Are The Golden Globes Better For Women Behind The Camera Than The Oscars?

Photo: Courtesy of Chris Haston/NBC.
The Golden Globes have always seemed like the Oscars' cooler, younger sibling.
If the Academy Awards have the final say on the who's who of the year, the Golden Globes are the first stop in a long, often repetitive awards season. It's the awards show best known for drunken speeches, celebrity bonding over shared tables, and other wild shenanigans. The Oscars have Billy Crystal. The Globes have Amy and Tina.
But with a disappointing lack of female representation in the Golden Globes nominations for best director this year ("lack of" being a euphemism for zero, nada, zilch) despite several amazing and deserving candidates (Greta Gerwig, Dee Rees, Patty Jenkins, to name the main contenders), I found myself wondering: does this aura of cool actually translate into more gender parity in the nominations?
Because the Oscars and Golden Globes categories aren't exactly the same, I chose to examine two major non-acting categories for film: best director and best screenplay. (The Oscars actually divides the latter into original and adapted, the Globes does not.)
The Golden Globes have been presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association since 1944. In that 73-year-long period, only four women have ever been nominated for best director. Two of them, Barbra Streisand and Kathryn Bigelow, were nominated twice. (Streisand in 1983, for Yentl, and 1991, for The Prince of Tides, and Bigelow in 2009, for The Hurt Locker, and 2012, for Zero Dark Thirty.) In 2003, Sofia Coppola was nominated for Lost in Translation. And Ava DuVernay, nominated in 2014 for Selma, remains the only woman of colour to receive a nomination in that category. To this day, only one of these nominees, Barbra Streisand, has ever taken home the golden-hued globe that gives the show its name. That was in 1983 — 35 years ago.
The Academy Awards haven't fared much better in this category. Since 1929 — the first-ever Oscars ceremony, which reportedly lasted 15 minutes — the Academy of Movie Picture Arts and Sciences has only nominated four women for its prestigious best director category, all of them white: Lina Wertmuller in 1976 (for Seven Beauties); Jane Campion in 1991 (for The Piano); Sofia Coppola in 2003 (for Lost in Translation); and finally, Kathryn Bigelow in 2009 (for The Hurt Locker.) Bigelow remains the only woman to have actually won the Oscar, and it remains to be seen whether we'll even get a chance to rectify that this year. The 2018 Oscar nominations will be announced on January 23.
(I should note, in case anyone who can vote in the nomination process actually reads this, that Dee Rees would be the first woman of colour ever to receive an Academy Award nomination for best director if she gets a nod for Mudbound, an astounding film that should be getting more buzz than it is. Do the right thing!)
When it comes to the rewarding women for their writing, however both awards shows are a little more progressive. Twenty-four women have been nominated for Golden Globes in the best screenplay category, some for work they did alone, some as part of a team. This year alone will see three women competing for the award: Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird; Liz Hannah for The Post (shared with Josh Singer, who was brought on for rewrites); and Vanessa Taylor (shared with Guillermo del Toro) for The Shape of Water. Six women have won in the category, starting with Helen Deutch in 1953, for Lilli.
Pulling up the list for the Academy Awards, I was convinced I would find an opposite trend. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised. In the 1940s and '50s alone, 13 women were nominated for their role in crafting stellar original screenplays. Ruth Gordon, who would go on to win an Academy Award for best supporting actress for Rosemary's Baby in 1968, was nominated three times along with writing partner Garson Kanin during that time. In total, 16 women have taken the little gold man home.
Save for a nine-year-gap in the 1960s (a particularly macho movie era), and some sparse nominations in the late 90s and early aughts, women are usually represented once every two years, or so. But only one at a time. I can basically count on one hand the number of times I saw two women competing for the award in the same year, the last time being in 2015, when Meg Lefauve was nominated for Inside Out (shared with Josh Cooley, Ronnie del Carmen, and Peter Docter) and Andrea Berloff for Straight Outta Compton (shared with Jonathan Herman, S. Leigh Savidge, and Alan Wenkus). Incidentally, that was also the last year any women were nominated for best original screenplay — 2017 was a distinctly male race.
The reason for this slight bump in representation, I would venture, is because writing is often a group effort, of which the women in question are but one part. Directing, on the other hand, is a solo event. It requires acknowledging that we value the contributions and leadership of women as much as we do that of men.
Overall, however, my verdict is that both awards shows fall woefully short when it comes to gender representation. Hollywood is currently facing a reckoning when it comes to sexual harassment and assault in the industry. But at the root of that problem is a pervasive power imbalance, and until women are represented equally in positions with real decision-making power, nothing will change. The gender gap is real: In 2016, women made up only 7% of film directors on the top 250 films, a 2% decline from 2015.
Part of moving forward means that, as more and more women feel empowered and receive the support they need to take on leadership roles behind the camera, awards shows step up and recognise that achievement on equal footing with men. Who knows, maybe someday, we'll see a best director category where men are the minority — but as it stands, that still feels like a very distant, faraway dream. Like something you'd see in a movie.

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