The 2021 Golden Globes will certainly look different this year, with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosting the virtual ceremony on two coasts Sunday evening, but the event has been met with significant controversy before any awards have even been handed out.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) continues to face extensive criticism after an investigation published by the Los Angeles Times earlier this week reports that the HFPA regular issued "substantial payments" to its members. They collected about US$2 million in its fiscal year ending in June 2020 for serving on committees and performing other tasks.
The investigation also highlighted that the 87-person group of journalists does not include any Black members, which was later called out by director and Golden Globe nominee Ava DuVernay as a known deficit for years, while nothing has been done to rectify the issue.
"Reveals? As in, people are acting like this isn’t already widely known? For YEARS?" DuVernay's tweet reads.
When the nominees were announced, people questioned why movies featuring Black filmmakers, Black actors in leading roles and Black storytelling, including Regina King’s One Night in Miami, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods and Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah, were notably absent in the best motion picture category. Criticism escalated after Michaela Coel's I May Destroy You was missing from the nomination list entirely.
In a statement to the Los Angeles Times the HFPA said: "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."
"We are fully committed to ensuring our membership is reflective of the communities around the world who love film, TV and the artists inspiring and educating them."
In an op-ed published in The Guardian, Deborah Copaken, a writer for the Golden Globe nominated Netflix series Emily in Paris, acknowledged that I May Destroy You deserved to be recognized at the 2021 Golden Globes.
"I’m a writer on the show. I tried to avoid reading its criticism, but I don’t live under a rock. It never occurred to me that our show would be nominated," Copaken writes about the Emily in Paris nominations.
"Now, am I excited that Emily in Paris was nominated? Yes. Of course. I’ve never been remotely close to seeing a Golden Globe statue up close, let alone being nominated for one. But that excitement is now unfortunately tempered by my rage over Coel’s snub. That I May Destroy You did not get one Golden Globe nod is not only wrong, it’s what is wrong with everything."
A Los Angeles Times investigation revealed that in 2019, 30 members of the HFPA flew to France to visit the set of the Netflix series, which included a two-night stay at the Peninsula Paris hotel, where room rates are about US$1,400 a night. There was also a news conference and lunch held at the Musée des Arts Forains.
But the snubs, shut-outs and questionable choices don't stop there. Eyebrows were also raised when the film Minari, which tells the story of a Korean family who lives on a small farm in Arkansas, was included in the best foreign language picture category, because the dialogue is in Korean, as well as English.
Filmmaker Lulu Wang, who wrote and directed 2019's The Farewell, called out the decision by the HFPA and the "antiquated rules" around the Golden Globe categories.
Canadian actor and Kim's Convenience star Simu Liu also declared that Minari is fully an American movie.
Another curious choice is the two nominations for Sia's directorial debut with Music, which was instantly blasted for its portrayal of autistic people, starring Dance Moms alum Maddie Ziegler as the title character.
There is also an online petition with more than 124,400 signatures calling on the Golden Globes to rescind the film's nominations.
"We also call upon the entertainment industry to create a more inclusive workspace that will allow autistic people to become part of the industry," the petition reads.
"We are already seeing more inclusion of minorities, but disability inclusion is non-existent, which is deeply immoral and concerning. When representing autistic people, listen to actual autistic people, not just social workers, parents and [organizations]. We are the only ones who knows what is best for us and what it is like to be us."
While we wait and see if and how any of these controversies are addressed during the Golden Globes, whether by the event's hosts or award winners, significant questions remain about how the awards will operate moving forward.
The message is quite clear: People want to see concrete, constructive actions for more transparent and equitable awards, but will this be enough to see real change in the process?
Could we even see a boycott of the event by influential people in Hollywood? We'll see what happens on and after Sunday's ceremony.