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Any diversity analysis of the Golden Globes should note that the “diversity controversy” it was embroiled in over the past two years was less about the results (#GlobesSoWhite was never a trending hashtag) and more about the composition of its presenting organization, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
The big takeaway from the February 2021 Los Angeles Times investigation that made headlines around the world was that the HFPA had no Black members among its 87-person body; in a post-murder of George Floyd world, that omission was seen as unforgivable, and essentially every major Hollywood publicity firm — which had long held their noses and tolerated the organization’s various tacky, ethics-skirting practices when it came to their celebrity clients — boycotted the 2022 awards show, which was not televised by its broadcast partner, NBC.
After a year in time-out, the 80th Golden Globes returned to television on Tuesday night, having been voted on by the HFPA’s 96 current members (six of them Black), and 103 non-member voters. How did these changes in the voting body affect the results? It’s impossible to say for sure, but despite a fairly diverse array of presenters, a Black host (who was not shy about conjecturing why he was invited) and just over a handful of winners from systemically excluded backgrounds, the final two winners of the night featured all-white groups of people taking the stage: best musical/comedy motion picture The Banshees of Inisherin and best drama motion picture The Fabelmans.
Those awards, however, were preceded by the majority-Black cast of Abbott Elementary winning best comedy series. Earlier, in accepting her best actress award, star and creator Quinta Brunson credited the show’s racially diverse team, including her fellow executive producers Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker, “who are just incredible and support my vision,” she said. “They’re very white men, and they’ll be like, ‘OK, Quinta.’”
Brunson’s co-star Tyler James Williams won for supporting actor, which the Globes for the first time separated between series and limited series/TV movies. Although he is the fifth Black actor to win for a supporting role on television, he is the first to do so for a regular series. Zendaya, absent from the ceremony, picked up another best actress accolade for her role in drama series Euphoria, making for three non-white winners out of the Globes’ 10 TV acting categories.
In film, three of the six acting categories went to people from the global majority: Everything Everywhere All at Once’s lead actress Michelle Yeoh and supporting actor Ke Huy Quan and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever supporting actress Angela Bassett, who — given her 1994 lead actress win for What’s Love Got to Do With It — becomes the second Black woman, after Whoopi Goldberg, to earn two Golden Globes for acting.
Quan and Yeoh were both widely favored to prevail in their respective categories and are frontrunners or near-frontrunners this awards season, so their wins tonight don’t necessarily say a lot about this particular voting body, but both alluded to the systemic barriers that have faced actors of Asian descent in the 40 years since both entered the industry: “I remember when I first came to Hollywood,” said Yeoh, whose career began in Hong Kong. “It was a dream come true until I got here, because look at this face. I came here and was told, ‘You’re a minority.’”
Yeoh is the fifth Asian actress to win a Golden Globe (but just the second in the best motion picture actress category, following Awkwafina for The Farewell in 2020), while Quan is the fourth Asian actor (and the first in his category since Haing S. Ngor for The Killing Fields in 1985).
However, another Asian artist did make Globes history: Composer M.M. Keeravani crushed multiple fandoms by prevailing over several pop chart-toppers in best original song with “Naatu Naatu,” from the Indian action sensation RRR. He is the first winner of Asian descent in his category, and the song, which is in the Telugu language, is the second non-English number to win since Italian drama The Life Ahead’s “Io sì (Seen),” co-written by Diane Warren, won in 2021.
Guillermo del Toro, who received best animated film for his Pinocchio film, was the only Latino winner at the 2023 Golden Globes, although House of the Dragon season one showrunner Miguel Sapochnik, who is of Argentine descent, accepted best drama series on behalf of the show.
Outside of the competitive awards, the night’s two honorary Globes went to two artists who have been lauded for their inspiring and trailblazing careers: Cecil B. DeMille honoree Eddie Murphy and Carol Burnett honoree Ryan Murphy. The latter in particular used his acceptance speech to salute five of his collaborators — Michaela Jaé Rodriguez (whom Murphy asked the audience to applaud as the Globes’ first trans winner at last year’s un-televised ceremony), Billy Porter, Niecy Nash-Betts, Matt Bomer and Jeremy Pope — as “examples of possibility.”
“I’ve dedicated most of my lifetime achievement speech tonight to these wonderful actors to make a point about hope and progress,” he said. “When I was a young person in the ‘70s, I never, ever saw a person like me getting an award. It’s hard to be an LGBTQ kid, then and now. You are often told you have to hide your light to survive. For those kids watching tonight, I offer up MJ, Billy, Niecy, Matt and Jeremy as examples of possibility. There is a way forward. Use them as your North Stars. For 25 years, that’s all I’ve ever tried to do here in Hollywood. My mission was to take the invisible, the unloved, and make them the heroes I longed to see in pop culture.”
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