When “Minari,” directed by University of Utah grad Lee Isaac Chung, won a Golden Globe on Feb. 28, it was one of the highlights of the night — because Chung’s 7-year-old daughter hugged him tight and exclaimed, “I prayed! I prayed!” It was a spontaneous, utterly charming and heartfelt moment.
If only it had been for something other than a completely compromised Golden Globe.
By far the least legitimate of the, ahem, “major” awards, the Golden Globes might finally be facing a reckoning. Not because of significant ethical lapses within the organization that sponsors them, but because of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s lack of diversity and allegations of behavior “bordering on” sexual harassment.
NBC has announced it won’t air the Golden Globes in 2022, but don’t start applauding that network. NBC has long ignored the myriad problems within the HFPA and, in fact, enabled the organization by pumping millions of dollars into it.
Here are the facts. There are fewer than 90 members of the HFPA, and many of them have suspect or scant credentials as journalists. Members’ ethics are similarly suspect — just this year, the lightly regarded “Emily in Paris” was nominated as best TV comedy after producers flew more than 30 HFPA members to Paris and put them up for two nights in $1,400-a-night hotel rooms.
The HFPA’s process for becoming a member is unclear, and it rarely adds them. It has acknowledged many members are paid by the organization out of the millions it gets from NBC — money I suspect they don’t want to share. And the “work” the members do for HFPA is questionable at best.
The HFPA has not had a single Black member in at least two decades. Which could also help explain how “Emily in Paris,” which centers on a white woman, got nominated and an acclaimed comedy like “I May Destroy You,” which centers on a Black woman, did not.
Now, Amazon and Netflix are now boycotting the HFPA. Scarlet Johansson called the organization out for “sexist questions and remarks by certain HFPA members that bordered on sexual harassment.” Tom Cruise returned his three Golden Globes. JJ Abrams, Jennifer Aniston, Damon Lindelof, Ellen Pompeo, Shonda Rhimes, Mark Ruffalo and Kerry Washington, among others, have come out against the HFPA, as have GLAAD, the Director’s Guild and SAG-AFTRA (the union that represents actors and crew).
More than 100 publicity firms that represent most of Hollywood’s big (and not-so-big) stars are advising their clients to avoid the Golden Globes and the HFPA unless it undergoes “transformational change.”
In response, the HFPA has vowed to add Black members, but a variety of organizations — including GLAAD and Time’s Up — have said the proposed reforms are just window dressing. NBC said it won’t air the Golden Globes in 2022 because “the HFPA needs time to do it right.”
But I’ve also seen firsthand a string of NBC executives repeatedly deflect questions about the problems within the HFPA, or simply deliver demonstrably false answers.
I’ve been a member of the Television Critics Association for more than 30 years — I was a board member, treasurer, vice president and president — and I can tell you that, unlike the HFPA, TCA membership has changed radically in that time. When I first began attending TCA press tours in 1990, the room was primarily filled with straight, white, middle-aged (or older) men — some of whom brought their wives along to press events. (Insert eye roll here.)
It’s not like the TCA went out and recruited female, Black, Asian, Hispanic and gay members. The outlets that cover TV started hiring a more diverse group of writers, who became TCA members by virtue of their positions.
I am not telling you that the TCA has no issues of race, gender and sexual identity that need to be addressed. But the complete lack of Black members in the HFPA can’t be a coincidence.
The TCA has debated and rejected the idea of televising our annual awards. We could make a lot of money, but a large majority of the membership rejected proposals to put the TCA Awards on TV because, ethically, going into business with the people you cover is beyond questionable. And, as we’ve seen with the HFPA, money corrupts.
In the grand scheme of things, Hollywood awards aren’t important. If NBC and the HFPA want to be honest about the Golden Globes — that they’re arguably less legitimate than the MTV Movie & TV Awards — fine.
But lying about how the Globes work — or, at least, hiding the truth — has legitimized the illegitimate. And the Golden Globes actually do matter in that they’re used to get people to buy movie tickets and watch TV shows. And, arguably, they have an effect on the Oscars, which is a much bigger advertising ploy for films.
Personally, I’ve always found it hard to listen to the same stars who consistently express their contempt for the press suddenly express their love and gratitude to the HFPA.
The HFPA needs to be torn down and rebuilt from the ground up. NBC needs to hold the Golden Globes to an immeasurably higher standard.
The awards have been unfair to the viewers, unfair to the entertainment industry, and even unfair to winners like Chung and his young daughter.