It’s relatively par-for-the-course that people are cancelled these days. Celebrities — faves and non-faves — make a comment or decision that is controversial, offensive, or seriously out-of-touch, and people react; often swiftly, and often overwhelmingly, to let said person know that whatever comment or action is not OK. But rarely is there an awards show that’s canceled in the same way — that is until the 2022 Golden Globes.
In late 2021, the annual awards show — which kicks off awards season and is seen as an indicator for the Oscars — was embroiled in scandal. A Los Angeles Times article found the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the governing body for the Globes, had a serious diversity problem among its members — there were zero Black voting members. Another exposé, also from the LA Times, reignited longstanding conversations and questions about voting practices, and in May 2021, NBC announced they wouldn’t be airing the awards show in 2022, with the HFPA instead opting for a smaller fête at The Beverly Hilton Hotel.
Just over a year later and after many reported changes within the HFPA’s org, the Golden Globes are back on our screens on January 11 (AEDT), and it’s safe to say all eyes are going to be not only on the celebs strutting down the red carpet, but on the HFPA as a whole. Before we gear up for the big night, here’s everything you need to know about the Globes scandal, and where people stand on the awards show today. It’s still pretty complicated.
So, what happened with the Golden Globes?
In February 2021, the Los Angeles Times published an article documenting the lack of Black members within the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. As of 2021, the HFPA had no Black members and hadn’t had a Black member in almost 20 years. This is a big deal, because these then-87 members of the association vote on and present the awards. Meaning that, essentially, they’re deciding who and what wins at the Globes and possibly sway subsequent awards shows. (Despite being referred to as essentially the Oscar’s less-glam, kind-of-messy sister, consistently high ratings and viewership historically means it does hold a lot of weight in anticipating later awards outcomes). And this lack of diversity was highlighted by the 2021 nominations, which snubbed several Black-led Oscar contenders like I May Destroy You, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Judas and the Black Messiah.
During the February 2021 broadcast, president Helen Hoehne vowed to increase diversity within the HFPA, stating during the show: "We recognise we have our own work to do. Just like in film and television, Black representation is vital. We must have Black journalists in our organisation." But just over a month after announcing diversity initiatives, now former HFPA member Philip Berk criticised Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors in an email to fellow members, sharing an article that described BLM as a "racist hate movement.” So, not a great look.
In addition to the lack of racial diversity within the HFPA, the organisation has long been faced with questions around the ethics of members' voting practices. As Stacy Perman and Josh Rottenberg noted in another 2021 Times article about the HFPA, since at least 1995, HFPA members have "frequently been portrayed as celebrity obsessed freeloaders, exchanging votes for perks and undermining any notion of journalistic credibility." In 2011, the HFPA's longtime publicist Michael Russell filed a lawsuit alleging that members at that time accepted money, vacations, gifts and other perks from producers and studios "in exchange for support or votes in nominating or awarding a particular film." At the time, the HFPA countersued, saying the claims were "without a shred of evidence," and the suit was settled in 2013.
The HFPA's voting practices were once more under scrutiny by the public when critically panned Netflix series Emily In Paris received two nominations for the 2021 Golden Globes after 30 HFPA members were gifted a trip to France in 2019 by the show. While unclear whether or not the 30 members who took part in the trip — which accounted for over a third of the organisation at that point — impacted the series' nominations, it fuelled an ongoing conversation around the voting process, and called into question the credibility of the HFPA to make nomination decisions, according to Perman and Rottenberg. (Many people online, including Emily In Paris writer Deborah Copaken, were stunned that the show was nominated when acclaimed series like I May Destroy You, which deals with convos about race, class and the aftermath of sexual assault, were overlooked). The HFPA has not commented on these allegations.
In short, there was *a lot* going on. In response to the LA Times’ report, more than 100 public relation firms announced they would withdraw cooperation with the Globes, and actors like Tom Cruise and Scarlett Johansson announced they would be boycotting the event, with Top Gun’s Cruise going so far as to return his three Golden Globe trophies in protest of the HFPA. Ultimately, NBC made the decision to not stream the 2022 Golden Globes live.
Has the HFPA changed since then?
Since its massive downfall last year, the HFPA has made strides to change and to diversify their ranks. For one, they parted ways with former president Berk. Per a December 2022 press release, the organisation has added 103 international voters, making the total Golden Globe Awards voting body 52% female and 51.8% racially and ethnically diverse, with 19.6% Latinx, 12.1% Asian, 10.1% Black, and 10.1% Middle Eastern. Which is a lot of percentages and numbers that look promising, but it still remains to be seen if these numbers actually have an impact.
In response to criticisms around gifting, the HFPA has also announced a ban on gifts, saying members “shall not be permitted to accept promotional materials or other gifts from studios, publicists, actors, directors, or others associated with motion pictures and television programs.”
What does this mean for the 2023 Golden Globes?
They may be small changes, but for now they appear to be enough to at least get the 2023 ceremony back streaming live on our TV screens and laptops. The 2023 ceremony will be back live on NBC, hosted by Jerrod Carmichael on January 10.
How do people feel about the 2023 Golden Globes?
Feelings around the ceremony are still mixed. For many in the industry, it’s going to take more than just adding a few members of colour for one year to show significant change. As many within the industry have pointed out, several of the old players are still in positions of power, meaning that many of the old practices remain.
A lot remains to be seen, but seeing who wins at the ‘23 Globes will be a deciding factor. With phenomenal films like Everything Everywhere All At Once, actors like Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan nominated, and hit TV series like Abbott Elementary, which are all expected and deserving of wins. On the other hand, is James Camerons’ Avatar: The Way of Water, an epic that has some viewers epically mad, specifically for its white saviour narrative and stereotyping of Indigenous communities. It’s in the HFPA’s hands, and people may have a lot to say if the association fumbles the ball yet again; their decisions may reveal just how out-of-touch — or in-touch — they are.
Who’s going to be at the 2023 Golden Globes?
Despite the controversy, a lot of our fave actors and actresses are willingly to forgive and forget — or at least forget — the drama for now. This year’s ceremony is reported to be star-studded, with stars like Jamie Lee Curtis, Ana des Armas, Jenna Ortega, and Regina Hall set to make appearances.
One Hollywood star who won’t be attending is actor Brendan Fraser — and with good reason. The actor has alleged that he was sexually assaulted by Berk. (Yes, the same Berk who was expelled for *that* email. In a 2018 GQ profile, Fraser alleged that Berk groped him at a 2003 luncheon. Berk has denied the allegations). Fraser is nominated this year for his role in The Whale.
Refinery29 has reached out to the HFPA for comment. This story will be updated with any response.