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Golden Globes: how much has the film industry changed?

It is no secret that Hollywood is not the paradise it is often idealised as, especially for women, people of colour and other minority groups. After the prominence of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements at the 2018 Golden Globes, many of the female attendants wore black dresses in solidarity with women who were sharing their stories about sexual harassment online.

That was the first major awards show since the allegations against Harvey Weinstein made their way into mainstream media, and the powerful speeches made by prominent women in the industry such as Oprah suggested real change. But with International Women’s Day this week, has this rung true for the industry at large? 

At last week’s Golden Globe ceremony, it seemed that firsts were the theme of the night; the first Golden Globes where we got to see the nominees’ living rooms, and the first time an Asian woman has ever won the prize for best director. Chloe Zhao is only the second woman ever to win this award, the first being Barbra Streisand in 1984. This win has been praised by many, including Streisand herself who tweeted a congratulations to Zhao, saying “It’s about time!”  

Nomadland is a film about a woman in her 60s, played by Frances McDormand, who embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a modern-day Nomad. Zhao’s win seems a drastic change from the 2018 loss by Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird. 

The win for Zhao, who was born in China and now lives in the US, comes at a time when Anti-Asian hatecrime is being increasingly discussed in the media. This form of xenophobia has been heightened by racism surrounding the pandemic and the coronavirus. Journalist Diep Tran said in a tweet recently that, “In a time where Asian-Americans are being attacked because we’re still seen as foreign and a disease, Chloe Zhao and Minari winning Golden Globes means so much”.

Despite this, the ceremony was shrouded in controversy as The Hollywood Foreign Press Association came under fire in the Los Angeles Times. The group, which consistes of 87 international journalists who vote on the awards, was exposed by the LA Times of having members flown to Paris in support of the Netflix comedy Emily in Paris, which won two nominations. This of course raises moral and ethical issues, as the reporters were reportedly paid nearly $2 million between 2019 and 2020. 

At the beginning of this year there was significant controversy surrounding the Emily in Paris nominations, which was compared on social media to the universally claimed drama I May Destroy You, which failed to secure a single nomination. It seems that the wins for John Boyega, Chadwick Boseman and Daniel Kaluuya, despite being impressive and groundbreaking in themselves, do not mean much for women of colour who often miss out in both Actress and Director categories. 

Two other women were nominated alongside Zhao in the best director category; Regina King for One Night in Miami and Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Women. Only five female directors have ever been nominated in the Globes’ 78-year history. But if this is a step forward for women at the Globes, Michaela Cole, the British actress, screenwriter and director behind I May Destroy You, missing out is surely a step backwards. 

So, the donning of the black dresses in 2018 seems to have had limited impact, as it seems that it is what goes on behind the scenes of the award show that really counts. The win of Chloe Zhao has great significance for women and Asian people everywhere, but it is clear that with the approaching of International Women’s Day, more has to be done for representation on both the gender and race fronts at award shows such as the Golden Globes. 

Image: Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr

[Image showing two white signs with the words ‘Golden Globe Awards’ in navy blue]