The 78th Golden Globes got the ball rolling on awards season on March 1, with the annual ceremony taking place largely online as a result of the pandemic. Hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey conducted the event from opposite sides of the country — Poehler from Los Angeles and Fey from New York — with the various presenters appearing on stage to announce the at-home nominees for each category.
The yearly event, which recognises excellence across film and television, is run by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) which has come under fire for its absence of diversity among its voting members. In an investigation carried out by the Los Angeles Times, it was discovered that of the 87 journalists that make up the organisation, not a single one was Black. A subsequent Variety interview with former HFPA president and board chair Meher Tatna revealed that there haven’t been any Black members as part of the organisation since she joined in 2002.
Filmmaker Spike Lee, whose children Satchel and Jackson served as ambassadors for the ceremony, told Variety in a statement, “The Hollywood Foreign Press clearly has much werk to do. However, it’s been a joy to watch our children Satchel and Jackson serve as the ambassadors to the Golden Globes. I hope the HFPA understands in order to stay relevant, they must diversify their membership.”
While the issue of a diverse membership still needs to be addressed, the awards themselves, at least, showed a glimmer of hope with four Black performers winning across the acting categories.
Daniel Kaluuya was the first Golden Globes recipient of the night, accepting the supporting film actor nod for his turn in Judas and the Black Messiah. John Boyega followed with the supporting TV actor award for Small Axe, making him the only person of colour to win in the television categories.
The late Chadwick Boseman was honoured further into the broadcast for his final performance in Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, with his wife Simone accepting the lead actor in a drama film award on his behalf.
Finally, Andra Day took home the lead actress in a drama film nod for her performance in The United States vs. Billie Holiday — making her only the second Black woman to win the award since Whoopi Goldberg won for The Colour Purple in 1986.
Additionally, Chloé Zhao became the first Asian woman and the second woman ever to win the award for best director, accepting the award for her film Nomadland, which also took out the coveted motion picture, drama prize.
Meanwhile, the complete lack of recognition for Michaela Coel’s groundbreaking series I Will Destroy You was met with intense backlash, especially as the comedy-drama was overlooked in favour of the fairly pointless Emily in Paris.
The wins for actors of colour on the film side marked a decent improvement from 2020’s Golden Globes, which saw only Awkwafina accept an award for The Farewell. However, on the TV side, the progress remains static from last year when Ramy creator Ramy Youssef won the musical or comedy actor nod.
The conversation around the awards, and the need for the HFPA to include a wider range of members, comes after a recent Directors Guild of America (DGA) study showed that while female directors and people of colour saw incremental gains in the TV landscape, Latinx female directors accounted for only a 2.4% share of all episodes in 2019-20 and Asian American women just 2.1%.
One of the most rousing moments of the Golden Globes ceremony was surely when legendary actor Jane Fonda addressed these very discrepancies within the entertainment industry, and urged her peers to do better.
Accepting the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille award, Fonda said “Stories. They really can change people. But there’s a story we’ve been afraid to see and hear about ourselves in this industry. The story about which voices we respect and elevate and which we tune out. It’s about who’s offered a seat at the table and who was kept out of the rooms where decisions are made.
“So that’s all of us, including all the groups who decide who gets hired and what gets made and who wins awards. Let’s all of us make an effort to expand that tent so that everyone rises and everyone’s story has a chance to be seen and heard.”