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Will The Golden Globes Survive Their Latest Controversy?

May 15, 2021 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Golden Globes

“Right now, our only focus is implementing the comprehensive plan for reform that we overwhelmingly voted in favor of last week.” –HFPA president Ali Sar, in a statement.  

A powerful and fast moving storm has come through Hollywood and the Golden Globes are in trouble, specifically the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the members that give them out. 

NBC recently announced that they won’t televise the show in 2022 in protest, and actor Tom Cruise reportedly has sent back three of his awards. Netflix, Amazon Studios, and WarnerMedia have refused to work with the HFPA until changes are made. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

Scarlett Johansson has been speaking out and in a statement to Variety she said that for years, she refused to participate in the group’s news conferences because, “In the past, this has often meant facing sexist questions and remarks by certain HFPA members that bordered on sexual harassment.”

Mark Ruffalo has said he didn’t feel proud of winning Golden Globes. “It’s discouraging to see the HFPA, which has gained prominence and profited handsomely from their involvement with filmmakers and actors, resist the change that is being asked of them from many of the groups that have been most disenfranchised by their culture of secrecy and exclusion,” he said in a statement to Deadline.

So what’s going on and what’s the problem?

For years the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has held attention in their own bubble of journalists and photographers. It’s been around since 1943 and has members from more than 50 countries…but it should be noted that active members must live in Southern California. Things have appeared to be fine for years but recently the Association has been getting more and more bad press. 

Back in February, the Los Angeles Times published a story about group and revealed some glaring problems.  
The Association has 87 critics and according to the report, none of those voting members are black. 
Then we have their former president, Philip Berk, being expelled from the HFPA for sharing with group members an article that described Black Lives Matter as a “racist hate group”, which he said he “forwarded it as a point of information.”

Berk was president of the group for eight years and a member for 44 years. Oh, and he was the one actor Brendan Fraser said groped him in 2003.

Then we have the Emily in Paris situation. Back in 2019, 30 members were flown to France for a luxury trip to the set of the Netflix show. (Not so) Surprisingly, Emily in Paris received two Golden Globes nominations. 

One of the Emily in Paris writers said “it never occurred to me that our show would be nominated.” In that same interview, the writer pointed out that the Golden Globes snubbed the highly acclaimed I May Destroy You.

Besides fancy trips, the LA Times reported that the HFPA, a tax-exempt nonprofit, pays its members in ways that could violate IRS guidelines. “HFPA members collected nearly $2 million in payments from the group in its fiscal year ending in June 2020 for serving on various committees and performing other tasks — more than double the level three years earlier,” the article says.

The Times wrote that “by the end of 2020, the association was collectively paying nearly $100,000 a month to members serving on more than a dozen different committees.” The film and television academies, the groups running the Oscars and Emmys, don’t pay their members to serve on committees, the report said.

In response to the backlash, the Association announced plans for change like adding more members with a focus on diversity; adding new administrative positions, including a chief diversity and inclusion officer; adding an oversight board; and restricting gifts.

They voted but it was too little too late. Under pressure from all sides, the group has promised to make serious change by early August. 

But has the damage been done? The type of change people are calling for is sweeping, and an organization set in its ways will have trouble enacting the reform. 

Then we have the usual crowd who feel award shows should be done away altogether. That they serve no purpose other than to appease the egos of Hollywood. 

But this does have the potential to be something good. Maybe the Association can overcome its past and set a new bar for Hollywood. Stranger things have happened.  

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Golden Globes, Steve Gustafson