It's a sign of progress, but one that actors need to support to make it last.
Major entertainment award shows have always been a self-congratulatory parade of opulence for an industry that is already a little too high on its own existence. But what’s more American than gathering the richest, most privileged entertainers around to ogle their coolness and throw meaningless statues at them so they can cry on stage? It’s our version of the royal family predicament; it’s problematic, but we do our part to participate because the glamour of it all reaffirms our plebeian fantasies of becoming one of them.
And just like the royals, Hollywood award shows have a dark underbelly as well — especially the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) responsible for the Golden Globes. This year they are having a reckoning though, as the show is all but cancelled in response to their unsavory dealings coming to light over the last year. The Association’s glitzy affair was cancelled by NBC, demoted to what’s essentially a fluorescent-lit press conference with no host or presenters. It’s a necessary comeuppance, and perhaps it will also signify to actors that if they want a public display of getting their flowers, they have to care enough about the institutions that present said accolades being held to high enough standards to remain relevant.
In case you wanted a reminder on what the HFPA has done to deserve this, well, it’s manifold. Their perhaps most egregious issue is the extreme lack of diversity within the pool of roughly 100 members who make up the HFPA — of that number, there were zero Black members until The Los Angeles Times reported on the issue. In response, 21 new inductees for 2022 made it their most diverse class ever. Within the new class, 48% identify as women, 29% as Black, 24% as Asian, 29% identify as Latinx and 19% as Middle Eastern/North African—according to Deadline. It’s important to note that the lack of diversity amongst their membership is an issue beyond representation within the ranks, it is inextricably linked to the consistent snubbing of films and television made by Black creators and featuring Black stories — as for example when major hits and critical darlings like I May Destroy You, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Judas and the Black Messia and Da 5 Bloods all were all snubbed in 2021. And while the HFPA attempting to adjust their membership to be more inclusive is a step in the right direction, the rushed and desperate manor in which it’s being done signifies tokenizing more than it does diversifying.
Other scandals were a bit more frivolous and embarrassing, rather than insidious. It came to light last year that a profoundly low brow show, that somehow snagged multiple high brow nominations, Emily In Paris, had hosted 30 members of the HFPA at a $1,400 per night hotel in Paris for decadent vacation time on set. The Los Angeles Times revealed, “While there, Paramount Network treated the group to a two-night stay at the five-star Peninsula Paris hotel, where rooms currently start at about $1,400 a night, and a news conference and lunch at the Musée des Arts Forains, a private museum filled with amusement rides dating to 1850 where the show was shooting.” No wonder one of the year’s most hate-watched shows somehow ended up being nominated for Best Television Show Musical or Comedy, with Lily Collins also getting a nod for Best Actress Musical or Comedy for her role as Emily. The incident supported other reports that members of the HFPA were beginning to encroach beyond their status as journalists upon the industry, leveraging their voting power for access and bribes.
The real question here is why the HFPA wouldn’t understand how obvious their corruption would become. It might be why the backlash is finally setting in — no one likes to feel like they are being fooled and being laughed at in their face about it. Thankfully some industry institutions are finally voicing their disdain with the HFPA’s lackadaisical approach to integrity. In May after the HFPA had released new ethical standards, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said in a letter to the organization, “We know that you have many well-intentioned members who want real change — and that all of us have more work to do to create an equitable and inclusive industry...But Netflix and many of the talent and creators we work with cannot ignore the HFPA’s collective failure to address these crucial issues with urgency and rigor....We’re stopping any activities with your organization until more meaningful changes are made.” Other organizations to speak out have been GLAAD, SAG-AFTRA and the DGA.
Celebrities have been speaking out as well — which is hopefully more than just a crucial PR move for them, but also evidence of a meaningful shift in A-listers’ attitudes. In years where it’s seemed like many actors feel dicey about speaking out politically, the least they can do is help police their own industry for corruption and extreme lack of diversity. After receiving a Golden Globe for his double role in I Know This Much Is True, Mark Ruffalo told Deadline, “It’s discouraging to see the HFPA, which has gained prominence and profited handsomely from their involvement with filmmakers and actors, resist the change that is being asked of them from many of the groups that have been most disenfranchised by their culture of secrecy and exclusion...Honestly, as a recent winner of a Golden Globe, I cannot feel proud or happy about being a recipient of this award.” Other industry elites like Ava DuVernay, Shonda Rhimes, Sterling K. Brown and Jennifer Anniston have all also called for major HFPA reform before they’ll be associated with the organization again. Hopefully these industry titans can start a trend of accountability within Hollywood. But until then, sending light and love the HFPA as they announce their awards to a room of just their own membership this Sunday, January 9th.
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Paramount paid for HFPA flights to Paris. The production company paid for the members’ hotel stays, but not their airfare.