Golden Globes Winners Mark Diversity Milestones While HFPA's Response to Inclusion Criticism Remains Milquetoast

Chloe Zhao Daniel Kaluuya Andra Day Chadwick Boseman
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images; John Lamparski/Getty Images; Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images; Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

While Chloe Zhao set marks as just the second woman and second Asian to win for best director, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association made a limp, "cosmetic" commitment to diversifying its membership.

Thanks to last week's Los Angeles Times exposé and the ensuing backlash over the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's complete lack of Black members, diversity was even more top of mind than usual going into the 78th annual Golden Globes Awards. How would the HFPA address the controversy during the ceremony, and what would the winners' list look like?

The answers were about exactly what one would expect of a voting body rife with ethical controversies that has blithely existed without a single Black member for the past two decades. Three HFPA leaders took the stage and rehashed the substance-free statement it provided to the L.A. Times earlier this week, offering the most cursory of commitments to reforming its body:

"We recognize we have our own work to do," said vice president Helen Hoehne of Germany. "Just like in film and television, Black representation is vital. We must have Black journalists in our organization."

Board chair Meher Tatna of India agreed. "We must also ensure everyone from all underrepresented communities gets a seat at our table," said the former HFPA president.

"That means creating an environment where diverse membership is the norm, not an exception," president Ali Sar of Turkey concurred, without offering any more details about how or when the HFPA would do so. "Thank you, and we look forward to a more inclusive future."

In letters to the HFPA and network sponsor NBC issued minutes after the ceremony's conclusion, Time's Up president and CEO Tina Tchen criticized the response as "cosmetic" and lacking "an awareness of larger cultural problems, as well as a long-term commitment to systemic change."

Co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were similarly ill-equipped to address the issues, seeming to make fun of both the HFPA and its detractors. "[Awards shows] are a scam invented by Big Red Carpet," said Poehler, while Fey added, "The point is, even with stupid things, 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."

The controversy nearly overshadowed a couple of long-overdue milestones in the actual results: In addition to winning the big award of the night, best drama motion picture, Nomadland's Chloe Zhao became just the second woman (after Barbra Streisand in 1984) and first Asian woman to win best director (previously, Ang Lee was the only Asian helmer to earn the accolade, in both 2001 and 2006). Lee Isaac Chung, whose American film Minari was shunted off to the foreign-language category, was the other Asian winner of the night. And The United States vs. Billie Holiday's first-time leading lady Andra Day was a surprise winner for best actress in a motion picture, drama, becoming only the second non-white woman to win in the category (Whoopi Goldberg was the first, 35 years ago).

When an awards organization has no credibility over the integrity of its voting process and its understanding of true diversity and inclusion, one added casualty is suspicion over whether its winners have been chosen on the basis of their own merits. When supporting actors Daniel Kaluuya (film) and John Boyega (television) became the first winners of the night, some speculated whether the HFPA — whose voting reportedly closed Tuesday, three days after the Times story — truly found them most deserving, or because the organization assumed that giving trophies to Black winners was an adequate make-good for its longstanding deficiencies in membership. The pair have earned praise from more legitimate critics for their work in Judas and the Black Messiah and Small Axe, respectively, but the HFPA has a track record of inconsistent and questionable taste, including ignoring Judas among other Black-led awards season frontrunners Da 5 Bloods, One Night in Miami and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom in its best picture nominations. On the other hand, there were white nominees who prevailed in categories with people of color, to be fair to the HFPA (what a thing to write!).

None of the Black winners — which included Soul co-director Kemp Powers and co-composer Jon Batiste in addition to the late Ma Rainey's star Chadwick Boseman, whose wife, Taylor Simone Ledward, delivered a moving tribute — mentioned the diversity controversy in their acceptance speeches. The presenters — including those who shared the #TimesUpGlobes hashtag criticizing the HFPA in the past week — also stuck to their scripts, except for This is Us' Sterling K. Brown and Susan Kelechi Watson, who archly noted, "It is great to be Black — back — at the Golden Globes."

The virtual ceremony's plethora of technical difficulties notwithstanding — someone page Democratic National Convention director Glenn Weiss! — the Golden Globes' "the show must go on" parade of gushing acceptance speeches is an indication that the town remains addicted to gilded accolades no matter how dubious the provenance, artists of color perhaps still don't feel entirely safe biting the hand that feeds, and the HFPA will once again likely dodge this latest wave of scrutiny.

The reporters gathered in the virtual press room "backstage" seemed similarly unconcerned with the HFPA's membership issues. Deep into the evening, The Mauritanian's best actress winner Jodie Foster fielded the first question on the controversy, praising the HFPA's response while noting that she has a nostalgic connection to the organization, having attended the Globes since she was in her early teens: "It sounds like the HFPA is open to change."

Incidentally, it was a trio of white artists — Cecil B. DeMille Award recipient Jane Fonda, Sacha Baron Cohen and Dan Levy — who were the only winners 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, while Levy, accepting best musical/comedy series for Schitt's Creek, 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."

After detailing how she was affected by a large number of this season's projects from underrepresented artists and/or about marginalized communities (including Nomadland, Minari, Judas, Ramy, All 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."

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.