Should the Golden Globes be let out of time out?

“Last night’s Golden Globes host Jerrod Carmicheal kicked off the show by reflecting on the intersection of power, race and money, hitting a note of discomfort.”

Love him or hate him, for years, Ricky Gervais was the Golden Globes’ secret weapon. It has long been an open secret that the awards and nominations given out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association could be bought. The small and secretive group of voters enjoyed hobnobbing with celebrities above all else. Gervais said all this and more; he openly mocked the ostentatious decadence of the event, the self-satisfaction of celebrity and the overall unseriousness of the awards. By laying everything out in the open, he paradoxically guarded them against scandal — at least for a while.

After the awards body imploded due to racism, sexual assault and self-dealing, it became clear they had to change. Then again, they had no choice. Last year, NBC declined to broadcast the show without a major overhaul. They fired the former president, changed their by-laws and expanded their membership before going forward with last night’s show — albeit relegating it to a Tuesday night. One has a deep sense that the Golden Globes are still in “time out” and must prove themselves before being allowed back to the coveted Sunday night timeslot.

Though Gervais made sense in the past as a host, he does not make sense anymore. The world has changed, and his humour feels very much of the past. He’s settled into the angry man yells at cloud category of comedy, and though he was willing to deal punches to the rich and powerful in the room back in the day, it’s clear his humour was not as biting as it may have once seemed. Rather than dismantle the hierarchy of power, he merely upheld it (a notion that was also clear in his “comedy” that takes potshots at transgender people). He was not daring or dangerous. He was maintaining the status quo.

Jerrod Carmichael stepped in as the host this year and did not have an enviable position. If the room was giving him back what he gave, it was unclear from the broadcast. His routine elicited an eerie quietness as if the crowd was unsure how to respond. While much of his opening monologue, rather than be inflected with zingers, was a deeper reflection on the intersection of power, race and money, he hit a note of discomfort. If Gervais once was “telling it like it is,” the limits of his not-so-pointed critique were evident. He was less an audience cypher than a mouthpiece of the awards body itself. Carmichael attempted to make sense of a complex set of intersecting factors, though even he seemed resigned to the futility of the show itself.

What purpose do the Golden Globes serve? All awards shows reflect their voters and what they want to project into the world. What trends do they foretell? Why do people vote the way they do? Are they always choosing what they believe is the very best contender in a given category, or is there more at play? Reasonably, we know that politics (real world and Hollywood wheeling and dealing) play a significant role, and consensus, as a general rule, tends to favour the familiar and unchallenging. Generally, it’s more about understanding why certain films or faces lose rather than why they win.

Of all the winners last night, Jennifer Coolidge winning for The White Lotus felt like an integral key to better understanding the atmosphere of the Golden Globes. The White Lotus, as a TV show, hit a cultural zeitgeist by blending beautiful breezy vacation locales, soap opera drama and sharp comedy to lambast the desperation of the (primarily) nouveau riche. Her speech was funny, sincere and also rambling. It was difficult not to feel the echoes of her character on the show, the tragic and pitiful Tanya, who does not seem long for this world.

Throughout the season, we watch her struggle to set out independently after her husband abandons her on their romantic vacation. She gets swept up on an adventure with old-school gays who lavish her with compliments and a gangster gigolo. She’s wined and dined, spoiled rotten, but, as she will eventually learn, their intentions are not quite so noble. The proximity and attention they demand from her is not out of the goodness of their hearts but for selfish reasons.

Unquestionably, the celebrities invited to the Golden Globes are not worth the same pity as Tanya; they benefit from having a platform, and a prize is a prize. That being said, they deserve to be able to go to a show without fear of violence or discrimination. The sustainability of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association should be addressed. What purpose does this body really serve, and for what reasons? Unlike the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which serves a real purpose in preserving films and archives, HFPA remains a private club with tenuous qualifications and shady ambitions.

The Golden Globes remains a fun, light event if you can ignore the elephant in the room. The speeches, the costumes and the jokes are fantastic window-dressing for an industry in crisis, one that seems only ever able to look backwards. While far less uncomfortable than last year’s disastrous Oscars ceremony, at the end of the night, it’s hard to escape the feeling that all we’re witnessing is a propped-up corpse waiting to be buried. ■

For a full list of Golden Globes winners, please click here.

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