Even as a card-carrying awards show curmudgeon — got my membership badge and everything — I have to admit there are moments when even the silliest of them serve a useful purpose. The Golden Globes, a flotilla of quickly forgotten trophies handed out by a group of fewer than a hundred nobodies not even most of the winners could name, are a joke, but for a few minutes last night, they were actually, much as it pains me to admit this, important.
The back-to-back wins by “Jane the Virgin’s” Gina Rodriguez (for best actress in a TV musical or comedy) and “Transparent” (for best musical or comedy TV show) felt like a genuine pop-cultural moment, a changing of the (old) guard. It’s possible to chalk their awards, along with Tambor’s for best actor in a TV comedy or musical, to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s well-established penchant for recognizing the new above all else: See “The Affair’s” by-all-accounts bewildering triumph over “Game of Thrones” and “The Good Wife” in TV drama. (I haven’t watched “The Affair,” and so don’t know if Ruth Wilson deserved her best actress prize, but as far as I’m concerned, Ruth Wilson should get an award just for being Ruth Wilson.) But regardless of how and why they won, Rodriguez and the “Transparent” crew used the global platform afforded by their turn at the podium to great and significant.
Rodriguez, who along with “Downtown Abbey’s” Joanne Froggatt was one of only two winners from a broadcast TV show — the four major networks took home a grand total of zero, and even mighty HBO had to make do with a measly supporting actor for “The Normal Heart’s” Matt Bomer — cast her win as the culmination of a lifelong dream, not just for her, but for “a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes.”
“Transparent” creator Jill Soloway, taking the stage a few minutes later, dedicated her award to two heartbreakingly different figures: Transgender teen Leelah Alcorn, who recently took her own life and left behind a suicide note blaming her fundamentalist Christian parents for pushing her towards the act; and Soloway’s own “Moppa,” on whom Tambor’s Maura Pfefferman is based. “I just want to thank you for coming out because in doing so you made a break for freedom, you told your truth, you taught me how to tell my truth and make this show,” said Soloway, flanked by TV icon Judith Light on one side and transgender actress Alexandra Billings on the other. “And maybe we’re going to be able to teach the world something about authenticity and truth and love. To love.”
The 72d Golden Globes were short on the drunken missteps that usually make the show a hoot to watch — given that the attendees were sweating out the ceremony due to malfunctioning air conditioning, perhaps they were uncharacteristically favoring water instead of free champagne — but they were long on moving speeches, which were commendably allowed to play out to their conclusions without being cut off. (Memo to the Oscars: The acceptance speeches are the only reason anyone watches in the first place. Leave them alone.) Even the obligatory appearance by the HFPA’s president drew a standing ovation for his subtle evocation of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and hosts Tina Fay and Amy Poehler got in one hell of a Bill Cosby joke.
The awards got more predictable, and the speeches more pat, as TV gave way to film: From Richard Linklater to Julianne Moore, Michael Keaton to J.K. Simmons, nearly every movie Globe went to an Oscar favorite, although splitting the awards into drama and comedy/musical gave the likes of Eddie Redmayne and Amy Adams what’s likely to be their only time in the spotlight.
Does it matter who wins? Not in any profound or lasting sense. But with a worldwide audience of a quarter of a billion people, what’s said and done on the Globes’ stage does have an impact, whether it’s an expression of solidarity with the transgender community or Jeremy Renner making a crass joke about Jennifer Lopez’s boobs. It’s doubtful anyone but awards pundits will be able to name the Golden Globes winners a year from now, but they’ll remember Common, who shared a best song Globe with John Legend for “Selma’s” “Glory,” giving voice to this extraordinary sentiment:
“The first day I stepped on the set of ‘Selma,’ I began to think this was bigger than a movie. As I got to know people of the civil rights movement, I realized: I am the hopeful black woman who was denied her right to vote; I am the caring white supporter, killed on the front lines of freedom; I am the unarmed black kid who maybe needed a hand but was instead given a bullet; I am the two fallen police officers murdered in the line of duty. ‘Selma’ has awakened my humanity.”
That, and the face Allison Janney made when she saw Prince.