Two weeks into the 2021 Golden Globes came a revealing article from the Los Angeles Times stating under good authority that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (organizers of the Globe) does not have a black journalist in its 87-member international voting body. The expose sparked major concerns in Hollywood – ranging from top studios, streaming platforms, reporters, actors and affiliate organizations.
Offering a quick response to the LA piece, a spokesperson from the HFPA issued a statement acknowledging the lack of diversity in its membership and assured reforms are in place to address the upsetting situation.
“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,” an HFPA spokesperson said.
At the back of a spontaneous social media response from Hollywood figures came a circulated image two days to the event calling attention to the HFPA’s lack of Black journalists on social media by the anti-workplace discrimination organization Times Up and its supporters, including Ava DuVernay, Gina Prince-Bythewood and Judd Apatow, which captioned “Hollywood Foreign Press Association: Not a single Black member out of 87. #TimesUpGlobes.”
Thirty minutes before the ceremony started, DuVernay who was tapped as an award presenter issued a statement on social media further detailing the draining consequences of such malfunctions to underrepresented industry players. She disclosed, ” To be clear, pressure applied to the Globes and its partners from now on isn’t about validation or shiny things from this particular group. The truth that’s not often discussed is that awards play a part in the economic reality of Black filmmakers, artists of color and women creators in this business. Unfortunately, these shiny things matter to those who finance, greenlight, produce, distribute and market our projects. Therefore, everyone must have balanced access and consideration so that the playing field can be more equitable for artists of all kinds, colors and cultures.”
Aside the appreciative number of industry practitioners, who had weighed in on the matter, Hollywood Guilds also chipped in on the growing conversation. SAG-AFTRA called on the HFPA to establish a more inclusive membership that truly reflects the extraordinary diversity and variety of the global media industry they purport to represent. The Directors Guild of America stated in a Facebook post, ” A cosmetic fix isn’t enough. When whole cultures are shut out of the conversation, their art and their voices are shut out as well.”
Despite the acknowledgement of fault by the HFPA, the night of the Golden Globes witnessed major backlash from show hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in their opening monologue.
“The HFPA is made up of around 90 international—no Black—journalists who attend movie junkets each year in search of a better life,” Fey chimed. “So, let’s see what these European weirdos nominated this year.”
She later added in the submission, “Inclusivity is important, and there are no black members of the Hollywood Foreign Press… you’ve gotta change that. So here’s to changing it.”
“Yes, looking forward to that change,” Poehler concluded.
Accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award (the highest honour at the Globe), Jane Fonda joined the rising chorus, prompting the HFPA on the need to embrace inclusivity so as to effect change in a one-sided system, “There’s a story we’ve been afraid to see and hear in ourselves in this industry. A story about which voices we respect and elevate and which we tune out, who’s at the table and who’s kept out of the rooms. So let’s all of us make an effort to expand that tent so that everyone rises and gets a chance to be seen and heard.”
Along the campaign for change speeches came onstage three HFPA members addressing the revelation, ”We recognize we have our own work to do,” said Helen Hoehne of Germany. “Just like in film and television, Black representation is vital. We must have Black journalists in our organization.”
Former HFPA president Meher Tatna of India agreed. “We must ensure everyone gets a seat at our table.”
“That means creating an environment where diversity is the norm, not an exception,” Turkish member Ali Sar concurred, without offering any more details about how or when the HFPA would do so. “Thank you.”
Soon after the virtual ceremony ended, Time’s Up released a counter statement to the HFPA address, stating the response was merely a ‘cosmetic’ commitment to change.
Tina Tchen, president of Time’s UP wrote, ”You must now address the systemic problems within your organization. The HFPA’s statements tonight and over the last several days indicate a fundamental lack of understanding of the depth of the problems at hand. Your stated version of change is cosmetic ― find Black people. That is not a solution.”
A similar letter was sent to NBCUniversal, host of the Globe broadcast prompting the company to step in the roaring demand for change that has the entire Hollywood talking. Both letters ended with ”The Globes are no longer golden” emphasizing the lack of diversity.
Amidst the deepening backlash, over 100 PR firms threatened the HFPA about their decision to withdraw from them unless major reforms are put in place to straighten the wrongs done to the industry. The HFPA promised to do the needful by May 6, but the assurance did not scrap the situation as expected.
NBC together with MRC, the owner of Globes production company Dick Clark Productions pressured the HFPA to expel Philip Berk, an eight-term past president from the membership for sending racist emails to his fellow members.
Prior to Berk’s exit, Dr Shaun Harper, a USC professor whom the HFPA hired March 9 to serve as its diversity and inclusion (D&I) adviser resigned from the HFPA after a few weeks of service. Within the six weeks of Harper’s employment, he suggested to the HFPA to include 13 new black members to total the full number at a 100. His recommendation however did not interest some members of the organization as well as DuVernay, Shonda Rhimes, representatives from both Time’s Up and PR Firms, whom he had met with at a meeting to discuss the possible solution.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, that meeting did not go well, with Harper being slammed for the proposal regarding 13 new Black members, and concluding that the scope of the problem is beyond what he originally understood it to be, which ultimately led to him resigning his post, as well.
Harper’s resignation letter detailed, ”Having now learned more about the Association’s deep systemic and reputational challenges, I no longer have confidence in our ability to collaboratively deliver the transformational change that the industry and the people in it whom I deeply respect are demanding of you. My serious, unwavering commitment to the racial and gender equity issues on which I work every day make it impossible for me to continue serving in a consulting capacity with the HFPA.”
Deadline confirms that, 75 of the insular HFPA’s 86 members voted for an inclusion and overhaul proposal the group’s board put forth at the beginning of last week.
Following the step up in a new direction, Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos penned a letter to the HFPA stating the streaming platform is taking a step back from the Golden Globes until the organization gets its act together, while applauding their effort.
“Today’s vote is an important first step,” Sarandos noted in Thursday’s letter to HFPA brass. “However, we don’t believe these proposed new policies — particularly around the size and speed of membership growth — will tackle the HFPA’s systemic diversity and inclusion challenges, or the lack of clear standards for how your members should operate. So we’re stopping any activities with your organization until more meaningful changes are made.”
“We know that you have many well-intentioned members who want real change — and that all of us have more work to do to create an equitable and inclusive industry,” Sarandos added in conclusion. “But Netflix and many of the talent and creators we work with cannot ignore the HFPA’s collective failure to address these crucial issues with urgency and rigor.”
Soon after Netflix’s self-expulsion, top studios such as Warner Bros., Amazon Studio and HBO also joined in on the boycott agenda. All indicating they will make a comeback once things are in their right order.
Joining the growing chorus of criticism is last year’s Globe nominee, Scarlett Johansson. The ‘Black Widow’ actress urged the industry to take a step back from the HFPA until more substantial reforms are put in place.
In a released statement to Variety on Saturday, Johansson shared that she shied away from HFPA press conferences due to “sexist questions and remarks,” and said that she believes the industry should distance itself from the organization unless further reforms are implemented.
The statement explained, “As an actor promoting a film, one is expected to participate in awards season by attending press conferences as well as awards shows. 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.”
Mark Ruffalo, who won a Golden Globe this year for his turn in ‘I Know This Much Is True’ also blasted the HFPA for its unappreciative structures and inability to bring order to their negligence.
Ruffalo shared, ”Honestly, as a recent winner of a Golden Globe, I cannot feel proud or happy about being a recipient of this award. It’s discouraging. To see the HFPA, which has gained prominence and profited handsomely from their involvement with filmmakers and actors, resist the change that is being asked of them from many of the groups that have been most disenfranchised by their culture of secrecy and exclusion.”
Adding his voice to the uproar, three-time Golden Globes winner Tom Cruise returned all three of his trophies back to the HFPA yesterday as a sign of protest over the slow crawl the organization is making to reform its lack of diversity.
NBC also announced that it will not air the 2022 Golden Globes.
“We continue to believe that the HFPA is committed to meaningful reform,” NBC said in a statement. “However, change of this magnitude takes time and work, and we feel strongly that the HFPA needs time to do it right. As such, NBC will not air the 2022 Golden Globes. Assuming the organization executes on its plan, we are hopeful we will be in a position to air the show in January 2023.”
The move by NBC has received massive applause from Hollywood and in this situation where much has not been done so far to help combat the damages, the HFPA is underway to a Hollywood expulsion if care is not taken.
Statements were sourced from The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and Deadline