Candidness provides a breath of fresh air to Golden Globes’ on-air return

Jan. 17, 2023, 9:58 p.m.

During a night that is typically best described as a contrived self-aggrandizement among Hollywood elites, last week’s Golden Globes awards set a different tone.

The awards spent a year off the air due to a slew of controversies surrounding the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the organization that presents the awards, as the most notable controversy being the complete absence of Black members in its voting ranks. Last Tuesday, the Golden Globes returned on-air to NBC after HFPA made a series of changes to address these controversies. 

Despite HFPA’s best efforts to rectify and move on from its past, the night had to contend with the giant elephant in the room. While previous hosts have generally shied away from mentioning HFPA’s controversial past, comedian and host Jerrod Carmichael wasted no time dancing around the issues.

“I’ll tell you why I’m here. I’m here cause I’m Black,” he said.

Throughout his monologue, Carmichael targeted the HFPA with his jokes, saying that he was “invited to be a Black face in an embattled white organization.” He also quipped that he is “unfireable” since they have not had a Black host in 79 years.

Despite its different tone, this year’s Golden Globes will likely not be consequential in any noteworthy manner. The public’s increasing disinterest in awards shows continued, as demonstrated by ratings dropping to a 15-year low. 

One night of awards will also do little to salvage HFPA’s stained reputation. Controversy was never about the awards themselves, but rather the structural issues that are embedded in the organization. Bribery, sexual harassment and racism have been present for decades, and it took investigative reporting along with immense public pressure for HFPA to commit to the needed structural changes. Just as their issues were decades in the making, only time will tell if HFPA is genuinely committed to the changes that they need in order to rectify their past. 

Furthermore, the unusually candid tone that was seen in this year’s Golden Globes is almost certainly transitory. The nature of this year’s Golden Globes certainly occurred due to a combination of unique circumstances: the HFPA’s controversial past, an unabashed host and memorable recipients who broke past the usual, performative veneer of the entertainment industry and revealed a rarely seen, personal side. Thus, it is unlikely that the upcoming Oscars or next year’s rendition of the Golden Globes will contain the same potency. 

After Carmichael’s hard-hitting opening monologue kicked off the night, the evening produced notable wins for underrepresented artists of color. 

Ke Huy Quan, who plays Waymond Wang in the film “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” became the first Asian actor in nearly 40 years to win best supporting actor in a musical/comedy motion picture. During his acceptance speech, Quan became visibly emotional as he confessed to the crowd of his decades-long fear that he would never be able to surpass the heights he reached when he was a kid. In doing so, the personal story of his struggles illustrated the lack of opportunity that Asian actors have in Hollywood. 

Another highlight of the night was Michelle Yeoh, who won best actress in musical/comedy motion picture for her role as Evelyn Wang in the same film. In her speech, Yeoh recounted the struggles she has had throughout her career as an immigrant and a woman of color, describing painful details of an industry where people define her as just a “minority,” skeptical if she could even speak English. 

She also revealed her struggle with ageism in Hollywood: “I turned 60 last year, and I think all of you women understand this, as the days, the years and the numbers get bigger, it seems like opportunity gets smaller as well.” Yeoh’s account is not merely anecdotal: USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that only 3% of the top movies in 2019 starred a woman over 45 as a lead or a co-lead. 

Furthermore, after winning best director for his semi-autobiographical film “The Fabelmans,” Spielberg continued the candid tone of the night. During his speech, he revealed how he struggled making this film as he had to confront painful aspects of his past, including anti-semitism and his parents’ divorce. Spielberg ended his speech with a memorable line, reminding everyone that “nobody really knows who we are until we’re courageous enough to tell everyone.”

Whether it was to call out the HFPA or to reveal the personal struggles of their lives, the candid nature of the host and heartfelt and honest remarks of the award recipients gave the evening an unusual amount of veracity and authenticity that was more or less absent in the past. 

The beauty of films and TV series lies in their ability to transport us into a world beyond our own. For the duration of the film or a show, we are somewhere else. We become someone else as we are immersed in the world that the actors and filmmakers create. 

For an evening, however, remarks of the individuals on stage felt more resonant than any lines that they could have said on-screen or have written. As the recipients revealed the personal struggles that they have endured throughout their lives, their remarks were a window in which they revealed their deepest scars and most personal struggles and laid it out in front of us. Consequently, they felt like they were truly part of us. They felt real.

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.

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