On Friday, former HFPA president Meher Tatna admitted to Variety that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, doesn’t count a single Black member, and has not since 2002 — nearly two decades ago. (For an infuriating breakdown of the makeup of the HFPA, as well as a look into their nomination practices, check out this Los Angeles Times investigation.) This egregious and systemic exclusion of Black voices in the 87-person organization responsible for nominating and crowning the winners of the Golden Globes is reflected in this year’s controversial nominations. Eight of the acting categories featured only white actors, and critically acclaimed works like Michaela Cole’s I May Destroy You and Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods were snubbed. While the HFPA has long been loosely acknowledged as out of touch, things hit a boiling point over the weekend as celebrities took to social media to call out the HFPA’s lack of diversity, using #TimesUpGlobes.
“I support and congratulate all the nominees, but the HFPA needs to change in meaningful ways,” Olivia Wilde tweeted along with a picture of a cracked Golden Globe award. “Cosmetic fixes are not enough.”
"Hollywood Foreign Press Association: Not a Single Black Member Out of 87," Chris Hemsworth shared on his Instagram.
“The complete exclusion of Black women and Black people in general from the entire membership of the HFPA which votes for The Golden Globes is unacceptable,” Amber Tamblyn wrote in a lengthy Instagram caption. “We call on one of our country’s biggest and brightest award show ceremonies to ensure the future of the Golden Globes’ leadership represents the content, culture, and creative work of women of ALL kinds, not just white women, and of Black voices in general, both as nominees and as members instrumental in the nominating process. A cosmetic fix just isn’t enough. The world is watching.”
Amy Schumer, Rashida Jones, Ellen Barkin, Judd Apatow, America Ferrera, Mark Duplass, Courtney Kemp, Tom Verica, Busy Phillips, Laura Dern, Jurnee Smollett, and Dakota Johnson are also among those who have lent their voices to criticize the lack of Black members. SAG-AFTRA, the guild representing many of Hollywood’s most famous actors, issued a statement encouraging the HFPA to do better.
“SAG-AFTRA is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow creative industry guilds and unions, industry allies and all inclusion advocates in calling on the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to establish a more inclusive membership that truly reflects the extraordinary diversity and variety of the global media industry they purport to represent,” the statement read.
Without inclusive membership, they miss the opportunity to truly honor creativity and excellence among a vast and dynamic global industry of talented storytellers and stories. It's a big, diverse world and if the HFPA is to remain relevant in today’s media environment, it must fully embrace inclusion among its membership and across its operations.”
But as Ava DuVernay — listed as a presenter at Sunday’s virtual awards show — has pointed out repeatedly, Black creators have been raising the alarm on this problem for years now. On Friday, the director quote tweeted a thread that Jada Pinkett Smith had posted way back in 2017, when both Girl’s Trip and Tiffany Haddish were snubbed by the HFPA.
“I'm not upset about @TiffanyHaddish or @GirlsTripMovie not getting a nom... I'm discouraged about the fact that the Hollywood Foreign Press/@goldenglobes wouldn't even WATCH the movie,” Pinkett Smith tweeted at the time.
She continued: “Girls Trip was one of the most successful films this summer & Tiff was hands down the funniest person on screen in 2017 and we couldn't get eyes on the film or a press conference. How could a nom happen & how much more critical acclaim must a movie have to simply get a screening? But yet... Tiff has been asked to present at their ceremony. This isn't about shaming, this is about the need for discussion of an antiquated system.”
Haddish will be presenting at tonight’s ceremony, along with DuVernay, Anthony Anderson, Cynthia Erivo, Tracy Morgan and Susan Kelechi Watson are all slated to present. So is Golden Globe-winner and two-time nominee Sterling K. Brown, who explained his decision to present tonight in a lengthy statement.
“To be nominated for a Golden Globe is a tremendous honor. To win one is a dream come true. It can affect the trajectory of an individual’s career…it certainly has with mine,” he wrote on Instagram.
“I’m presenting at the telecast this weekend to honor all the storytellers, especially those of color, who have achieved this extraordinary moment in their careers…AND I have my criticisms of the #HFPA. 87 people wield a tremendous amount of power. For any governing body of a current Hollywood award show to have such a lack of voting representation illustrates a level of irresponsibility that should not be ignored.”
But visibility as a presenter remains a far cry from being rewarded for one’s work. Black creators and actors in Hollywood have long borne the burden of speaking up against injustice. So, where has the rest of Hollywood been this whole time?
Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo addressed the need for white Hollywood to step up in an open letter to her colleagues, calling on them to “to pull up, show up and get this issue resolved.”
“This is a very solvable problem,” she wrote. “This is Hollywood, we are master problem solvers. There is a solution here and I have faith we can find it, “What we can not do…is leave this problem up to the black community and all our communities of color to fix. This is not their problem, it’s ours.”
Pompeo added: “I would kindly ask all my white colleagues, an industry that we love and has granted us enormous privilege…. to pull up, show up and get this issue resolved. Let’s show our black colleagues that we care and are willing to do the work to right the wrongs we have created. Now is not the time to be silent. We have a real action item here let’s get it done.”
Still, while posting messages of support from the sidelines is a good start, it requires very little personal risk. A more direct way to advocate for change would be for a white nominee to use their platform to speak out in support of those who can’t. But so far... crickets. In fact, it speaks volumes that Viola Davis, nominated for Best Actress Drama for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, is the only nominee to have shared any kind of message.
“Telling the world you’re trying is not doing,” she posted on Instagram, quoting author Shannon L. Adler. “The journey of a Black artist is littered with obstacles in creating, developing and being acknowledged for our work. If we continue to keep silent, the younger generation of artists will have the exact same load to carry. No more excuses.”
Ahead of the show, the HFPA released a statement acknowledging the criticism and noting their desire to change: “We understand that we need to bring in Black members, as well as members from other underrepresented backgrounds, and we will immediately work to implement an action plan to achieve these goals as soon as possible.”
During the ceremony, which kicked off with Poehler and Fey making jokes about the controversy, three members of the HFPA took to the stage to make statements on behalf of the organization.
"We recognize we have our own work to do. Just like in film and television, Black representation is vital. We must have Black journalists in our organization," HFPA Vice President Helen Hoehne said.
"We must also ensure that everyone from all underrepresented communities gets a seat at our table, and we are going to make that happen," HFPA Board Chair Meher Tatna added
"That means creating an environment where diverse membership is the norm, not the exception. Thank you and we look forward to a more inclusive future," HFPA President Ali Sar concluded
Tonight is a good place to start — and still about 20 years too late.