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Can the Golden Globes save themselves?

Even given the strides made by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association this year and with today’s nominations, it’s hard to defend an organization so profoundly embedded in scandal.

For the first time, Quebec’s prodigal son Denis Villeneuve has received a Best Director nomination at the Golden Globes for Dune. Dune also picked up awards for Hans Zimmer’s score and for Best Motion Picture (Drama). While science-fiction usually struggles to find awards season success, this might spell a significant opportunity for Villeneuve and Dune — assuming, of course, the Oscars follows suit. Villeneuve isn’t the only Québécois vying for a Golden Globe either, Roger Frappier (Maëlstrom, Jésus de Montréal) is a co-producer on The Power of the Dog.

As the saying goes, it’s an honour just to be nominated, but has the Golden Globes permanently lost its shine? Should the province celebrate, or should we wait to see how things play out?

Last February, the L.A. Times published an article accusing the Hollywood Foreign Press Association of self-dealing. The organization, which awards the annual Golden Globes, was embroiled in an ever-deepening scandal involving ethical questions, shoddy diversity (the same exposé revealed that they don’t have a single Black voting member) and overall questions of legitimacy. Since then, they’ve worked to change their reputation and voting body through several steps that involve greater transparency in terms of membership criteria and overall function. For a full breakdown of what went down, Indiewire has assembled a handy timeline

One year later, they’ve announced the nominees — this time with Snoop Dogg enlisted, because why not? In wake of recent social media campaigns such as #OscarsSoWhite and in response to criticism from last year, they have diversified (apparently) behind the scenes but it hasn’t necessarily translated to a greater diversity of nominees. This year’s nominations do include Squid Game, Lupin, Reservation Dogs, Raya and the Last Dragon and West Side Story — films and TV series with non-white leads, some of them with almost entirely non-white casts — but are these changes a little too late? 

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Lupin, nominated for Best TV Series (Drama) and Best Actor in a TV Series (Drama) for Omar Sy in the 2022 Golden Globes

What does diversity really mean when it comes to awards shows? By nature, as a consensus-based voting system, it reflects the values and interests of the people behind the scenes. With a uniformly white, male and upper-class voting body, it shouldn’t be too surprising that films and TV that fall outside their interests will likely fail to be recognized. Efforts to diversify the voting body should be commendable, but it’s fundamentally a tiny part of a much more significant shift that needs to happen.

Over the past decade, enormous strides have been made behind the scenes to create more diverse opportunities and works of art. Contrary to what naysayers may argue, this should be a net positive. While there is no clear or effective method in diversifying talent and decision-makers, it’s clear that many incredibly talented people would be locked out of the industry without this new self-awareness. Those sincerely complaining that the opposite is happening (that capable white males are being pushed out) have no grasp on either history or statistics. Hollywood, particularly from the top down, continues to be dominated by white voices and likely will be for a very long time. 

Truly fundamental changes will eliminate the pressure to do PR, and diversification will require years and years of work in the long term. It will have to begin among the younger demographic, offering technical positions within filmmaking as viable career choices. As with the #MeToo movement, these cultural shifts within Hollywood need to work in close conjunction with labour unions and the labour movement overall. The recent IATSE strike hopefully points to a cultural change that empowers workers within Hollywood to demand fair treatment, fair pay and fair opportunities. 

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Reservation Dogs, nominated for Best TV Series (Musical or Comedy) in the 2022 Golden Globes

Treating diversity as merely a quota without substantially shifting perspectives on work and education will inevitably fail. Major corporations working with finger-on-the-pulse PR companies know exactly what to say to appear “woke.” They put their diverse talent in front of a camera, even using them as shields. Disney, in particular, has learned to weaponize “woke” language and diversity to quiet legitimate critiques of the films and company practices by lumping all critics together as anti-diversity. This weaponization of diversity is disingenuous and toxic — as if movies made by women or BIPOC are above criticism — on an artistic or political level. 

Without speculating too much on why the Hollywood Foreign Press wants to hold onto their power for dear life, it’s hard to defend an organization so profoundly embedded in scandal. Ever since I can remember, it’s always been a bit of a joke — an opportunity for Hollywood to get drunk on TV and test out awards season narratives live. It could be an entertaining show, but it’s difficult to imagine it re-establishing its legitimacy when it’s unclear if it ever really had any to begin with. 

In just one year, the Golden Globes have tried to spin the narrative that they are now moving towards greater diversity and transparency. Can the Golden Globes just PR themselves into becoming a respectable awards show, or are they doomed to flounder into further obscurity? With a record-low viewer count last year, it will be interesting to watch if they can recover some of their viewership. ■

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