The Golden Globes, the film and TV awards distributed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, aren’t worth covering. It doesn’t matter how deeply down the awards season rabbit hole you happen to be, how desperately devoted your Oscar parties are—they’re bad in every conceivable way and every time they’re covered, they maintain their power.
Instead of constantly posting new records of their nominations and winners, we’re going to dig into what the HFPA is, what its members ostensibly do and why the Golden Globes’ track record means that they should fade into obscurity rather than continue getting lucrative TV deals. The problems with the Globes are threefold: Shady HFPA membership with questionable credentials, a history of corruption and bribery, and a parasitic shock-jock relationship with the industry.
That’s putting aside Brendan Fraser’s claim that he was blacklisted because former HFPA president (and current member) Philip Berk groped him. That’s also putting aside the racist controversy that happened around 2020’s slate of films, when the HFPA decided that the American-made Minari wasn’t eligible for Best Picture categories and had to compete only in the Foreign Language category because it’s primarily in Korean.
Yes, those are already pretty major things to put aside, but in the latter case, the Oscars haven’t exactly had a spotless racism record. The difference is that the Oscars, as an extension of the industry organization The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, make initiatives and changes to both their voting body’s demographics and to the films they consider. How effective are they? Well, that’s worth its own piece. But at least those more prestigious awards have a share of people behind them that are cognizant of their own power in writing the canon of film in the public eye.
So, back to the Globes and why they’re bad. First is who the HFPA actually is. On its face, it’s 85 people living in southern California who write (or at least have written) for non-U.S. publications. Their application has changed since 2018, now requiring:
- Publication of at least 24 stories in the last three years.
- Evidence that these publications pay for these stories
- Sponsorship by two current HFPA members
- MPAA accreditation
It’s unclear if the organization is still requiring the $500 initiation fee. What is clear is that the HFPA is still incredibly insular and small. The Oscars’ Academy has 9,599 current voters, over 100 times more. But that’s not a huge problem on its face: Critics groups around the world are small, regional organizations of qualified individuals. “Qualified” is the sticking point here.
Since the HFPA is notoriously clandestine when it comes to who is actually in the organization, let’s focus on the three new members admitted to the HFPA in 2020: Yulia Charysheva, Sabrina Joshi and Danielle Kool. Charysheva is a marketing director for a film company. Joshi is the daughter of a longtime HFPA member. None of them—as far as I can tell—have published any film criticism, reviews or essays in the past year. Instead, their portfolios include rewritten press releases and softball interviews with questions like “Do you know how you’ll be celebrating this Valentine’s Day?” We won’t even touch on the eight stories/year number, which most professional film writers knock out—conservatively, of course—in a few months.
Then you’ve got the even weirder stragglers: Caroline Framke notes that HFPA members’ claims to fame span playing Gandhi on Star Trek: Voyager, not publishing anything at all or being “just plain curious,” as Russian bodybuilder/HFPA voter Alexander Nevsky explained. This seemingly random assortment of members without any real journalistic or critical rigor feeds into rampant, long-standing claims of a “culture of corruption” that prioritizes junkets (promotional tours that boil down to freebie trips where such interview softballs can be lobbed) and other general starfuckery.
Those are the 85 people that Hollywood has to impress. And impress them it does. The pay-to-win ethos of the Golden Globes has been an open secret—hell, it’s been a punchline—for years. Denzel Washington jokes about it (at 8:45 in the video) while accepting a lifetime achievement award:
Berk, that accused assaulter? He published a memoir in 2014 stating that the Globes weren’t dictated by quality, but by access. And that’s the former president of the organization talking. He took a leave of absence after the book came out, but now seems to be back in.
There’ve been a few egregiously bought-and-paid-for awards in the Globes’ history—like terrible actress Pia Zadora’s Best Actress award (after flying HFPA members to Vegas) or Sharon Stone’s too-obvious bribe of $400 watches to each HFPA member—but the general sense is that these random writers are in it to schmooze with the A-listers and get free stuff. Basically, everyone that harps on film critics for being “Disney shills” or some variation should really be leveling these claims at the HFPA. It’s an organization defined by autograph hounds and selfie-seekers.
And hey, if that behavior is for the personal benefit of a film fan—why not? But it’s not. It’s for a perennially aired awards show on NBC, which “was paying in the mid-$20 million a year” for the honor. The Globes get attention from media, industry members and audiences alike. They certainly help dictate what movies people (including Oscar voters) are watching and consider important. And why? Partially because the nominations of those 85 are so wildly strange (each member carries a lot more voting weight than a member of the Academy, not to mention all that corruption from earlier) that it’s become a bit of a running joke that people hate-watch (or hate-cover). What will they nominate, let alone choose as their winners? Let’s tune in and make our jokes and boost their numbers.
But it’s also because of lazy tradition propping up an organization that has no place holding such power. By not covering the Golden Globes, by not watching the nominees drunkenly pat each other on the back and mock the awards show’s unethical foundation to its face, we can slowly let it and its ilk die off. What’s left over won’t be an ideal system for recognizing the year’s best movies, but it certainly won’t nominate The Tourist for three Comedy awards.
Jacob Oller is Movies Editor at Paste Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @jacoboller.
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