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Golden Globes 2023: Will there be an audience for this comeback story?

“I have more history with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association than I have respect for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association,” actor Brendan Fraser told GQ

FILE - Event signage appears above the red carpet at the 77th annual Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 5, 2020, in Beverly Hills, Calif. The 80th annual Golden Globe Awards will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 10. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
FILE - Event signage appears above the red carpet at the 77th annual Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 5, 2020, in Beverly Hills, Calif. The 80th annual Golden Globe Awards will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 10. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

It’s a comeback story for the 2023 Golden Globes, after NBC declined to broadcast the ceremony last year following extensive controversy and criticism of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA).

But there are still questions that remain about the award show and the HFPA. Do we really need the Golden Globes to come back to our screens? And does the HFPA deserve to have its ceremony broadcast again?

Brendan Fraser accepts the spotlight award for
Brendan Fraser accepts the spotlight award for "The Whale" at the 34th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Palm Springs, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Frontrunner Brendan Fraser will not participate

Looking back at HFPA controversies, Brendan Fraser's issues with the association have been shocking and significant.

In a 2018 GQ article, Fraser, now a nominee for his work in Darren Aronofsky's The Whale, alleged that Philip Berk, former president and member of the HFPA, groped and assaulted him in 2003. Berk has disputed Fraser's story. The actor also claimed the association did not share the full results of their investigation with him. Berk remained a voting member of the HFPA following the investigation.

"Although it was concluded that Mr. Berk inappropriately touched Mr. Fraser, the evidence supports that it was intended to be taken as a joke and not as a sexual advance," a proposed joint statement, which Fraser declined to sign reads, according to the story in GQ.

A frontrunner for the best actor in a dramatic film award, Fraser has stated that he would not attend the ceremony, given his experience with the HFPA.

“I have more history with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association than I have respect for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association,” Fraser told GQ in a story published last year. “No, I will not participate.”

“It’s because of the history that I have with them. And my mother didn’t raise a hypocrite. You can call me a lot of things, but not that.”

Fraser has stated that what happened with Berk and the HFPA made him “retreat.”

Long history of controversy for the Golden Globes

Fast forward to 2021, when the HFPA faced extensive criticism following an investigation published by the Los Angeles Times, which revealed that the 87-member group of journalists did not include any Black members. Ava DuVernay called out that this inequity has been the case for decades.

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The Los Angeles Times also revealed that the HFPA had regularly issued "substantial payments" to its members and collected about US$2 million in its fiscal year ending in June 2020 for serving on committees, and performing other tasks.

The Times reported that members of the HFPA were flown Paris to visit the Emily in Paris set and paid for a two-night stay at a luxury hotel where rooms cost more than $1000 a night, which bolstered corruption allegations.

When the 2021 nominees were announced, there was criticism that movies featuring Black filmmakers and Black actors in leading roles including Regina King’s One Night in Miami, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods and Shaka King’s Judas and the Black Messiah, were absent in the best motion picture category. Criticism escalated after Michaela Coel's I May Destroy You was not on the nomination list at all.

In an op-ed published in The Guardian, Deborah Copaken, a writer for the Golden Globe-nominated Netflix series Emily in Paris, acknowledged that I May Destroy You deserved to be recognized at the 2021 Golden Globes.

In April 2021, Deadline reported that Philip Berk had sent an email that said Black Lives Matter is a "racist hate movement." Berk has since been expelled from the HFPA.

The following month, NBC publicly announced it will not televise the 2022 Golden Globes, citing the criticism in Hollywood for the ethics and lack of diversity in the HFPA.

Mayan Lopez, Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) President Helen Hoehne and Selenis Leyva pose during the 80th Annual Golden Globe Awards Nominations announcement in Beverly Hills, California, U.S. December 12, 2022. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Mayan Lopez, Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) President Helen Hoehne and Selenis Leyva pose during the 80th Annual Golden Globe Awards Nominations announcement in Beverly Hills, California, U.S. December 12, 2022. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Have things really changed with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association?

On May 6, 2021, the HFPA announced that it approved new reforms after being called out for racism and corruption, which included increasing membership by 50 per cent in an 18-month period, with a particular focus on recruiting Black members. Later that year, the HFPA announced a five-year partnership with the NAACP for the “Reimagine Coalition” to help create a more diverse and inclusive industry.

In a press release announcing the nominees for the 80th Golden Globes, the HFPA provided a breakdown of the 96 members and 103 international voters.

"The new voters were recruited from international industry organizations, well-known foreign film festivals and journalism professionals," the release reads. "This diverse voting group represents 62 different countries around the world."

According to the HFPA, the total Golden Globes voting body is 52 per cent female and 51.8 per cent "racially and ethnically diverse," including 19.6 per cent Latinx, 12.1 per cent Asian, 10.1 per cent Black, and 10.1 per cent Middle Eastern.

While the hope for some is that the controversies of the past stay in the past, that hasn't exactly been the case. Aside from Brendan Fraser vowing to not participate, women were not included in the nominees for best director this year. Notably absent is Sarah Polley for Women Talking and Gina Prince-Bythewood for The Woman King. It's almost unbelievable that in 2023 no woman was seen worthy of nomination in the category.

In the 2022 GQ article with Fraser, the actor was asked if he believed any of the reforms the HFPA vowed to make.

“At the moment, no," Fraser said in response. "Maybe time will tell if they’re going to…I don’t know what they’re going to do. I don’t know.”

But some actors are supporting the changes the HFPA is striving to make, including Michelle Williams, nominated for Steven Spielberg's The Fabelmans.

"It feels to me like the community as a whole has decided that this organization has really done a lot of work to reform themselves and that we can support change, like we can hold people accountable and then we can support them as they continue to journey in their path towards being a better organization,” she said, according to the Associated Press.

In 2021, viewership for the Golden Globes was the lowest in history, so we'll see on Tuesday if the show is able to win back viewers. But maybe the bigger question is whether we still need to give it attention.

Actors, directors and everyone who works in film and TV certainly deserves recognition for great work, but if the group making the decisions is systemically flawed, is it really worthy of our attention? Maybe only time will tell.