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Tarnished Golden Globes attempt a comeback, after years of controversy

A view of the stage during the 79th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton on Jan. 09, 2022, in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Emma McIntyre
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Getty Images for Hollywood Foreign Press Association
A view of the stage during the 79th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton on Jan. 09, 2022, in Beverly Hills, Calif.

The Golden Globes are attempting a comeback on television Tuesday evening, after two scandal-ridden years for the organization that hosts the annual ceremony honoring film and TV. The 80-year-old Hollywood Foreign Press Association plans to hand out its awards with a lavish Hollywood party emceed by comedian Jerrod Carmichael. The who's who of this year's presenters include Best Actress nominee Ana de Armas, Best Supporting Actress nominee Jamie Lee Curtis and filmmaker Quentin Tarantino.

NBC/Peacock will again broadcast the ceremony, having ditched it last year. Many studios, networks, stars and publicists boycotted the 2022 ceremony; There were no celebrity presenters and no red carpet. That was in response to controversy over the HFPA's questionable practices and lack of diversity.

The group was criticized for conflicts of interest and bribery; it was called out for having very few Black members and for holding problematic press conferences by members, who are supposed to be journalists for international media.

HFPA president Helen Hoehne says since then, the group has been overhauled, adding stricter standards of who can be a member and a new code of conduct.

"We adopted a new set of policies, eliminated a lot of the conflicts that we had," she tells NPR. "We implemented a new grievance procedure with a confidential reporting hotline."

Actor and comedian Jerrod Carmichael will host the Golden Globes on Tuesday night. He's pictured above in London in June 2017.
Niklas Halle'n / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Actor and comedian Jerrod Carmichael will host the Golden Globes on Tuesday night. He's pictured above in London in June 2017.

The HFPA added 21 journalists based in the U.S., including six Black Americans, and 103 new members representing 62 countries. Two hundred members now making up the voting body — 52% are female, 19.5% self-identify as Latinx, 12% as Asian, 10% as Black and 10% as Middle Eastern.

"We are working to correct past wrongs, past transgressions, but we are really feeling like we're in a position to take pride in some of that work. But most importantly, we aren't done," says Neil Phillips, the HFPA's Chief Diversity Officer. "The organization was called out, was exposed, justifiably so. They were in crisis, and we'll continue to work on changing that just to try to be a better organization."

Phillips says the HFPA is now collaborating with 16 advocacy groups, including the NAACP, in what they call a "Reimagined Coalition," to support and fund efforts toward diversity, equity, inclusion and access in the entertainment industry.

"It really took a crisis in order to allow this organization to evolve," says CEO
Todd Boehly. He says the HFPA is rebranding itself.

"It's evolving into two organizations, one which will be for profit and one which will be the charitable arm, both which will be branded the Golden Globes," he told NPR.

Boehly says the for-profit Golden Globes organization will be more professional, paying journalists to create online content and podcasts (offering them salaries of $75,000 a year). He says they'll no longer hold exclusive press conferences for its members.

A table reserved for members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) is seen at the nominations announcement for the 79th Golden Globe Awards, on Dec. 13, 2021, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
A table reserved for members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) is seen at the nominations announcement for the 79th Golden Globe Awards, on Dec. 13, 2021, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.

"The press conferences were one of the things that Hollywood felt weren't the safest environments," Boehly says, admitting that some questions asked during those events were "seen as not thoughtful."

Behind the scenes, some publicists, actors and filmmakers remain skeptical that the HPFA has truly reformed. They point out, for instance, that this year's Best Director category once again has no female nominees. But some are cautiously hopeful.

"They still have a long way to go there, but they have made significant strides," says Kelly Bush Novak, the CEO and founder of ID, one of the entertainment industry's top publicity and marketing firms. "I'm optimistic about the road ahead, that the issues we faced historically are going to remain squarely in the rearview mirror."

Two years ago, Novak helped lead 100 publicity firms in signing a letter asking the HFPA to reform.

"It was really problematic. We had clients experience homophobia during press conferences, blatantly racist remarks during press conferences, certainly a lot of sexist remarks," she says. "It's important to acknowledge the past and never forget the damage that was done because it was significant. But I really do encourage everyone to concentrate on the promise that they've made to continue to reform."

Still, for many, the question remains: Are the Golden Globes forever tarnished?

"I am both surprised and not surprised by how quickly Hollywood seems to have forgiven the organization," says Kevin Fallon, editor of The Daily Beast's Obsessed and co-president of the TV branch of the Critics Choice Association.

"At one point, I wondered if they ever had a show again, if no one in Hollywood would show up because they want to stand up for all the things that they had preached about when the controversy first started and wanted to make a statement by not going," he says.

Last year, amidst the scandal, Tom Cruise famously returned his Golden Globe trophies in protest. This year, his movie Top Gun: Maverick is up for Best Picture. Brendan Fraser, who is nominated as Best Actor for his role in the film Whale publicly announced he will not be attending the ceremony; he alleges he was once groped by the HFPA's former eight-term president Philip Berk — an allegation Berk has disputed.

Fallon says it will be interesting to see who else does or doesn't show up for what's traditionally been Hollywood's loosest, booziest awards celebration.

Already, there are reports that Steven Spielberg, Tony Kushner and Michelle Williams will be there, representing their film The Fabelmans (with five nominations). Best Actor nominee Austin Butler, who stars in Elvis reportedly plans to be in the building. Fans will be watching the red carpet for nominated guests such as Sheryl Lee Ralph from Abbott Elementary, Julia Garner from Inventing Anna and Ozark, and Jenna Ortega from Wednesday.

"There may bit a little bit of sheepishness in accepting a trophy," says Fallon. "But of course, it's Hollywood and they can't resist going to an awards show. So maybe I shouldn't be surprised."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.