Can We Trust the Golden Globes Again?

One of my favorite films from the past decade is the Golden Globe- and Oscar-nominated biopic, Can You Ever Forgive Me? The movie stars Melissa McCarthy as famed celebrity biographer Lee Israel, who dabbled in celebrity forgeries, then rode that controversy and eventual criminal conviction to even more acclaim with her memoir about her exploits. It’s as brilliant of a film as it is a scam. The kind of story that Hollywood loves to see on screen.

The film has been bouncing around my head the past couple days in the lead up to this year’s Golden Globes and its sheepish return to NBC. Let’s just say it—that’s the big question, right? Can we ever forgive the Hollywood Foreign Press Association? Barred from television last year, the organization behind the Golden Globes had some explaining to do for the numerous allegations made against it by the Los Angeles Times: a lack of diversity in the voting body, studio kickbacks, internal racism, sexism, homophobia, and sexual misconduct. It’s not a great look.

But before you can answer the big question, another needed to be answered first: would the Golden Globes attempt to address its own misdeeds? Yes, the organization had done so following the scandal in 2021 in the form of a public statement, saying its board “will oversee reforms and be accountable for that change,” but the Globes itself is the HFPA’s most visible night. Accountability on the show would be paramount.

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This year’s host, comedian Jerrod Carmichael, wasted no time getting to that point—in the same vein as his brilliant special Rothaniel, Carmichael skewered the voting body with the dry, abrupt opening line, “I’ll tell you why I’m here. I’m here because I’m Black.” And in case the audience mistook that barb as a particularly prickly punchline, he tacked on that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association “didn’t have a black member until George Floyd died.” No jokes. Just facts.

The opening monologue was a slow burn, and the audience—still very white and affluent—nervously laughed along until it eventually fell into full silence.

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From there, the show never seemed to get its footing. Maybe that was the point. With a one-year contract in place, NBC isn’t beholden to making sure this year’s telecast was a total smash. What resulted was a constant air of uncomfortable awkwardness, and not the regular kind where the Globes host routinely ribs the show. Carmichael blasted the HFPA, Hollywood, and the core issues that plague it. He joked, “I took this job assuming they hadn’t changed at all.” And as biting as that is, it’s also painfully poignant. Every joke, regardless of how hard it landed, had the same sentiment: What exactly are we doing here? Who really believes that an institution like this can change within the span of a year or so?

On the surface, the Globes made the necessary changes that would keep it from imploding live on air. Early, satisfying wins from Everything, Everywhere, All at Once’s Ke Huy Quan, Black Panther’s Angela Bassett, and Abbott Elementary’s Quinta Brunson seem to indicate a shift in the cringeworthy whitewashing that often happens at awards shows like these. Diverse presenters and winners are a wink and a nod to suggest that the Globes and its new, diverse voting body are starting to rectify its biases from the past.

beverly hills, california january 10 80th annual golden globe awards pictured ke huy quan accepts an award onstage at the 80th annual golden globe awards held at the beverly hilton hotel on january 10, 2023 in beverly hills, california photo by rich polknbc via getty images

Ke Huy Quan accepts the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture.

Rich Polk/NBC
beverly hills, california january 10 angela bassett poses with the best supporting actress in a motion picture award for black panther wakanda forever poses in the press room during the 80th annual golden globe awards at the beverly hilton on january 10, 2023 in beverly hills, california photo by amy sussmangetty images

Angela Bassett won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture.

Amy Sussman//Getty Images

And then there’s Jerrod Carmichael himself: a gay, Black comedian as host. The ceremony’s two legacy awards went to a prolific Black comedian (Eddie Murphy) and a gay mastermind (Ryan Murphy). But none of them, Carmichael especially, seemed to believe the hype too much. When you screw up as badly as the Globes did, and then you rush yourself back into the spotlight, you’re left with a lot of legitimate skepticism—not just in your organization but in the trophies you hand out as well.

That sucks, too. But the risk we run with bodies like the HFPA—bodies who have proven to be untrustworthy and tainted—is that now, we have these nagging doubts about sincerity and legitimacy. The wins from Michelle Yeoh and Tyler James Williams and others shouldn’t be marred with the question of whether the HFPA is trying too hard or if they’ve simply lurched forward into our current timeline.

Don’t get me wrong. There were nice moments throughout the evening. Ryan Murphy used nearly his entire speech to shine a light on queer people and people of color who have blazed trails for those behind them. Jennifer Coolidge’s win for The White Lotus was as endearing as it was hysterical. But when those moments ended, we were left with the ominous ghosts in the room that remind us that the HFPA’s issues are deeper than just award wins.

“[The HFPA] is simply an organization who has lost its currency due to a long run of bad decision making.”

The Whale’s Brendan Fraser wasn’t in attendance, citing his past allegation that former HFPA president Philip Berk groped him in 2003. Tom Cruise, who returned his three trophies last year, was missing despite Top Gun: Maverick’s numerous nominations. At the end of the day, the HFPA (now a for-profit organization) will, for the foreseeable future, be an institution whose decision making will be called into question.

That brings up the idea that maybe we don’t need the Golden Globes anymore. They were zany and great until their demons were dragged into the light, and now, it all feels a bit gross. Aside from the body’s philanthropic arm, you’re left with an organization that remains untrustworthy. This is simply an organization who has lost its currency due to a long run of bad decision making. The main reason that the Globes are still afloat is because celebrities deigned to show up. As last year’s private ceremony indicated, when the star power is taken away, so is the platform.

We are only required to tolerate what we choose to entertain.

If I may bring your attention back to Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the big controversy with Lee Israel’s memoir was that Israel effectively benefited from her crime. We got a good story to gawk at, but the price was that we threw our attention and our money at the problem. And as we turn our gaze back to the Golden Globes—whose sentence is arguably shorter than Israel’s—did a reworking of its voting body and a list of diverse presenters do the job? Do we care if it didn’t?


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