Last night the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) held the 78th annual Golden Globes awards. For the layperson, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Golden Globes matter. They’ve been around for almost 80 years, they’re broadcast live on network television, and they manage to gather famous people from both film and television. If you don’t keep up with the entertainment business, it looks like a fairly innocuous awards show where the celebrities—in past years where they could attend since there wasn’t a raging pandemic—tend to get a little tipsy and deliver funny speeches.
But once you’ve done only a modicum of digging, you know that the HFPA is at best a punchline of an organization and at worst, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, deeply corrupt. The 87-member HFPA, which does not even publish a list of its members, has been accused of self-dealing and essentially using the money they receive from NBC for the awards show to pay their own members, which is a clear conflict of interest (for the sake of comparison, Academy members do not get paid to be Academy members). This is in addition to decades of accusations of HFPA members being essentially bought off through lavish gifts and trips as recently as one such trip on behalf of the Netflix series Emily in Paris.
To be fair, the awards industry also bears some of the blame for this. Since the average person assumes that the Globes are an important award (after all, they typically arrive fairly close to all the other film industry awards leading up to the Oscars), they’re a good marketing play. If you can slap “Golden Globe Winner” on your actor or your movie, you’ve got more juice in selling the film or TV show to viewers. And again, by virtue of their longevity and their televised awards show, the Globes seem important, and that importance is then further manufactured by studios looking to use the awards as a way to sell their prestige films and TV shows.
Even if you assume that art should be placed into a competitive framework with other art (an argument for another time), the Globes has no constituency. They’re not esteemed critics. They’re not fellow artisans. They’re people that can clearly be bought, their organization lacks diversity, and as you can see from this year’s crop of nominees where they recognized Emily in Paris over an acclaimed work like I May Destroy You, they’re woefully out of touch. In their crassest form, the Globes are a vehicle where a small group of people are essentially working for Hollywood to create the illusion of prestige through an award that lacks value because it comes from voters who have none.
You could see this clearly from last night’s disastrous broadcast, a glimpse into what the Globes would be if they couldn’t gather celebrities in the same room and ply them with alcohol. Those who won awards and those presenting them were talking out both sides of their mouth, in one breath condemning the HFPA for their corruption and lack of diversity, and in the next thanking them for the award they bestowed. As author and historian Mark Harris tweeted last night, “Awards are only as interesting as the people who give them.” While everyone likes winning a trophy, trophies can be bought, and the HFPA throughout their history have never adequately fought against the perception that what they have is for sale.
In the face of this farce, it would be far better to simply let the Golden Globes go. Granted, there are people outside the HFPA that have an interest in maintaining this façade of respectability. If you’re trying to get award wins attached to the movie you’re selling, it’s easier to get Globes than Oscars or Emmys. For NBC, they’ve got a big awards show that allows them to sell ad time and bring in live viewers when the latter is particularly valuable in the age of time-shifting and streaming. And for celebrities, the ceremony is typically a fun party as well as a way to show how respectable they would be if they were bestowed with an Oscar in a month’s time. This is what the Globes and its supporters want us to see it as: a dress rehearsal and predicator of the Oscars instead of what it truly is—a cheap knock-off and grift based on the illusion of prestige.
But as viewers, we don’t have to play along. There is no shortage of awards shows (the Critics’ Choice Awards are in less than a week and the SAG awards are in about a month), and we certainly don’t need to treat the Globes as a respectable institution simply because they have a network television broadcast and have been around since 1943. We don’t have to pretend like the Globes “mean something” when they tell us nothing beyond what 87 dubious and anonymous voters think of the year’s best movies and TV shows.
This isn’t to denigrate the winners, but rather to say that when an organization is under a veil of scandal, there can be no true winners. It’d a bit dramatic to say that the awards are “tainted” but rather they lack any kind of value when those who bestow them are fighting allegations of corruption and have been for decades. And while it’s very nice to see people we like winning trophies for movies and TV shows we enjoy, the Globes are hoodwinking the average audience member who doesn’t know the award’s value.
But Hollywood doesn’t have to keep carrying the Globes. There’s no reason they can’t move their prestige and talent to a different organization, one that’s more credible and selling the value of a victory rather than trying to split the difference of saying a Globe is a meaningful award, but please don’t look too closely into who’s giving it out. Hollywood can still have its fun night of partying and trophies, but they should find another dance partner because the stench of the HFPA isn’t going away any time soon.
Our handy, extensive guide is updated weekly with all-new picks.
About The Author