'Defining moment for Hollywood': Reactions to sexist, racist, corrupt HFPA leading to cancellation of Golden Globes

·8 min read

The TIME’S UP Foundation is calling this a "defining moment for Hollywood" as NBC announced Monday that it will not air the 2022 Golden Globe Awards, following criticism of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA).

"We have the opportunity to recognize that, by speaking up against one powerful but deeply flawed awards system, we can begin to reimagine a more equitable industry," a statement from Tina Tchen, president and CEO of TIME’S UP Foundation, reads.

"But this moment is about more than Hollywood. It is about the courage it takes to confront all of the problematic systems that are right in front of us — in every industry and institution and across society. Because that is what it will take to truly uproot racism, sexism, and homophobia and build safer, more equitable workplaces for everyone."

Why are networks, streaming services, actors pushing back against the Hollywood Foreign Press Association?

Before the Golden Globes earlier this year, the HFPA faced extensive criticism following an investigation published by the Los Angeles Times that revealed the 87-person group of journalists does not include any Black members. This was also notably called out by director and Golden Globe nominee Ava DuVernay as a known problem for years.

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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."

The investigation also revealed that the HFPA regular issued "substantial payments" to its members and collected about US$2 million in its fiscal year ending in June 2020 for serving on committees, and performing other tasks. It also found that in 2019, 30 members of the HFPA flew to France to visit the set of the Netflix series Emily in Paris, which included a two-night stay at the Peninsula Paris hotel, where room rates are about US$1,400 a night.

In March, a letter from a group of publicists warned that clients will not work with the organization until serious changes are made in the HFPA.

"We call on the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to swiftly manifest profound and lasting change to eradicate the longstanding exclusionary ethos and pervasive practice of discriminatory behavior, unprofessionalism, ethical impropriety and alleged financial corruption endemic to the HFPA, funded by Dick Clark Productions, MRC, NBCUniversal and Comcast," the letter reads.

"To reflect how urgent and necessary we feel this work is, we cannot advocate for our clients to participate in HFPA events or interviews as we await your explicit plans and timeline for transformational change."

The issues do not stop there. In a 2018 profile in GQ, actor Brendan Fraser claimed that former HFPA president Philip Berk groped him in 2003 and an investigation was launched.

"Although it was concluded that Mr. Berk inappropriately touched Mr. Fraser, the evidence supports that it was intended to be taken as a joke and not as a sexual advance," a proposed joint statement, which Fraser declined to sign reads, according to the story in GQ.

Fraser also claimed the association did not share the full results of their investigation with him. 

In April of 2021, Deadline reported that Berk sent an email that said Black Lives Matter is a "racist hate movement."

"Since its inception, the HFPA has dedicated itself to bridging cultural connections and creating further understanding of different backgrounds through film and TV," a statement from the HFPA reads. "The views expressed in the article circulated by Mr. Berk are those of the author of the article and do not — in any way shape or form – reflect the views and values of the HFPA."

Berk has since been expelled from the group.

On May 6, the HFPA approved new reforms after being called out for systemic problems of racism and corruption, including increasing membership by 50 per cent in an 18 month period, with a particular focus on recruiting Black members. But these reforms were not fully supported by key interest groups.

"The HFPA’s list of recommendations largely contains no specifics, no commitments to real accountability or change, and no real timeline to implement these changes," a statement from Tchen reads.

"The HFPA’s proposed September 1 deadline for some — but not all — reforms comes well after the next awards cycle will have started. And even its proposal to increase membership by 50% comes with no commitments that the decisions to admit new members will be made in an equitable and inclusive manner with full transparency and oversight."

Following all these controversies, WarnerMedia, Netflix and Amazon Studios have indicated they will not participate in HFPA events, citing that the association's reforms do not go far enough to addresses its issues.

On Monday, the HFPA released a timeline for implementing "transformational changes" within the organization, which includes the approval of a new Code of conduct and several recruiting efforts.

How are people responding to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association boycott?

On Monday, it was reported that actor Tom Cruise has returned the three Golden Globe awards he received for Jerry Maguire, Born on the Fourth of July and Magnolia.

In a statement to Variety, Scarlett Johansson indicated she supports the entertainment industry stepping back from the HFPA, also calling out "sexist questions and remarks" from members of the association.

"As an actor promoting a film, one is expected to participate in awards season by attending press conferences as well as awards shows," her statement reads. "In the past, this has often meant facing sexist questions and remarks by certain HFPA members that bordered on sexual harassment."

"It is the exact reason why I, for many years, refused to participate in their conferences. The HFPA is an organization that was legitimized by the likes of Harvey Weinstein to amass momentum for Academy recognition and the industry followed suit. Unless there is necessary fundamental reform within the organization, I believe it is time that we take a step back from the HFPA and focus on the importance and strength of unity within our unions and the industry as a whole."

Other celebrities have also shared public support for the HFPA boycott:

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Additional individuals have also taken to social media to respond, comment and react to the latest moves against the HFPA.

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