Getting to grips with . . .

The Golden Globes controversy: everything you need to know

NBC won’t broadcast the 2022 ceremony and Tom Cruise has handed back his trophies - here’s why

Winning a Golden Globe has been viewed as one of the highest honours in the entertainment industry since the annual film and television awards debuted more than 75 years ago.

But now US broadcaster NBC has ruled out screening next year’s ceremony, while stars including Scarlett Johansson and Tom Cruise have urged filmmakers to distance themselves from the organisation behind the awards, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA).

Why are the awards being panned? 

The Golden Globes precede the Oscars in the annual awards season calendar, and are often seen as a useful predictor for Academy Award success. But unlike the Oscars, which are voted on by nearly 10,000 industry experts, only the 90-odd members of the HFPA get a say in selecting Golden Globe winners.

Equality campaigners have become increasingly disillusioned with the choices made by the association, whose members are international journalists based in Los Angeles. Tensions boiled over in early February, when the HFPA released this year’s list of Golden Globes nominations.

Industry experts and members of the public joined in criticising the group for shortlisting panned Netflix comedy Emily in Paris over ground-breaking shows such as Michaela Cole’s I May Destroy You. Even a writer on the former wrote an op-ed for The Guardian questioning the decision to reward “a show about a white American selling luxury whiteness”.

On 21 February, a week before the Golden Globes, the Los Angeles Times revealed the findings of an investigation that showed the HFPA had no black members.

The newspaper also reported that in 2019, more than 30 HFPA members had flown to France to visit the Emily in Paris set in Paris, where the “Paramount Network treated the group to a two-night stay” at a five-star hotel. Representatives for Paramount Network and Netflix declined to comment on the claim.

Meanwhile, an HFPA spokesperson said that the organisation was aware of and “committed to addressing” the lack of diversity among its members.

But campaigners remained unconvinced, with The Times Up charity, founded in response to the #MeToo movement, launching a campaign to protest the HFPA’s lack of black members.

“Old news. New energy. #TimesUpGlobes,” tweeted Selma director Ava DuVernay. 

Ratings drop

Despite the row, this year’s Golden Globes ceremony went ahead as scheduled on 28 February. But as Josef Adalian reported on New York Magazine’s Vulture site, an audience of just 6.9 million viewers tuned in to watch Tina Fey and Amy Poehler host “the bicoastal proceedings on NBC, barely one-third the size of 2020’s viewership (18.3 million) and by far the least-watched ceremony in modern Globes history”.

 “While award-show ratings have taken a beating during Covid, no major event has collapsed so quickly or on a scale similar to Sunday’s swan dive,” Adalian wrote.

The HFPA came under further criticism for only spending 40 seconds of the ceremony addressing the diversity issue. A few days later, the association issued a statement pledging to make “transformational change” through measures including hiring a diversity consultant (who has since quit). 

But, as Variety’s Clayton Davis wrote, the announcement “landed like a dud”. No wonder, argued Davis, who dismissed the pledge as “merely a thesaurus of empty promises that lacked any substantive change or addressed the organisation’s history of inappropriate behaviour and unethical practices”.

Starry line-up of critics

On 15 March, more than 100 PR firms “from London and Paris to New York and Los Angeles” published an open letter warning that their powerful clients might boycott HFPA events unless the concerns about diversity were addressed, as IndieWire reported at the time.

“We collectively and unequivocally agree that transformative change in your organisation and its historical practices is essential and entirely achievable,” the letter said. “We want to be part of the solution.”

In response, the HFPA issued a statement saying that “as a demonstration of our commitment, the board has unanimously approved a plan to increase membership to a minimum of 100 members this year, with a requirement that at least 13% of the membership be black journalists”. 

Critics including leading members of the film industry argued that far more needed to be done, however. On 6 May, Netflix’s co-chief executive Ted Sarandos wrote an open letter declaring that the streaming service would stop working with the HFPA “until more meaningful changes are made”.

Lost in Translation actor Johansson also urged the industry to “step back” from the association “unless there is necessary fundamental reform”, and fellow A-lister Cruise returned his three Golden Globe trophies in protest.

NBC subsequently released a statement saying that it would not broadcast the 2022 awards ceremony, but that “assuming the organisation executes on its plan, we are hopeful we will be in a position to air the show in January 2023”.

In response, the HFPA released yet another statement - published by outlets including The Hollywood Reporter - insisting that reform was a “top priority” and setting out a timeline for achieving this goal.

Not-so-glittering future

Although NBC has not drawn a line under its relationship with the HFPA, many pundits are predicting that the Golden Globes will never again shine so bright, with viewership for awards shows in general on the decline.

 “It’s questionable if the event will, or should, survive,” writes Rick Stevenson for Screen Rant. “And with fierce pressure mounting from Hollywood itself, it seems dubious if the Golden Globes will return to NBC after the 2022 hiatus.”

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