But the difference between the Golden Globes and other big-hitting award shows, like the Academy Awards and the SAG Awards, is more significant than just a jovial mood. The Golden Globes is made distinct by the voting body that actually deems which movies and TV shows are the most excellent: the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA). Whereas the Academy Awards are chosen by professionals within the movie-making industry, like actors and directors, the Golden Globes are selected by journalists.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association consists of 90 journalists from 55 countries around the world. According to the HFPA website, the group's journalists have a combined readership of more than 250 million. They write for a range of global publications, from the Daily Telegraph in England and the China Times. To give you an idea of just how international this body is, take a look at its leadership. The organization's president, Meher Tatna, is from India; vice president Anke Hofman is from Germany; treasurer Ali Sar is from Russia; and executive secretary Janet Nepales is from the Philippines.
But who's actually in the group? In 2015, Vulture tracked down most of the members in the HFPA. They range from widely read journalists like Ramzi Malouki to people like Alena Prime of Tahiti, whose bylines are not available online.
In order to be considered eligible for a membership in this very exclusive group, a person must fulfill four requirements: They must work for a foreign publication but be based in Los Angeles; they must publish four articles in a foreign publication the year before the application is submitted (and provide proof of payment); and they must pay a $500 initiation fee.
As entertainment journalists, members of the HFPA interact with the movies and stars first as writers, and later as voters (some journalists in the HFPA like hanging out with talent). In a 2017 article for Variety, five HFPA members described their professional interactions with celebrities. Come voting season, the members transition into Voter Mode. They are able to vote across all categories, and the "majority rules" system is used to choose nominees and winners.
But the system isn't bullet proof. The HFPA has been criticized for letting celebrity and glamour sway its voting decisions. Essentially, celebrities and studios who cater to HFPA members are thought to be rewarded with nominations. Former HFPA president Phillip Berk said as much in his memoir: "Nicole Kidman but not her costar Dustin Hoffman did an interview for Billy Bathgate, and it paid off," Berk wrote. "[Kidman] was nominated; he was not."
Currently, the small but powerful group of 90 journalists exerts tremendous influence over awards season. Since the Golden Globes air only a few days before the nomination period for the Academy Awards closes, it's thought that the Golden Globes' results can sway last-minute Academy voters.
But back in 1943, when the organization was formed, it held no such power. The Hollywood Foreign Correspondents Association was founded in 1943 by 23 journalists looking to navigate the burgeoning studio system and connect Hollywood films with foreign audiences. In order to boost their group's publicity, the journalists launched the Golden Globes in January 1943 as an alternative to the Academy Awards. It was a simple luncheon held in the Fox backlot. Now, the Globes is a high-profile affair aired to approximately 250 million viewers in 125 countries.
Recently, the HFPA was in the news for a reason other than its major awards show. Former HFPA president Aida Takla O'Reilly came forward as the author of the strange Drew Barrymore profile published in EgyptAir's inflight magazine. Barrymore's reps told the HuffPost that the actress didn't participate in said interview, which was written in stilted sentences and contained awkward asides about Barrymore's weight and dating life, though Takla insisted the two had spoken. Ultimately, the HFPA issued a public apology and launched an investigation into the case.
"Based on our preliminary investigation, we understand that parts of the article in question were not written by Dr. Takla-O’Reilly and that other portions of the article may have come from other sources. We regret any distress caused to Ms. Barrymore by this article," the HFPA said in a statement published in Vanity Fair.
The HFPA is known for the Golden Globes, and now for a weird in-flight magazine snafu. But at its core, the HFPA is a non-profit organization. According to Vanity Fair, the organization donates much of its proceeds to schools, theaters, burgeoning filmmakers, and film preservation efforts. So, when you watch the Golden Globes, you can give yourself a small pat on the back. You're helping the arts.