THE GOLDEN GLOBES are often considered a gilded — and gratuitous — affair where The Hollywood Foreign Press Association hands out awards to their favorite stars, whose shiny popularity overrides the gravitas of the art of cinema and television. Yet, in a present-day world where everything feels upside down, the Golden Globes followed suit by presenting a show that was rooted in some of the scariest elements of our world today: (liberal) Hollywood, (feared) foreigners, and the (dangerously diluted) press. In one show, the Golden Globes managed to declare their stance on race in the future of Hollywood by having the most diverse set of nominees in its history; the importance (or lack thereof, perhaps) of the protection of women over powerful, nepotistic men by awarding Casey Affleck Best Actor in a drama; and the safety of our most celebrated, yet recently threatened, American value of free speech with Meryl Streep’s speech for her Cecil B. Demille Award.
After the #OscarsSoWhite movement of the last few awards season, there was a real opportunity for the Golden Globes to step up and take a political stand — which is within their power, given their small, and therefore, often-criticized voting group. The January 2016 version of me was a Golden Globe hater for that reason. I believed the award didn’t really mean anything. Mainly because I hate award shows, since every single person there is a winner just by being able cerebrate and create art on such a high scale. But after the year we had last year, where the process of voting doesn’t really matter, any opportunity to prove to the rest of our country and the world that we are still moving in a positive direction of progressive ideals and a world where everyone is included and fair is far more important than before.
Despite La La Land’s sweep in all categories, it seemed almost anyone else who won was a person of color or in a show that predominantly features stories about people of color. But beyond how incredible those milestone moments were for people such as Donald Glover (Atlanda) or Tracey Ellis-Ross (Black-ish), the opportunity for a meaningful platform to address a celebrity-obsessed world was far more impactful than the award itself. For all the people who don’t watch their shows and don’t know who these people are, to hear them talk about people being “magic” or mention the “colorful people whose stories are not always considered valid and important” is a spark of hope as we enter a dark future where those hopes and ideals are threatened and not protected.
In a less ground-breaking move, the HFPA awarded Casey Affleck with the prize for Best Actor in a Film Drama, despite the recent revelations in the press of the sexual assault suits against him. I guess all press is good press for this press? (It’s important to note that the media handled similar past allegations of sexual assault much differently when it came to Nate Parker — who is black — during his film The Birth of A Nation‘s time on the press circuit.) This is a sad step backwards for the Globes. It’s a harsh reminder that the priority of women’s safety is less meaningful than an actor whose life looks like a far less gracious version of Prince Harry’s. It makes the thought of the diversified nominees feel like an act of calculation aimed at the Oscars, as a way for the HFPA to stand on a star-studded soapbox. If only being a sex offender was as easily recognizable as the color of someone’s skin; it would be easier to stand on that soap box, then. Yet, when our President Elect encourages men to “grab women by the pussies,” we have more work work to do. Let’s hope next year’s winners have a clean slate when it comes to respecting women. Is that too much to ask?
Maybe. Probably, actually. I say that, having woken up to Donald Trump’s response to Meryl Streep’s speech last night claiming that she’s an “overrated actress.” Yet what Meryl accomplished last night was no small feat (and no, it wasn’t provoking Trump, because we all know how easy that is). She captivated one of the most influential rooms of people by reminding them that being influential is a privilege, and one that must be taken seriously. Beyond the lack of respect our future President has for anyone who is “other,” his tweets this morning are a stark reminder that we are entering his new term with free speech — and the art that is a fundamental aspect of it — under attack by our very own government. It’s funny; I remember learning about McCarthyism in school, but I never thought I’d actually live it. The only difference now is that no one’s fleeing to the Soviet Union. In fact, we may be running out of places to go.
So while the Golden Globes took a major step in cementing themselves as a progressive microphone for Hollywood, foreigners, and the press, it was not done with perfect precision. Truly grounded progressive ideals don’t happen over night, though, even when it seems like they do; there are always two steps taken back for every three steps taken forward. I have to think that’s what’s happening with Trump’s presidency after eight years of Obama. Hopefully, last night’s wins mean we split the difference and took more steps forward than we did back.