Golden Globes prove Hollywood hasn’t yet figured out its diversity problem

A promotional poster for the Golden Globes is pictured. Via HFPviv

The Golden Globes mark the start of the 2019 awards season, an exciting time for makers and lovers of film, television and music. While the Globes are considered the “drunk uncle” of awards ceremonies, they offer an important glimpse into Oscar and Emmy frontrunners, the latest in red carpet style and Hollywood stars’ reactions to the politics and culture of the moment when removed from the characters we love to see them play.

With all this at stake, hosting the Globes is a daunting task; however, television stars Sandra Oh and Andy Samberg presented quite successfully despite their visible nerves. If their opening monologue leaned heavily into the fact that, in their own words, they are “the only two people left in Hollywood who haven’t gotten in trouble for saying something offensive,” their playful takedowns of nominated artists and self-referential jokes juxtaposing Oh’s identity as an Asian-American woman against Sandberg’s goofy white guy persona balanced politics and humor.

Meher Tatna, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), announced an expansion of the organization’s mandate as a philanthropic institution by pledging to assist journalists. The organization is giving $1 million each in grants to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and InsideClimate News.

“The freedom of expression that makes possible your work as creators and our work as journalists is under siege, which is why our mission to establish cultural ties has never been more important,” Tatna said.

If 2018 was the year of visibility, with last winter’s attendants donning black outfits and #TimesUp pins leading activists down the red carpet, 2019 is shaping up to be the year of accountability. While many of the awards went to predictable favorites such as Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” (2018), Christian Bale in “Vice” (2018) and  Rachel Brosnahan in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (2017–), some surprised with delightful results. Glenn Close’s upset victory over Lady Gaga for her starring role in “The Wife” (2018) resulted in a rousing and heartfelt speech on equality. Sandra Oh became the first woman of Asian descent to win Best Actress in a television series since 1981, and made history as the first woman of Asian descent to host the ceremony. Regina King, winner of Best Supporting Actress for her performance in “If Beale Street Could Talk” (2018), called for a “Time’s Up X 2” by promising to make sure all her future projects are led by a team comprised of at least 50 percent women.

In addition to the Cecil B. DeMille Award (granted to actor-philanthropist Jeff Bridges), the HFPA introduced a new lifetime achievement award for excellence in television, a nod to the increasing artistic and cultural merit of televisual programs and to the award’s namesake, Carol Burnett. To a standing ovation, Burnett mused on the changes in the industry that would not have made her iconic variety show possible, and she ultimately dedicated her award “to all those who made my dreams come true, and who share my love for television and yearn to be part of this unique medium.”

Despite these glimpses of progress toward equal representation, the 76th Golden Globes demonstrated some big misfires in Hollywood’s attempts to grapple with its lack of diversity. Yes, the audience looked less white and less male than in many previous ceremonies, and yes, the films that went home with the highest honors of the night — “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018) and “Green Book” (2018) — celebrate the lives of iconic performers whose respective identities are a large part of their stories. But both of those movies faced criticism over their shallow and sugar-coated explorations of race and sexuality, with some critics going so far as to call them dangerous depictions of marginalized stories. Perhaps it is better to tell these stories imperfectly than to never tell them at all, but it is evident from the shockwave of disappointment the day after the ceremony that Hollywood clearly has much to learn.