The image of statues toppling to the ground has become a familiar one in recent years. Many busts, figures, and iconography paying tribute to racist histories have been removed—sometimes by the people and sometimes by establishments. But when will our sights be set on film and entertainment, an industry whose institutions continue to give out tiny statues symbolic of a racist and sexist legacy?
The Golden Globes, Academy Awards, and Recording Academy have all come under scrutiny in recent years for lack of diversity, inclusion, and representation amongst its associations, nominees, and awardees. As institutions based in the United States, where white supremacy, systemic racism, and patriarchy are still upheld, each of these award ceremonies have historically failed to acknowledge and celebrate the work and efforts of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), women, and those from the LGBTQIA+ community.
In 2016, this inspired the #OscarsSoWhite protest, a hashtag created by April Reign after the academy awarded all 20 acting nominations to white actors two years in a row. Now, in 2021, the Golden Globes is facing similar backlash, only this time it’s the network that’s finally holding the award show accountable. NBC announced it will not air the Golden Globes in 2022 in order to give the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the group of 87 international journalists that presents the Golden Globe Awards, time to make meaningful changes.
Everything matters. Even this. The ripple effects echo through our industry, especially for Black artists and artists of color.
Kudos to all the activists, artists, publicists and executives who took a stand to make this so. https://t.co/ng1uUiOqS4
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) May 10, 2021
One such change should be diversifying its ranks; the HFPA has no Black members, and it shows in how the HFPA conducts itself. This year, an HFPA member confused Daniel Kaluuya for Leslie Odom Jr. This occurred right after Kaluuya won Best Supporting Actor for his work in Judas and the Black Messiah. Another member, the President of the HFPA no less, was expelled from the group after calling Black Lives Matter a “hate movement.”
On top of blatant racism, the Globes have also been accused of sexism. Scarlett Johansson called for the awards ceremony to be boycotted, noting that she has faced “sexist questions and remarks by certain HFPA members that bordered on sexual harassment.”
— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) May 8, 2021
The HFPA also was sued recently by Kjersti Flaa, a Norwegian entertainment journalist. Flaa accused the HFPA of “institutionalizing a culture of corruption.” Specifically, she alleged HFPA members accept thousands of dollars in emoluments from studios, networks, and celebrities who are then awarded trophies in top categories. And this isn’t the first lawsuit of this nature filed against the HFPA. In 2011, publicist Michael Russell sued the HFPA after watching the association accept money, vacations, gifts, and other perks from studios and producers. These same studios and producers were then nominated and awarded Golden Globes.
However, Flaa’s lawsuit against the HFPA was dismissed by a judge, leading a current member to disclose to the Los Angeles Times: “The dismissal was disappointing. I thought it would shake things up…We are an archaic organization. I still think the HFPA needs outside pressure to change.”
This year, The Weeknd, Halsey, Teyana Taylor, Nicki Minaj, and Zayn Malik accused the Grammys of practices similar to those of the Globes. Following The Weeknd’s dismissal of the award show, Drake said, “I think we should stop allowing ourselves to be shocked every year by the disconnect between impactful music and these awards. This is a great time for somebody to start something new that we can build up over time and pass on to the generations to come.”
The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency…
— The Weeknd (@theweeknd) November 25, 2020
On top of alleged corruption, the Grammy Awards hasn’t consistently recognized people of color in its top categories. For example, the last Black artist to win Album of the Year was Herbie Hancock in 2008, and the last Black woman artist was Lauryn Hill in 1999, according to The New York Times. In 2020, Tyler, The Creator joined Drake, Kanye West, and Frank Ocean in criticizing the Grammys for continuing to overlook Black artists.
“It sucks that whenever we—and I mean guys that look like me—do anything that’s genre-bending they always put it in a rap or urban category. I don’t like that ‘urban’ word—it’s just a politically correct way to say the n-word to me. When I hear that I’m just like why can’t we be in pop? Half of me feels like the rap nomination was a back-handed compliment,” Tyler, The Creator said backstage after winning Best Rap Album for “IGOR” at the 2020 Grammys.
Tyler, The Creator calls out the #Grammys on their racism when it comes to music genres pic.twitter.com/rzWe2lR3xO
— Odd Future Fans (@itsOddFuture) January 27, 2020
The Golden Globes and the HFPA also have a habit of snubbing people of color. Despite a variety of Black-led film productions released last year, none were nominated for Best Motion Picture Drama at the 2021 Globes. This includes Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Judas and the Black Messiah, and One Night in Miami. In addition, Minari, an American film, won Best Foreign-Language Film, proving once again how Asian Americans are viewed in the U.S.
Minari’s Youn Yuh-Jung wasn’t nominated for any categories, even though she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Other snubs included Meryl Streep, who wasn’t nominated but her Prom co-star James Cordon was; and Cristin Milioti, who wasn’t nominated but her Palm Springs co-star Andy Samberg was. The HFPA also confusingly nominated Sia’s controversial and ableist film Music for Best Musical/Comedy Motion Picture.
Headscratchers like any of the abovementioned choices only give more credence to former host Ricky Gervais’s analysis that the Golden Globes award is a “bit of metal that some nice old confused journalists wanted to give you in person so they could meet you and have a selfie with you.” Don’t get me started on how the Golden Globes and other award shows have failed to acknowledge, nominate, and award entertainment industry performers like stuntmen and women and voice actors.
All of these exclusionary efforts beg the question: who are these award shows for?
Historically, NBC has promoted the Globes as “Hollywood’s Party of the Year.” But if it’s a party for Hollywood, why is it televised for us? And I’m not the only one who’s wondering. Ratings for these shows continue to drop. This year’s Golden Globes ratings decreased by 63% (6.9 million people watched this year compared to 18.4 million last year), the Oscars decreased nearly 56% (10.4 million people compared to last year’s 23.6 million), and the Grammys decreased by 53% (8.8 million viewers compared to 18.7 million last year).
As moviegoers, television show viewers, and music listeners, we know awards and accolades don’t affect how we consume media. Films, television shows, and music will resonate with us whether or not it’s award-winning. We relate to content no matter what anyone else says, especially faceless associations who fail to check the racism and sexism that runs rampant amongst their ranks.
So again I ask: who are these award shows for? If award shows are important in recognizing creativity and excellence in an industry, then I have to agree with Drake and suggest we establish new institutions to do so. To the Golden Globes, Oscars, and Grammys I say good riddance and good day—because if these old institutions continue to fail to make room at the table for everyone, then why not start a new table with limitless chairs?
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