For us mere mortals, January offers us the opportunity for a fresh start—a chance to start making coffee at home and force yourself into grossly overpriced yoga classes. For the Hollywood elite, however, the first month of the year marks the beginning of the coveted awards season—traditionally kicking off with the annual Golden Globes ceremony.
While it would be easy to throw a teensy stone and hit a myriad of award shows riddled with controversial pasts, the Golden Globe Awards truly take the cake when it comes to living up to the Tinseltown exclusivity complex. With the broadcast due to take place in less than 24 hours, we thought it’d be apt to delve into the chaos and corruption surrounding this once highly respected event.
Commencing in 1944, the Golden Globes have been host to a number of iconic memorable Hollywood moments. From Jodie Foster publicly announcing her sexuality in 2013 to Ricky Gervais single-handedly decimating celebrity ego, it’s been a wild ride.
However, as we know, with big power comes big scrutiny and sure enough when 2022 rolled around, the award show’s weakest link was finally put on blast. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) is a nonprofit body of journalists and photographers who report on the entertainment industry in bulk. Picture the stature and muscle power of FIFA, but instead of conducting corrupt practices concerning football, it focuses its attention on maintaining a highly controversial level of exclusivity within the TV and film industry.
The HFPA includes the primary proponents, organisers and leading voices of the annual Golden Globes. While the HFPA has been historically praised for its sizeable donations to media-based charities—using funds generated from the awards—it’s also been heavily criticised regarding a lack of diversity and unethical practices.
The initial allegations and investigations began to make the rounds in early 2021 when the Los Angeles Times released an exposé detailing a corrupt “cartel” work culture wherein the HFPA operated unethically and with a highly mighty white fist. The investigation also revealed that there were no black members among the 87 international journalists—who vote on the Globes—in the organisation.
While the body responded to this criticism and vowed to make important changes, it wasn’t long before another controversy plagued the association. Former president and member Philip Berk sent an email calling Black Lives Matter (BLM) a “racist hate movement.” After being condemned by NBC, Berk was expelled from the association, as reported by the New York Post.
Is anyone particularly surprised? If the Golden Globes were a Hinge profile, they’d be decked out with red flags. For one, it’s important to recognise that when certified problematic and cringe TV show Emily In Paris was nominated for two awards in 2019 but Michaela Cole’s critically acclaimed show I May Destroy You was conveniently skipped, it’s clear that the Golden Globe Awards has a problem. One of the aforementioned show’s own writers even wrote an opinion piece on how uncomfortable she felt with the Globes celebrating “a white American selling luxury whiteness” while Cole’s raw and gritty creation which tackled rape, race and identity was omitted.
Due to this, a number of celebrities denounced the event. Notably, Top Gun star Tom Cruise returned his three Golden Globes to the organisation, while fellow actors Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo also voiced their concerns with the association in its current form.
In order to try and swerve further criticism, the 2022 awards ceremony was not televised and instead took place privately—not suspicious at all.
Now, in regard to those who might skip this year’s revival of the awards, some celebrities have already made it abundantly clear that they’ll be sticking to their sofas.
Protagonist and nostalgic heartthrob Brendan Fraser—who’s been nominated for best actor for his performance in The Whale—is one such Hollywood alumni dodging the Golden Globes. According to the BBC, Fraser has said he will not attend this year’s event after accusing its former president of assaulting him.
In 2018, Fraser claimed that Philip Berk—the villain we met earlier—had groped his bottom in 2003. The Mummy star has previously said the incident “made me retreat” and “feel reclusive.” The HFPA found that Berk had “inappropriately touched” the actor but that it “was intended to be taken as a joke and not as a sexual advance.”
Another highly important point to acknowledge is the fact that zero female directors have been nominated for this year’s awards, as noted by The Hollywood Reporter. It’s clear that consistent and authentic equality and diversity are still a major issue for the HFPA.
Of course, as things go in Hollywood, it’s undeniable that a number of big hitters will once again grace the red carpet—seemingly set on prioritising critical acclaim above moral integrity. The likes of Ana de Armas, Daniel Craig and Jamie Lee Curtis are all set to descend on the event. So, tune in and let’s collectively watch the Hollywood chaos together.
Remember when the shitshow—pardon my French—that is Emily in Paris received not one but two Golden Globe nominations at the beginning of February? I know you do, and you’re most definitely still raging about the fact that Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You got zero. Even a writer on Emily in Paris said the latter deserved a Golden Globe nomination! At that time, we all wondered what the heck was wrong with the Golden Globe Awards. Well, we now have a worrying answer: corruption.
According to a report from The Los Angeles Times, over 30 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA, the voting body that determines the Golden Globe nominees) were flown to Paris by Paramount to visit the set of Emily in Paris. They stayed for two nights at the five-star Peninsula Paris hotel, where rooms cost around $1,400 a night. There was also a news conference and a lunch at the Musée des Arts Forains, a private museum where the series was being filmed.
“They treated us like kings and queens,” one member who participated in the trip said. While HFPA rules forbid members from accepting gifts valued at over $125 for each project, there are clearly workarounds that have been exploited. The Emily in Paris ‘experience’ being one, and the opportunity to take a selfie with an A-lister being another, corruption seems to run deep.
The Los Angeles Times first launched this investigation in wake of the lawsuit from Norwegian journalist Kjersti Flaa against the HFPA after being denied membership. Flaa accused the organisation of being a “culture of corruption” that operated like a cartel where members would receive “thousands of dollars in emoluments” from studios and networks while sticking to a “code of silence.” However, a judge ruled in favour of the HFPA, explaining that Flaa didn’t suffer economic or professional hardship as a result of her membership denial.
Following the judge’s dismissal, HFPA attorney Marvin Putnam of Latham & Watkins said that the group had been vindicated, calling the suit nothing more than “a transparent attempt to shake down the HFPA based on jealousy, not merit.”
Within the HFPA, however, Flaa’s suit had struck a nerve with some members who had hoped it might force the organisation to make, what they see as long-overdue, changes. “The dismissal was disappointing,” said one current HFPA member, who like many quoted in the Los Angeles Times article declined to be identified out of fear of retaliation from others in the group. “I thought it would shake things up. We are an archaic organisation. I still think the HFPA needs outside pressure to change,” they added.
The investigation further found that the HFPA regularly sends out payments to its members, a practice that experts believe could go against IRS guidelines. Individuals have reportedly received nearly $2 million for serving on various committees and performing other tasks.
Over its nearly eight-decade history, the HFPA has been the centre of a string of embarrassing scandals, lawsuits and often blistering criticism of its membership. The group has been the butt of jokes even from the stage of its own awards show. Hosting in 2016, Ricky Gervais dismissed the Golden Globe Awards as “worthless,” calling the ceremony “a bit of metal that some nice old confused journalists wanted to give you in person so they could meet you and have a selfie with you.” In a 2014 interview, actor Gary Oldman said the group was “90 nobodies having a wank” and called for a boycott of the “silly game” their awards represent.
In the run-up to the 78th Golden Globe Awards ceremony planned to run on 28 February, questions persist around the association’s legitimacy, the qualifications of its members and its ethics. “Interviews with more than 50 people — including studio publicists, entertainment executives and seven current and former members — as well as court filings and internal financial documents and communications, paint a picture of an embattled organization still struggling to shake its reputation as a group whose awards or nominations can be influenced with expensive junkets and publicity swag,” writes The Los Angeles Times.
The HFPA has faced further criticism for this year’s nominations, which did not include several Black-led Oscar contenders such as Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Judas and the Black Messiah and I May Destroy You. Several other picks bewildered critics, including a best motion picture nod in the comedy or musical category for pop star Sia’s widely criticised directorial debut Music.
“We do not control the individual votes of our members…we seek to build cultural understanding through film and TV and recognise how the power of creative storytelling can educate people around the world to issues of race, representation, and orientation,” an HFPA spokesperson said in a statement.