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The Golden Globes Were Too Big to Fail

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The large winner of last night’s Golden Globes was the Golden Globes. Please hold your applause. As is usually the case with awards, whether or not the victory was merited was irrelevant. It was foreordained.

The Globes and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which puts them on, won from the moment that NBC decided to place them back on TV, after taking a 12 months off following the organization’s scandals over racism and corruption.

The trophy was a prime-time broadcast replete with film and TV stars serving red-carpet looks. The implicit message was: “All is forgiven — now please watch our movies and shows and buy the sponsors’ products!”

“The most important party in Hollywood is back!” an NBC promo announced. And who desired to be a celebration pooper by dwelling on what it was back from?

That job fell to the host, the comedian Jerrod Carmichael. The choice to return the Globes to TV can have been questionable, but not less than it resulted in the perfect awards-show opening monologue I even have ever heard.

Really, what Carmichael delivered was less a monologue than a chat, a transient wrestle with the ideas of success and complicity. “I’ll let you know why I’m here,” he opened. “I’m here because I’m Black.”

His performance was like a confessional comedy special condensed into a couple of minutes. He paced, sat at the sting of the stage and unburdened himself. Here he was, a superb Black comic, landing a gig that ratified his undeniable talent but that also conveniently served the H.F.P.A.’s image-laundering purposes. “I won’t say they were a racist organization,” he said, “but they didn’t have a single Black member until George Floyd died, so do with that information what you’ll.”

The gang laughed sparingly and uncomfortably. I’m not even sure that Carmichael was attempting to make them laugh a lot as to make them think, and to think things through himself. Should he even be there? Alternatively, why should one group’s failings deny him a profession coup (and, in his telling, $500,000)?

You might also say that, in so doing, he gave the remaining of the room space to benefit from the night and avoid the topic. Once he threw himself on the grenade of controversy, the celebrities could safely bypass it on the strategy to the stage.

Definitely, if the remaining of Hollywood was having similarly complicated feelings concerning the Globes, it largely kept them to itself amid all of the thank yous to the H.F.P.A.

There was the occasional reference to the recent troubles. On the red carpet, Sheryl Lee Ralph of “Abbott Elementary” talked about getting her first Globe nomination in “a 12 months when the Hollywood Foreign Press would open up its hearts and its minds to an understanding that diversity actually works.”

Just a few celebs were conspicuous by their absence. Brendan Fraser, the star of “The Whale,” had announced that he would boycott due to H.F.P.A.’s handling of his charge that a former leader of the group groped him in 2003. Tom Cruise returned his three Globe trophies in 2021, a gesture that Carmichael joked about onstage.

In her awards remarks, the H.F.P.A.’s president, Helen Hoehne, spoke vaguely of “a 12 months of momentous change for our organization” and pledged to “proceed so as to add representation to our organization from world wide.”

But while the H.F.P.A. desires to brand itself as owning the failures of its past, those went mostly undetailed in the printed.

This was not the Globes’ first second probability. The Federal Communications Commission forced the awards off TV within the late Nineteen Sixties on charges that it had “misled the general public as to how the winners were determined.” In 1982, the Globes notoriously named Pia Zadora the “latest star of the 12 months,” an honor underwritten by her billionaire husband’s lavish wining and dining of H.F.P.A. members.

The 2021 Los Angeles Times investigation that found that the H.F.P.A. had no Black members also detailed reports of unethical influence and of members snorkeling up freebies, like an extravagant junket to the French shooting location of “Emily in Paris” before that show’s baffling nomination. Hollywood responded indignantly — finally — and NBC skipped last 12 months’s show.

That was a 12 months ago. Last fall, NBC cited the H.F.P.A.’s “commitment to ongoing change.” (The group added Black members and said that it had made changes to its ethics practices; there have been, notably, a healthy amount of nominees and winners of color on Tuesday night.) It agreed to bring back the cameras, without which the Globes might as well not exist.

The Globes began as an industry event in 1944, a gambit to extend the small journalistic group’s pull. Their arrival on national TV within the Nineteen Sixties made them a flea under a magnifying glass. They were what the historian Daniel Boorstin described in “The Image” as a “pseudo-event,” a manufactured happening given the looks of importance by media coverage.

Nearly everybody got something for taking part in along. TV got a lucrative special; audiences got a breezy, often wild show; the entertainment media got headlines and clicks; stars and studios got a promotional platform; and the H.F.P.A. got legitimacy. (My hands usually are not clean either. I even have spent years as a TV critic pretending to care concerning the Golden Globes because I wrote for publications that wanted coverage of the Golden Globes.)

But because everyone acknowledged that the Globes were frothy and frivolous, for a very long time the mutually agreed-on charade seemed innocuous enough. Over time the jokes — that the awards were a boozy goof placed on by a tiny, sketchy organization — made it from insider snark to podium monologue.

In 2011, the host Ricky Gervais japed that H.F.P.A. members didn’t nominate “The Tourist” just to hang around with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, “Additionally they accepted bribes.” In 2020, a 12 months before the revelation that the H.F.P.A. had no Black members, he explained that the dearth of nominees of color was since the association “is just very, very racist.”

The Globes were inoculated by irony. In the event that they were merely a harmless joke, perhaps everyone could look past it and luxuriate in the passionate and zany speeches.

However the awards had develop into too big to be harmless. They generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in promoting. That they had a giant promotional effect and influence on the remaining of awards season, which meant big money for studios and careers made (or not) on the capricious decisions of a suspect group. Where there are actual stakes, there may be actual loss and actual harm.

Those stakes, nevertheless, appear also to have made the Golden Globes too big to fail. The most recent scandals must have been the tip of them, not less than as a significant media event. (Talent ought to be recognized, but nobody is entitled to get an award on national TV.) NBC could yet put an end to all of this by cutting off the eye spigot — it has the Globes on a one-year contract — though it’s just as likely that falling rankings could finish off the awards some 12 months as any ethical lapses.

Within the meantime, the twisted irony is that the Globes’ scandals could leave them seeming more weighty, more august, more necessary than they did before. In spite of everything, the premise of much of this 12 months’s coverage — did the Globes rehabilitate themselves? — implies that they’d credibility to lose in the primary place.

Here too Carmichael can have had the perfect word: “I took this job assuming they hadn’t modified in any respect.” For now, not less than, the Golden Globes are back, too big to fail, but perhaps not too big to fail upward.

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