Should we take the Golden Globes seriously?

Photo of Golden Globe Awards Sign
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When the nominations for the 2021 Golden Globe Awards were announced Feb. 3, they triggered the usual avalanche of grievances. James Corden, nominated for his limp-wristed, offensive facsimile of a gay sterotype? Nods for “Emily in Paris,” a show where Lily Collins prances around in fancy clothes and pretends to be an Instagram influencer, instead of Michaela Coel’s magisterial “I May Destroy You”? Is the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, or HFPA, seriously asking us to watch Jared Leto — a man who purportedly sent his “Suicide Squad” co-stars used condoms and anal beads to “get into character” — blankly stare his way through another awards show?

Such Twitter flurries manifest every year after every awards body rolls out their picks, but the Golden Globes traditionally take the most heat (at least before the Academy Awards nominations disappoint us all anew). The obvious explanation for this is that the ceremony is the first bookend of the movie industry’s annual awards season, heralding ceremonies such as the Producers Guild of America, Writers Guild of America, Screen Actors Guild, Critics’ Choice and British Academy Film Awards until the season caps off with the Oscars. The Golden Globe Awards are consequently taken as the harbinger of awards season, the show that anoints the tone and frontrunners of the year. 

It’s true that the Globes often portend some of the worst snubs of any given season — remember how the HFPA denied Greta Gerwig a directing nomination for “Little Women” last year, paving the way for the Oscars to follow in its tasteless footsteps? They’ve also accurately pinpointed some eventual Oscar winners. But this is the awards body that nominated “Burlesque” in 2011. We shouldn’t be weighing it very heavily in our predictions.

For starters, the HFPA, which votes on the Globes, is strikingly insular compared to other ceremonies’ voting bodies. Made up of entertainment journalists who write for foreign publications, the HFPA comprises about 90 members. For comparison, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences currently contains over 9,000 film industry professionals, while SAG-AFTRA has about 160,000 actors filling out ballots for the SAG Awards. 

The Golden Globes’ choices might narrow industry voters’ focus when they’re picking which screeners to watch, but they don’t actually reflect what people working in Hollywood are thinking. HFPA members also aren’t a big enough sample size to take the temperature of journalists’ opinions; the Critics Choice Association’s membership is arguably more representative, numbering around 440 and including critics who contribute to outlets like the Los Angeles Times and New York Magazine.

There’re also the steady rumblings about how Golden Globe awards are easier to “buy.” Studios have accurately intuited that it’s much simpler to charm a measly 90 people versus 9,000. As a result, stars have been rumored to earn their Golden Globes through schmoozing with HFPA members at lavish parties. There’s also been persistent accusations of bribery — when little-known Pia Zadora won for New Star of the Year in 1982, the upset was widely attributed to her husband paying for the statue.

But even if you wave away the alleged corruption, the Golden Globes are simply a weak Oscars predictor overall. Since the Academy Awards are determined by those who work in the industry — actors, writers, directors, producers, editors — there’s absolutely zero overlap with the journalists who hand out Golden Globes. The voters from industry guilds like SAG-AFTRA; the Writers Guild of America, or WGA; and the Producers Guild of America, or PGA; intersect quite a bit, and as such, their choices are significantly more on target. 

The PGA Awards pick the year’s best picture winner 72% of the time (the choices of “La La Land” and “1917” being notable recent exceptions). In the last five years, the WGA selected three out of five of both the academy’s original screenplay and adapted screenplay winners in its annual ceremony. The only screenplay award the Golden Globes correctly predicted during the same period was — ugh — “Green Book” in 2018.

Of course some of the trends established at the Golden Globes do stick (Jared Leto, for instance, has already been nominated for a SAG Award, because we live in a society). Awards season contenders are often hand-picked by the powers that be — AKA expensive studio campaigns — months before any awards body starts their nominations, which is why certain films and names get repeated over and over as nominations and trophies are gifted. 

But on the whole, the Globes are determined by the seemingly random whims of a tiny group, more of an exercise in celebrity glitz than a serious precursor to the Oscars. The show is neither an asset for filling out your Oscars ballot nor a worthy arbiter of taste. So save the righteous fury for the nominations that actually lay the terrain for awards season, and watch the Globes with a hefty glass of wine in hand. James Corden’s acceptance speech will be a whole lot funnier that way.

Contact Grace Orriss at [email protected]. Tweet her at @graceorriss.