a long way to go. More importantly, does anyone actually care anymore? This year’s big, awkward remote ceremonies were unavoidable, but they also highlighted just how daft the whole thing is – with lavish parties held to honour a very select set of films that find just the right sweet spot between box office success, critical acclaim and worthiness. The films that win are never the most popular, the most well-reviewed or the most daring, but they have to straddle all three fences at once to keep everyone satisfied.
Even if the Golden Globes threw out the entire HFPA membership and reformed the whole broken system, it would still be just another shiny monument to Hollywood back-clapping – a desperate bid for relevance in an industry that’s now struggling to find its footing. This year’s Golden Globes ceremony saw a 60 per cent drop in viewing figures on TV (and that was before the boycott) so what’s going to bring those audiences back if and when the show ever returns? A promise of honest, inclusive voting? Nah, there are other, bigger ceremonies for that – and they’re already wrestling with their own identities. Another hilarious celebrity roast? There are only so many times you can hear: “You’re all racist, awful and corrupt” and keep laughing. A face-saving rebrand? Live audience voting via a phone app? Superbowl-style half-time gigs? Tom Cruise parachuting in from the ceiling to get his awards back?
Maybe it just needs to stay down and quietly slip into the footnotes of Hollywood history. Remember that award show that constantly refused to recognise any Asian movies for Best Film? The one that nominated Emily In Paris over I May Destroy You? The awards that once thought James Corden was a better actor than Meryl Streep? The same ceremony that was voted for by old, white guys who loved a good bribe…? Nope, me neither.