As the Golden Globes Promise to Do Better, Hollywood Responds with Side Eye: ‘We Don’t Believe’

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association says it can be different. So far, Time's Up, Netflix, and a coalition of press agents aren't buying it.
Golden Globes Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler, and Kenan Thompson
Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler, and Kenan Thompson

UPDATE 5/10, 2:52pm ET: NBC has announced that it will not broadcast the 2022 Golden Globes — effectively canceling the awards — saying that they will air the ceremony again 2023 if the HFPA follows a path of meaningful change.

[Editor’s Note 5/10, 12:59pm ET: Since the below story was published, WarnerMedia has joined with Netflix and Amazon Studios in boycotting the HFPA and Golden Globes until the organization can show meaningful change.]

In a real-life Oscars moment so on the nose that it would never make a screenplay’s final draft, Margaret Gardiner from the Sunday Times of South Africa asked Oscar-winner Daniel Kaluuya, star of Shaka King’s “Judas and the Black Messiah,” what it was like to work with Regina King — the director of Supporting Actor nominee Leslie Odom Jr. in “One Night in Miami.” Later, her nonapology only made it worse.

A boneheaded lack of professionalism from a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association was not entirely surprising. That it should come when her organization had spent the last two months swearing that it would do better — and, in fact, its very existence hung in the balance? That still had the capacity to startle, and it goes a long way toward explaining that while the industry may hope the Golden Globes will return in 2022, it’s something that no one is willing to presume.

Read More: A Golden Globes Timeline

The Los Angeles Times’ blistering expose February 21 revealed that in addition to accusations of self dealing and a lack of voting transparency, the organization had no Black members, voted not to hire a diversity consultant in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, and turned down press conferences for “Bridgerton,” “Girls Trip,” and “Queen and Slim,” among others. (The HFPA broke its own deadline and requested “Bridgerton” after it became a hit.)

Publicists for every major talent in Hollywood responded that unless and until the HFPA straightens up and flies right, their clients would not participate in any of the organization’s press conferences or in the Golden Globes. The HFPA hired a crisis communications firm and a diversity consultant, and promised it would add at last 13 Black members. On April 20, HFPA member and former president Philip Berk called Black Lives Matter a “racist hate movement;” the crisis firm exited stage left, followed by the diversity consultant (and, Berk). The Oscars, and Gardiner’s gaffe, came a few days later.

So when the HFPA announced May 6 that it had voted and “overwhelmingly” determined that they were really, truly, ready to create meaningful change with a platform of reforms, the industry response was side eye. Times Up released a statement that called the platform “window-dressing platitudes [that] are sorely lacking and hardly transformational … The HFPA’s list of recommendations largely contains no specifics, no commitments to real accountability or change, and no real timeline to implement these changes.” [The letter, in full, is at the end of this article.]

Similarly, the publicity coalition let it be known: They were not impressed and until they were, they plan to have their clients sit out the season. Their full statement follows.

We acknowledge the HFPA for defining the five foundational pillars – Accountability, Membership, Inclusion, Good Governance/Ethics and Transparency – it must examine, interrogate and reform in order for the HFPA to manifest the transformative change necessary to thrive as an ethical, credible and respected institution in our industry.

We have specific concerns about the timeline for change as the traditional 2022 awards calendar approaches, lest we face another Golden Globes awards cycle and show under the existing problematic HFPA structure. The proposed September 1st deadline for hiring a Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer with no mention of a deadline for hiring the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Human Resources Officer and Chief Financial Officer makes it impossible for necessary changes to happen in time to impact the 2022 Golden Globes cycle. In addition there has been no mention of the status of the HFPA’s General Counsel nor of the obvious need for a Chief Operating Officer. Lastly and more historically evidentiary, talent and content creators of color will not get a fair chance under this timeline.

There must be transparency about all recruitment processes and hiring decisions and the onboarding of these vital individuals must be completed well before the next HFPA season begins.

Unless the Globes are to be delayed until 2023, the vetting and approval of all plan specifics and implementation guidelines, along with the seating of a new Board under new bylaws, must be accomplished without delay. This requires an explanation of the process to welcome non-HFPA members to serve on the Board and a full understanding of the drafting, oversight and vetting process of new bylaws.

Similarly, membership goals and representation must be achieved more swiftly, so that new members do not remain in the minority for another year.

We will continue to refrain from any HFPA sanctioned events, including press conferences, unless and until these issues are illuminated in detail with a firm commitment to a timeline that respects the looming 2022 season reality. We stand ready to collaborate with the HFPA to ensure that the next Golden Globes – be it in 2022 or 2023 – represents the values of our creative community.

We are reminded of the HFPA’s 1943 motto, conceived by the original group of foreign journalists: “Unity Without Discrimination of Religion or Race”. Seventy-eight years hence, your commitment to swift and deliberate action remains essential.

An NBC spokesperson confirmed that if the HFPA moves swiftly to implement its promised reforms, the network will operate under the assumption that there will be a show in January. “We believe that the plan presented charts a course for meaningful reform at the HFPA,” she said. “We remain committed to encouraging the plan’s prompt implementation through productive conversations so that the HFPA can emerge a better and more inclusive organization.”

It’s unclear if NBC will hold the HFPA to the same standard as the publicists, but the HFPA’s long list of promises includes:

  • Hire a CEO, CFO, Chief DEI Officer, and a Chief Human Resources Officer
  • The immediate establishment of an oversight Board “consisting of racially and ethnically diverse members” to advise the Board and oversee reform
  • Immediately retain Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion consultant and develop a comprehensive DEI strategy.
  • Develop a comprehensive and long-term strategy for the recruitment of racially diverse journalists
  • Admit at least 20 new members in 2021, with a specific focus on recruiting Black members

These are only the highlights of their to-do items, which include the promise of “more serious measures, including but not limited to the Board resigning if the reforms aren’t implemented in a “timely” fashion. There’s a real possibility that the time wasted by the HFPA’s kicking and screaming make it impossible to make the necessary changes in time for 2022. As a non-profit under California law, bylaw changes require legal   implementation. And some of the changes on its list would seem to be basic to any nonprofit, or any respectable organization: Hire people to work for them instead of paying their own members.

Underlining the demand for change, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos sent a letter Thursday to the HFPA (obtained by Deadline) that was essentially a vote of no confidence. His company doesn’t believe the group has even identified a path for success, and Netflix won’t be working with the HFPA until Netfilx is proven wrong. Sarandos wrote:

Like many in our industry, we’ve been waiting for today’s announcement in the hope that you would acknowledge the breadth of issues facing the HFPA and provide a clear roadmap for change. Today’s vote is an important first step. 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. 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.

The National Association of Black Journalists is more supportive of the HFPA’s plans. “If the changes are implemented as promised, the plan will indeed be transformational,” stated NABJ President Dorothy Tucker. “We are committed to monitoring implementation and helping HFPA do what it says it will do. Too many times organizations say they are going to do one thing in the diversity, equity and inclusion arena only to fall short of expectations. We will be vocal and proactive in our actions on the progress and, if necessary, the lack of progress the HFPA makes in bringing its plan to fruition.”

Andra Day
Andra Day wins a Golden GlobeNBC

Many in Hollywood would happily jettison the HFPA if it weren’t for the Golden Globes, Hollywood’s favorite annual party destination. The group who vote for the awards may inspire derision, but the Globes themselves have impact and push many deserving players, from singer-turned-actress Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”) to “Get Out” breakout Kaluuya, into Oscar contention. Where other awards shows’ ratings are in decline, the Globes usually hold steady — until this pandemic year when, according to Nielsen data, the 78th Golden Globes nabbed only 6.9 million viewers on NBC, dropping 63 percent from the 18.4 million who tuned in to the 2020 broadcast.

There is another awards show that could grow, over time, into something resembling the Globes. The Critics Choice Association is a far more responsive and credible organization, made up of 400 working, credentialed film, television, and radio journalists who better reflect the real world than the HFPA. The CCAs also have been actively working to diversify its group in the past year, soliciting more members of color, as well as some 30 international film members in the last few weeks, many of whom couldn’t get into the HFPA.

The CCAs are under contract to air on The CW and is a small fish compared to the established Golden Globes. Aside from the 26th CCA Awards show, which was virtual during the pandemic, the CCAs have pulled in slightly more than 1 million viewers of late, with plenty of star participation each year. They are more predictive of the eventual Oscar nominations than the Globes.

According to CCA CEO Joey Berlin, late in his life Dick Clark himself expressed interest in pushing the Critics Choice Awards as the first stop on the annual awards circuit. CBS owns half of The CW and could easily buy out their rights to the CCAs, landing a show that looks a lot like the Globes with a more legitimate voting base. While the Globes are under fire, why not build up the CCAs as a younger, more vital, and legitimate alternative?

The “Marriage Story” CCAs table: Noah Baumbach, Adam Driver, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, Laura Dern.Anne Thompson

“It’s important, if you make a show or movie of quality, that there’s an ecosystem here to support it, give it life and light, and help audiences to find it,” Berlin said on the phone. “There’s so much wonderful and crappy content out there to break through, countless TV shows and hundreds of movies trying to reach the audience. We’re an important gatekeeper in that process. Awards shows may seem frivolous, but they are useful to the culture.”

As for the HFPA, their latest promises could mark a new dawn or a hopeless quagmire. It’s hard to imagine that this gang of 87 is capable of reconstructing itself so radically. Old habits die hard.

On April 25, in that awkward moment inside the Oscars’ virtual media pressroom, Kaluuya cocked his head, looked at Gardiner, and asked her to repeat the question. She did not mention King on the second go-round, and he gave a non-answer that was more polite than she deserved.

Here’s the full open letter to the HFPA from Times Up:

On May 6, 2021, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) adopted a list of reforms that were supposed to demonstrate its commitment to transformational change that would finally uproot the systemic and longstanding racism, misogyny, and corruption widely reported as endemic to the HFPA and the Golden Globe Awards.

But after months of introspective examination, multiple consultants, and industry leaders offering their expertise to help the HFPA transform, these window-dressing platitudes are sorely lacking and hardly transformational. Instead, these proposed measures ensure that the current membership of the HFPA will remain in the majority for years to come, and that the next Golden Globes, which will have started by then, will be riddled with the same fundamental problems that have existed for years.

The HFPA’s list of recommendations largely contains no specifics, no commitments to real accountability or change, and no real timeline to implement these changes. What few items have a proposed September 1 deadline come too late to represent real change for this coming awards season.

We wish the HFPA had responded with a plan for change that reflected the industry-wide discontent with its practices, THIS YEAR. Instead, the HFPA is simply trying to push forward with “business as usual” — urging industry members to submit their projects for consideration in order to avoid missing imminent deadlines for the next awards season, all while its proposed plan purposely keeps the deeply problematic governance in control.

Months ago, TIME’S UP sent a list of precise recommendations to the HFPA that included guidance on membership and governance, ethics and safety protections, and nominations and awards. Sadly, not only did the HFPA ignore those recommendations (the HFPA leadership themselves never took our offer to meet with them), but the HFPA also purposely skirted around all of our specific calls to action, as laid out below.

An immediate change in the current management and board.

HFPA’s plan involves a two-year process, the start of which takes us too far past this year’s awards milestones, and ensures that existing members will remain in the majority for the 2022 awards season.

There is no bar to existing leadership standing for reelection. In fact, there has been no demonstration that anyone in the existing leadership or staff has taken responsibility for the problems within the HFPA.

An immediate reform and expansion of membership in numbers sufficient to eliminate insularity, ensure journalistic credibility, and create real change.

The HFPA’s timeline of increasing new membership by 50% over the next 18 months —only 43 new members in addition to the existing 86 — ensures that its current membership will continue to hold majority rule for the foreseeable future, ultimately silencing any new members who would join.

The supposed reforms to their membership criteria and undefined roles for third parties on the board or in the membership process provide no assurance that decisions to admit new members will be made in an equitable and inclusive manner with full transparency and oversight.

Complete transparency and external accountability around processes for establishing and welcoming new members, board members, and management.

The vague promises of unnamed outside consultants and oversight are insufficient.

There is no definition of what authority those third parties would have over the HFPA decisions and operations, or even their scope of work. Simply promising to hire another DEI consultant, after losing its original one, without these details these details is empty.
In contrast, our recommendations provided key steps on the oversight of decisions around new members, election of new leadership, and nominations by outside experts immediately while the HFPA works to truly transform itself.

New and published ethics policies, as well as anti-harassment, anti-bullying, and anti-discrimination policies that will provide protections to employees, members, partners, contractors, and participants in all HFPA events.

The undefined promise to revise the HFPA code of conduct provides no information on what values will be at the core of those revisions or who would be covered by the code. The suggestion of establishing a hotline for individuals to report past, present, and future conduct violations is a basic requirement for any accountability policy. But to be clear, it is not the mechanism to achieve reform. The responsibility to make reform happen should be placed on those in positions of leadership, not on those who have already been harmed.

Immediate reform of the awards process itself so that the process is transparent and enforced with fair criteria for screening and consideration.

Noticeably absent from the HFPA list is any mention of changes to the deeply troubled nominations and awards process.

Despite multiple prior controversies, the HFPA stays silent about the need to review their existing award categories and rules to eliminate any discriminatory criteria and ensure those rules are enforced with fairness and consistency.

There has been no response to the recent disclosures about HFPA members not attending screenings and conferences for artists of color. And the HFPA’s list of reforms does not even include a requirement that voting members will perform the basic function of watching nominated projects.

The HFPA — through the Golden Globe Awards, and with the support of NBCUniversal and Dick Clark Productions — has set itself up to pass judgment on the American entertainment industry. The awards process can make or break careers and has an outsize impact on our broader culture. Yet what we have seen from the HFPA falls far short of what is required to transform the organization. Our community of vibrant creatives across all racial, ethnic, and gender backgrounds deserve better.

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