HFPA Responds to Membership Diversity Backlash With Brief Onstage Statement

"The HFPA is made up of around 90 international—no Black—journalists who attend movie junkets each year in search of a better life," said co-host Tina Fey as part of an opening monologue explaining the awards show's plethora of confusing rules and categories. "So, let's see what these European weirdos nominated this year."

During the virtual 2021 Golden Globes ceremony, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association made the most cursory of acknowledgements to the mounting backlash over its lack of diversity.

Three HFPA members stood socially distanced onstage to address the revelation in a Los Angeles Times investigative report last week that there are no Black journalists among its 87-person membership."

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."

During their opening monologue (or dialogue), co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler made fun of the controversy.

"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 said as part of an overall explanation of the awards show's plethora of confusing rules and categories. "So, let's see what these European weirdos nominated this year."

Later in the patter, during a run-down of the nominees, the duo mentioned that "a number of Black-led projects were overlooked" (notably, no Best Picture nominations for such awards-season frontrunners as Judas and the Black Messiah, Da 5 Bloods, One Night in Miami and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom).

"They're all a scam invented by Big Red Carpet," Poehler quipped.

"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," said Fey.

"Yes, looking forward to that change," Poehler concluded.

Earlier in the week, in a statement to the L.A. Times about its lack of Black members, an HFPA spokesperson said, "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."

Cecil B. DeMille Award recipient Jane Fonda, Sacha Baron Cohen and Dan Levy, accepting best musical/comedy series for Schitt's Creek, were the only two winners so far to address the need for improvement in diversity and inclusion.

"Thank you to the all-white Hollywood Foreign Press," Borat Subsequent Moviefilm's Cohen slipped into his acceptance speech for best musical/comedy motion picture.

After detailing how she was affected by a large number of this season's projects from underrepresented artists and/or about marginalized communities (including NomadlandMinari, Judas and the Black MessiahRamyAll In: The Fight for Democracy and notable Globes snub I May Destroy You), Fonda said: "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."

Levy addressed the HFPA directly in his comments: "In the spirit of inclusion I hope this time next year this ceremony includes the true breadth and depth of the industry today."

Presenters Sterling K. Brown and Susan Kelechi Watson archly noted in their remarks introducing the best actor in a TV series, musical/comedy award, "It is great to be Black—back—at the Golden Globes." Earlier this week, Brown added on Instagram: "I'm presenting at the telecast this weekend to honor all the storytellers, especially those of color, who have achieved this extraordinary moment in their careers… AND I have my criticisms of the #HFPA 87 people wield a tremendous amount of power."

Hollywood figures began responding publicly to the L.A. Times report days before the ceremony. In particular, two days before the awards show, the anti-workplace discrimination organization Times Up and its supporters, including Ava DuVernay, Gina Prince-Bythewood and Judd Apatow, circulated an image calling attention to the HFPA's lack of Black journalists on social media: "Hollywood Foreign Press Association: Not a single Black member out of 87. #TimesUpGlobes," the image read.

Ava DuVernay, included among the final announcement of presenters, posted on social media 30 minutes before the ceremony began: "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."

Hollywood guilds also weighed in, with SAG-AFTRA saying that it was calling 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." In a Facebook post, the Directors Guild of America stated of the HFPA, "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."

The Times also reported that the HFPA was paying its members ever-larger sums as the organization made more money from its TV deal with NBC. The HFPA paid members a collective $1.929 million for service on committees and other responsibilities in the fiscal year ending June 2020, per the Times, while that amount was budgeted to rise to $2.15 million in 2021. Tax experts who spoke with the Times said these payments were not typical for a tax-exempt organization.

The Golden Globe Awards ceremony is produced by Dick Clark Productions, a division of MRC, which is a co-owner of The Hollywood Reporter through a joint venture with Penske Media titled P-MRC.