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78th Golden Globe Awards makes history and sparks controversy all in one night

From left, Director and Writer Chloe Zhao, Director of Photography Joshua James Richards and Frances McDormand on the set of "Nomadland." Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures/2020 20th Century Studios/TNS

The 78th annual Golden Globe Awards, which took place on Sunday, were different from past years in many ways, but for better or for worse, the production made history.

Program proceedings

In the virtual and in-person hybrid program, many actors, directors and writers took home awards from their living rooms. Some creatives, like Chloé Zhao, Andra Day and even the late Chadwick Boseman helped shape history with their awards and nominations.

Zhao won the award for Best Director of a Motion Picture for her film “Nomadland” – which also won Best Motion Picture for Drama – making it the first time an Asian woman has won Best Director. This also made Zhao the second woman to have ever won the award, following Barbara Streisand. 

Day took home the title of Best Actress in a Motion Picture for Drama and was the first Black woman to win the award since Whoopi Goldberg in 1986. Day won the award for her performance in “The United States v. Billie Holiday.”

Boseman received a posthumous award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture for Drama for his performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” His wife accepted the award on his behalf.

First-year business administration student BJ Miles said he thought the award show was a hit. As a big fan of “Schitt’s Creek,” he was happy the show won the award for Best TV Series as a comedy. He said the show is a big milestone for queer representation on TV and enjoyed seeing it recognized as the meaningful show he thinks it is.

However, he said some of the technical difficulties of the hybrid ceremony affected the program as a whole.

“Some of the moments were so awkward,” Miles said. “With the first 10 minutes, Daniel Kaluuya couldn't even speak because something was wrong with the connection. They did the best they could. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler did the best they could with what they were given.”

Ceremony controversies

The ceremony in itself was not without controversy. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) – the group of international journalist voters for the ceremony – received backlash this year for not having any Black members in the near 90-person group. Though three of the members of the HFPA addressed their efforts to improve diversity during the event, it proved to be a hot issue during the awards. 

Martin Johnson, a film studies adviser and assistant professor of English and comparative literature said he believes the controversy surrounding the HFPA will cause the public to think more critically about the culture surrounding award shows.

“It's interesting to see a greater spotlight on the association itself and think about the way that award shows tend to valorize certain things,” Johnson said. “It's not as if the Golden Globes is more representative than any other award show that circulates every year, and so maybe the controversy over the membership of the organization will cause us to think more critically about it.”

Another controversy surrounding the awards was the nomination of pop singer Sia’s new film “Music,” and its portrayal of the autistic community and lack of representation of autistic people on the creative team.

Because of its nomination for Best Motion Picture as a Musical or Comedy, first-year journalism student Casey Griffith chose not to watch the awards.

“I am autistic, and for the past several months, I've read all about how people in the autistic community were responding to Sia and giving her constructive feedback, and how she responded to that with insults,” Griffith said. “Even if she isn't going to listen to the criticism that she's received from the community, other creators can use that in their work going forward. Whenever we're represented, nothing about us without us.”

Award afterthoughts

Every year people express their thoughts about who should have won what award, but many people like Miles were content with the results, giving him hope for upcoming years. 

“They were actually judging by quality and I don't know how some shows did not get nominated,” Miles said. “My dad and I were watching ‘Lovecraft Country’ saying, ‘Oh my god this deserves a Golden Globe,’ but when I saw who was voting it made so much sense. I was happy with the representation that was there, but it wasn't an accurate representation of Hollywood.”


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