The Golden Globes — previous banner raisers for Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Glee — love a shiny, pretty, buzzy new toy. A toy like, say, Netflix’s Bridgerton, Shonda Rhimes’ first series produced for the streamer. The soapy drama tells the love story of Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), a white socialite, and Simon Basset (Regé-Jean Page), a dashing Black duke, through the lens of a purposefully racially integrated Regency era London. Bridgerton inspired an entire TikTok musical. Modern buyers are looking for the series’ signature corsets and empire waist dresses more than ever. Netflix says the historical bodice-ripper is its most-watched series in history with 82 million viewers after a month on the platform.
Yet, Bridgerton was entirely shut out of the Golden Globes when the nominations were announced Wednesday morning. Some may say this decision by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which runs the Globes, is a mere snub — a foible that can be expected every year from every awards show. But the dismissal of Bridgerton is much more serious than a snub. It’s a reveal of who can tell what stories — and be rewarded for that work — in this year’s Golden Globe race.
Take The Great and Normal People, two series that first brought people together as we adjusted to life in COVID-19 lockdown, were respectively nominated for Best Musical or Comedy Television Series and Best Limited Series or TV Film. Netflix’s Emily In Paris, the mindless, escapist brain candy comedy that created fall TV’s silliest discourse, and The Queen’s Gambit, a limited series still making headlines almost four months after its debut, were also nominated in their respective TV categories.
At face value, these series bring to light the racist problem inherent to the 2020 Golden Globes’ TV categories. For the second year in a row, every television actress nominated for a Golden Globe is white. All of the aforementioned shows, save for snubbed Bridgerton, centre on the stories of white people. Israeli actress Shira Haas, of Unorthodox, and Ratched’s Cynthia Nixon bring a drop of religious diversity and queer representation to their respective races, but together these slates create yet another #GoldenGlobesSoWhite crisis. While Argentinian Queens Gambit star Anya Taylor-Joy identifies as Latinx, she is still a white Latinx woman. Golda Rosheuvel and Adjoa Andoh, who play Bridgerton’s very memeable Queen Charlotte and Lady Danbury, could have easily added a bit of racial diversity to the Best Supporting Actress contest.
However, 2020’s Golden Globes issues go beyond obvious foundational issues in acting categories. On the surface, it appears the nominations are a boon for “feminist” stories with complicated and interesting femme characters. Technically, this is true. The Great, Queen’s Gambit, The Flight Attendant, Emily in Paris, and Ratched are all unquestionably (and unapologetically) led by young women with a singular vision — whether that vision be international chess dominance or the desire to figure out who the heck murdered their one night stand. Nevertheless, these fictional ladies were not shaped by the minds of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed women like themselves. Instead, save for one-half of Ratched’s creative team, all of these series were created by white men between the ages of 45 and 60 (Ratched co-creator Evan Romansky is 30).
The drive to award women-led TV envisioned by men has been gaining traction for years. For proof, turn to the success of awards show darlings The Handmaid’s Tale, created by Bruce Miller, and Big Little Lies, from David E. Kelley (whose Thanksgiving weekend chatter-generator The Undoing is nominated this year). When a woman attempted to do her job and lead Big Little Lies season 2, chaos ensued.
For the average viewer — and voter — Bridgerton does not adhere to this proven sexist strategy for awards show dominance. The series was heavily promoted for its connection to hit-maker Shonda Rhimes, a Black woman. Headlines for the series read “Why Shonda Rhimes owns the bragging rights to Bridgerton” or “How Shonda Rhimes Found the Bridgerton Book Series Is So Funny.” Fan tweets were quick to laud Rhimes’ work, saying “Shonda was in heat when she made Bridgerton” and “I should have known that damn Shonda was behind Bridgerton, too. It was beautiful.” Brigderton appears to be a show about women made by a woman — and a Black woman no less (which, remember, the acting categories suggest may not be the HFPA’s preferred type of creative). Bridgerton has no Golden Globe nominations.
Fellow beloved 2020 series I May Destroy You and Insecure — which created as much conversation as, say, Emily In Paris, with exponentially more recognised quality — were similarly marketed on their connection to the individual powerful Black women behind them: Michaela Coel and Issa Rae. I May Destroy You and Insecure were also locked out of the Golden Globes.
Bridgerton differs from Destroy You and Insecure in a big way: It wasn’t actually created by a woman. Its creator is technically Chris Van Dusen, a white man. Van Dusen is often referred to as “showrunner” in headlines, rather than his own name. When you Google “Chris Van Dusen Bridgerton,” 289,000 results are available; 1,850,000 results populate for “Shonda Rhimes Bridgerton.” Netflix banked on Rhimes’ megawatt name for Bridgerton viewers and sidelined its actual creator. It’s difficult not to believe that smart strategy for eyeballs hasn’t dinged the series in the racist awards show race.
After all, Lovecraft Country essentially reversed the Bridgerton game plan and pulled out the sole 2020 Best Series nomination for a show with a Black-led cast. Lovecraft Country is created by Misha Green, a Black woman, yet promotion for the series was all about its relation to executive producer Jordan Peele, a man. J.J. Abrams’ involvement as a producer was also constantly publicised (See: “‘Lovecraft Country’ Trailer: Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams Unleash HBO’s Big Summer Series”). The promotional poster — which is what bombards viewers and voters through billboards and digital ads — had Peele’s name front and centre, not Green’s as Lovecraft’s creator.
To be a woman creative is to often have a thankless career. To be a Black woman creative is to ask yourself: “Do I want to give up my flowers now, or then?” Because, if the Golden Globes have a say, you’re going to miss them eventually.