2021 Golden Globes were more controversial than glamorous

After Hollywood decided to push back the 2021 awards season to accommodate delayed releases due to COVID-19, it finally began last week with the broadcast of the 78th Golden Globe Awards. The Globes, long associated with bizarre nominations and even more bizarre winners, did their best to recreate the same glamorous vibes over two cities—New York City and Beverly Hills—while hosting their presenters and nominees through Zoom calls. 

In some ways, the attempt at a virtual awards show was successful: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler returned for their fourth year as hosts, and celebrities casually interacted with each other—albeit in what appeared to be Zoom breakout rooms. There were several unexpected winners throughout the night, such as Jodie Foster (The Mauritanian) for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture and Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday) for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama.

The virtual ceremony, however, was filled with technical inconsistencies and awkwardness. While the show’s opening monologue was lively and fun, the physical distance between Fey and Poehler, who hosted from New York City and Los Angeles respectively, hindered their electric comedic timing and chemistry. The first winner of the night, Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah) for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, was accidentally muted while he began his acceptance speech. As Laura Dern awkwardly offered congratulations while shifting to the next segment, Kaluuya’s audio cut back into the broadcast midway through her speech.

Equally awkward, the show often had nominees conversing in small groups just before cutting to commercial breaks. Most groups sat in confusion and stared at each other, with some actors trying to start conversation to varying degrees of success. While the Best Actress in a Television Show nominees charmed viewers when gushing over the pets of Sarah Paulson (Ratched) and Emma Corin (The Crown), most of the night’s bits ultimately felt like a sad and uncomfortable reminder of our next Zoom meetings. Additionally, some of the glamour of the show suffered with some of the attendees’ wardrobe, with Jason Sudeikis (Ted Lasso) accepting his award in a tie-dye hoodie

To add insult to injury, the clumsiness of the broadcast was overshadowed by the recent controversies surrounding the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the organization that produces the Golden Globes. A recent investigation from the Los Angeles Times revealed a lack of representation amongst the HFPA’s voting body, as none of their 87 members are Black, which led to many celebrities on social media demanding more transparency and diversity from the organization. The HFPA has also been accused for many years of accepting bribes as well as nominating and awarding individuals and films based on the amount of schmaltzing and wooing rather than the quality of the work. 

In light of the recent coverage of their indiscretions, the HFPA attempted to do some damage control during the show, with several senior members of the organization making statements about rectifying their failures in diversity and membership issues. Ultimately, cramming accountability and self-promotion into a two-hour window did not work. It came off as disingenuous for the HFPA to try to call themselves out on-air and for winners to call for change all whilst participating in and upholding that same organization. 

With many questioning if awards shows hold any value at all, it feels tedious to hold onto the HFPA’s mostly inconsequential voting body when there are other, more prestigious—though equally problematic—broadcasts to put stock into, such as the Academy Awards. Although the HFPA hoped that the 2021 show would demonstrate its value, it ended up furthering the narrative for its potential obsolescence. 

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