In an odd, ostentatious ceremony at the Beverly Hilton on December 16, the announcement for 2021 Golden Globe nominations came not from an actor, but from Snoop Dogg sporting a ‘Murder’ beanie. If anything, it was an interesting attempt to heal burned relations with Hollywood’s elite and television stations. (Last year’s scandal led NBC to drop televising the awards ceremony on January 9.)
Amid what’s supposed to be the coronation of awards season, celebrating the best in television and film, was continued controversy and criticism towards the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the notoriously insular, insider group who submits votes for the Golden Globe Award.
Earlier this year, the HFPA drew widespread criticism for excluding all Black-led potential Oscar best picture contenders, including Da 5 Bloods, Judas and the Black Messiah, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, as contenders for the Globe’s top film prize.
Adding to the drama, an L.A. Times investigation revealed that none of HFPA’s 87 members were Black. The same article suggested voters could be swayed by promotions and freebies from production companies.
The news outlet noted that Netflix flew HFPA members to Paris in support of the streaming service’s comedy series, Emily in Paris. Many observers were surprised when the show received two nominations after lukewarm reviews. Even more damning, the critically acclaimed I May Destroy You was left out of the nominations.
The revelations led Tom Cruise to hand back his three Golden Globes in protest and Scarlett Johansson to call for “fundamental reform.”
In response, the HFPA took several positive steps including recruiting 21 new and “predominantly diverse” critics to the organization, appointing a chief diversity officer, and requiring its members to undertake diversity, equality, and inclusion training. HFPA also instituted a new oversight committee and joined into a five-year partnership with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Several Black-led series received 2021 nods, including Amazon Prime’s The Underground Railroad for best-limited series and Netflix’s Lupin and FX’s Pose for best drama. If anything, criticism seems to have pushed Globe voters towards paying attention to shows it should already have been behind. As a collection of international critics and journalists working for non-U.S. outlets, South Korea’s blockbuster Netflix hit Squid Games and France’s ultra-popular Lupin seem like easy choices.
Last January, no Black woman was among the Globes’ 20 slots for television nominations. Now, Uzo Aduba and Michaela Jae Rodriguez are the best actresses in drama nominees for their work on HBO’s In Treatment and FX’s Pose, respectively. For best actress in a comedy genre, Issa Rae from HBO’s Insecure and Tracee Ellis Ross from ABC’s Black-ish both earned nods.
The Golden Globe show is traditionally the first major ceremony of the awards season and is seen as a good precursor for what to expect at the Oscars. To that end, Sir Kenneth Branagh’s autobiographical film Belfast and the Jane Campion-directed The Power of the Dog, a brutal Western starring Benedict Cumberbatch, led all Golden Globe nominations.
Aside from a few token picks like Lupin and FX’s Native American-led comedy Reservation Dogs, however, there wasn’t much evidence that HFPA voters were elevating new voices or shows into the awards season conversation. The most nominated TV shows — HBO’s Succession, Apple TV+’s The Morning Show and Ted Lasso, Hulu’s Dopesick, and The Great — are all easy choices that feature big stars and industry buzz.
Golden Globe winners will still be announced on January 9, but with the event already controversial and untelevised, most big-name nominees will likely steer clear.
For the Globes to ascend again, the HFPA has a long way to go to rebuild trust in its process. Given this year’s batch, the foreign critics are making an effort, but they’ve still got a long way to go.
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