Muted Golden Globes response to diversity woes appears unlikely to quell firestorm

John Boyega
John Boyega accepts the TV supporting actor award for ‘Small Axe’ via video from Angela Bassett at the 78th Golden Globe Awards.
(Christopher Polk / NBC)

The furor over the Golden Globes’ snubbing of several prominent Black-led projects and industry outrage over the absence of Black members in the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. were center stage heading into the 78th Golden Globe Awards.

Several wins by Black artists and a brief pledge to increase Black membership delivered by three representatives of the HPFA during the telecast appear unlikely to calm the firestorm.

“The HFPA’s statements tonight and over the last several days indicate a fundamental lack of understanding of the depth of the problems at hand,” wrote Time’s Up President and CEO Tina Tchen in a letter to the HFPA’s board on Sunday. “Your stated version of change is cosmetic — find Black people. That is not a solution.”

A separate letter called for the network that airs the Globes ceremony to use its influence for change. “Much of the credibility of the Golden Globes is drawn from its affiliation with your network,” Tchen wrote. “NBCUniversal has a reputational interest in fixing these issues.”


The 2021 Golden Globe Awards winners, which include Chloe Zhao, “Ted Lasso” and Anya Taylor-Joy, were awarded in a bicoastal ceremony.

HFPA Board Chair Meher Tatna, HFPA President Ali Sar, and HFPA Vice President Helen Hoehne
HFPA Board Chair Meher Tatna, HFPA President Ali Sar, and HFPA Vice President Helen Hoehne attend the 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards.
(Todd Williamson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

The wave of disapproval aimed at the HFPA kicked off after the nominations, notable for omitting four Black-led films from best picture contention —“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “One Night in Miami...” and “Da 5 Bloods” — and passing over several highly acclaimed series with Black themes and multicultural casts, including HBO’s “I May Destroy You” and Netflix’s “Bridgerton.”

As the awards neared, the HFPA faced further criticism in response to a Times investigation that detailed ethical lapses and self-dealing in the organization, as well as that the voting body does not have a single Black member. Several leading industry figures and organizations, including director J.J. Abrams, actors Sterling K. Brown and Ellen Pompeo, comedian Amy Schumer, Time’s Up and the Directors Guild of America called on the group to cultivate inclusivity and address diversity in its ranks.

Hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler wasted little time addressing the controversy during the ceremony’s opening monologue. Fey jokingly referred to the HFPA as a group of “around 90 international no Black journalists who attend movie junkets each year in search of a better life.”

Later, Poehler said, “Everybody is understandably upset at the HFPA and their choices. Look, a lot of flashy garbage got nominated. But that happens. That’s like their thing. But a number of Black actors and Black-led projects were overlooked.”

Added Fey: “We all know that awards shows are stupid. The point is even with stupid things, inclusivity is important, and there are no Black members of the Hollywood Foreign Press. I realized, HFPA, maybe you guys didn’t get the memo because your workplace is the back booth of a French McDonald’s. You got to change that. So here’s to changing that.”

Later in the broadcast, three representatives of the HPFA appeared to announce that the organization vowed to diversify.

Helen Hoehne, the group’s vice president, said, “Tonight, while we celebrate the work of artists from around the globe, we recognize we have our own work to do. Just like in film and television, representation is vital. We must have Black journalists in our organization.”

Meher Tatna, a former president of the organization, added that the HFPA “must also ensure everyone from all underrepresented communities gets a seat at our table, and we are going to make that happen.”

Ali Sar, the organization’s current president, concluded the 43-second sequence: “That means creating an environment where diverse membership is the norm and not the exception.”

He said the group looks forward “to a more inclusive future.”

After Times reporting detailed ethical lapses, zero Black members in the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., criticism — though muted — came to the Golden Globes.

Jane Fonda, winner of the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 78th Golden Globes.

Criticism of the HFPA was relatively muted throughout the remainder of the telecast with only a handful of celebrities, including winners Dan Levy (“Schitt’s Creek”) and Sacha Baron Cohen (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” “Trial of the Chicago 7”) and presenters Brown and “This Is Us” costar Susan Kelechi Watson making reference to the controversy. Perhaps the biggest impression of the night on the topic was left by Jane Fonda, recipient of this year’s Cecil DeMille Award for lifetime achievement. The legendary actress said the lack of diversity in Hollywood is an issue that can no longer be pushed to the side.

She said it’s “a story we’ve been afraid to see and hear about ourselves in this industry. A story about which voices we respect and elevate and which we tune out, a story about who’s offered a seat at the table and who’s kept out of the rooms where decisions are made. So, let’s all of us — including the groups that decide who gets hired and what gets made and who wins awards, let’s all of us make an effort to expand that tent so everyone rises and everyone’s story has a chance to be seen and heard.”

Black Golden Globe winners this year included the late Chadwick Boseman (lead actor in a motion picture for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”); Andra Day (lead actress in a motion picture for “The United States vs. Billie Holiday”); Daniel Kaluuya (supporting actor in a motion picture for “Judas and the Black Messiah”); John Boyega (supporting actor in a series, miniseries or motion picture for TV for “Small Axe”); and Jon Baptiste (co-winner of best original score for “Soul,” which also won motion picture — animated).

The HFPA also came under fire last year for failing to recognize topical Black-led projects and other films and TV shows with non-white perspectives, including such acclaimed titles as “When They See Us” and “Watchmen.”