The Golden Globes Just Proved Why Hollywood Matters

Hollywood's come a long way since #OscarsSoWhite. But it still has a ways to go (some might say, over the "Hidden Fences").

Despite flubs from a red carpet correspondent and Michael Keaton conflating Hidden Figures with Fences, two movies starring mostly Black casts, this year's Golden Globes offered plenty of reasons to celebrate wins for work from diverse artists. With major victories like Moonlight landing Best Drama for film, and Donald Glover's Atlanta taking home the gold for TV comedy, it's hard not to feel that show business is finally making some progress.

But this is not about reparations.

The fact is, much of the best work out of Hollywood this past year starred and centered on people of color. In contrast to last year, when the entire awards circuit for movies and TV seemed to gleam with whiteness, Hollywood is offering a very different lens through which to look back on 2016 and the art it gave us.

Moonlight
's vividly honest portrait of a young gay boy coming of age in inner city Miami is quite unlike any story that's been told on the big screen. There are now so many queer kids who have a movie that they can point to and say, "That's me." I wish I could have seen myself reflected in any of the movies or TV shows that won awards when I watched the Golden Globes at 13, or even 25.
Photo: Quantrell D. Colbert/FX.
Donald Glover in "Atlanta"
Donald Glover's success story with Atlanta is equally thrilling for the series' refreshingly irreverent and clear-eyed look at a city and culture that's far less familiar to most than the fictional (and snowy white) Stars Hollow. Viola Davis, also favorited to win the Oscar, took home the Globe for Best Supporting Actress in Fences. She's previously been nominated for her work on How to Get Away with Murder, The Help, and Doubt.
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But perhaps the sweetest triumph of all came for Tracee Ellis Ross, who won Best Actress in a Comedy for her portrayal of Bow in ABC's Black-ish. She became the first Black actress to win the award in 35 years. The sitcom shines for its portrayal of everyday Blackness, both when it elects to tackle race-specific story lines, and when it's just having fun.

The actress made clear in her acceptance speech why she does what she does: “To continue expanding the way we are seen and known. And to show the magic and the beauty and the sameness of a story, and stories, that are outside of where the industry usually looks.”
Photo: Moët & Chandon for Getty Images.
Tracee Ellis Ross backstage at the Golden Globes.
As Meryl Streep so poignantly expressed in her acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award, political tides in America are changing — and art only takes on more importance in the coming climate. Stories like Moonlight, auteurs like Barry Jenkins, Donald Glover, and the divine Issa Rae are thriving and multiplying. Nurturing their voices, recognizing their talent, and understanding that their narratives have something to say to all of us has become ever more urgent.
We are just two weeks from saying goodbye to our first Black president. Our country may be ushering in an administration that's hostile to difference and afraid of otherness, but little by little, Hollywood is proving that it's not. As tonight's overtly politicized telecast proved, artists behind and in front of the camera are prepared to respond to the changes on the horizon — what kind of art will come of the response remains to be seen. We can only hope that it continues to document and explore a more diverse array of experiences, offering viewers a way to empathize with people and situations unlike what's right in front of them.

The Golden Globes are handed out by foreign critics, and so the awards present some indication of how American culture — as broadcast and romanticized in movies and on television — is perceived around the globe. At a time when the world's perception of us on the political stage is increasingly uncertain, Hollywood, at least, finally seems to be getting something right. And it's a good thing, too — because the world is watching.
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