The Golden Globes: A Celebration Of Diversity, Sort Of

Much like our hosts, the winners, at times, seem to have been chosen out of two boxes—one white and traditional, the other from the larger and unwieldier box called “diversity.”

Few things bore me faster than people who talk on social media about how boring and irrelevant and overlong and stupid Awards Show X is. If you don’t want to watch it, fine, but why do you have to tell me?

(It’s not just regular folks on social media. It took Vogue approximately 23 seconds to put up this article.) 

Yes, the yearly Grammys/Emmys/Oscars/Tonys/Golden Globes/People’s Choice/etc. march can get a bit tedious, especially with every show clocking in at three hours plus. At the same time, we’re celebrating art and fellow artists in a country that defunds and marginalizes us, that holds whatever talent and intelligence we have against us. Maybe we can chill on the complaining and talk about the work? To wit:

The 2019 Golden Globes took place last night, and the hosts, it seems, were the perfect symbol of who/what won and who/what didn’t. On the one hand, you’ve got Andy Samberg, CisHet White Male from the showbiz twin cities of Los Angeles and New York. On the other, you’ve got Sandra Oh, a winner herself this year for Best Actress in a Television Drama. If you haven’t checked out her show, Killing Eve, you should. Oh, born to Korean parents, is Canadian.

Much like our hosts, the winners, at times, seem to have been chosen out of two boxes—one white and traditional, the other from the larger and unwieldier box called “diversity.”

It took Samberg one minute to make a “who’s going to host the Oscars?” joke, referencing the Kevin Hart controversy over his refusal to apologize for past anti-LGBTQ jokes. Those who want artists to “just shut up and act/write/paint/sing” must have cringed, but I never hear authors or Directors of Photography tweeting plumbers to just shut up and plunge that toilet. Art is political. You can like it or not, but you can’t silence it.

Not every winner used their platform to comment on politics, but those who did made the show both memorable and important. When Patricia Clarkson thanked her Sharp Objects director, Jean-Marc Valee, she said, “You demanded everything out of me except sex, which is exactly how it should be in our industry.” Mic drop.

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Drama winner Regina King pledged to employ at least 50 percent women on projects she henceforth produces and challenged anyone with power to do the same. Best Director winner Alfonso Cuaron spoke of building bridges, not walls. The producers of Best Television Drama American Crime Story reminded us that the world of Gianni Versace and Andrew Cunanan is not far removed from ours, and the issues LGBTQ people faced every day back then are still very much present.

Everyone involved with Green Book—Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture winner Mahershala Ali and director Peter Farrelly, for instance—spoke glowingly of the film’s subjects and how they transcended their racial and class differences. Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama winner Glenn Close spoke passionately about women’s pursuing their dreams against whatever obstacles our patriarchal world sets against them. About playing Dick Cheney, Best Actor in a Motion Picture Comedy winner Christian Bale referred to the former Vice-President as “Satan” and claimed that he might play Mitch McConnell next in order to corner the market on evil, charisma-free characters.

Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama winner Rami Malek reminded us that Freddie Mercury and his music modeled being true to oneself and fighting for inclusion in a world that resists even acknowledging difference.

Still, though there really weren’t any bad choices in most categories, some outcomes seemed a bit surprising.

Although I have not seen his show, The Kominsky Method, I know Michael Douglas is a spectacular actor. Still, I was shocked that Donald Glover did not win Best Actor in a Television Comedy. Given the way he inhabits the downtrodden Earn on Atlanta as often the only character who realizes how weird things truly are, a performance would have to be stellar to beat him. Perhaps voters looked at Glover less as an actor and more as a jack-of-all-trades on the show, given that he also writes and directs some episodes, but if so, they did a disservice to Glover’s nuanced performance.

I am also truly anxious to see Richard Madden’s show Bodyguard after his win over competition including Matthew Rhys and Pose’s Billy Porter. Pose did not receive enough nominations, given how it helps fill a major representational void on television in its portrayal of the 1980s transgender community and the ways in which it is also one of the best family dramas going. Forget the politics if you wish; it’s just plain good. It was disappointing to see so few nominations and zero wins for such a touching, searing, important show.

At least Ben Whishaw, a Queer man playing a Queer character in A Very English Scandal, won. Plus, the statuettes taken home by a diverse group like King, Oh, Ali, Cuaron, Filipino-descended Darren Criss, and the Egyptian-descended and diversity-advocating Malek—plus awards for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Green Book, Roma, and American Crime Story—should keep the Globes from suffering hashtags like #GlobesSoWhite or #GlobesSoStraight.

It’s also hard to find fault with the winners from less diverse backgrounds, considering their achievements. Clarkson, Bale, Close, and the delightful Olivia Colman have rightly been praised to such an extent that we should expect to see them on Oscar night. And who could deny the legitimacy of lifetime-achievement winners Jeff Bridges and Carol Burnett?

I take issue, though, with the winner for Best Motion Picture Drama, Bohemian Rhapsody. Despite the film’s attempt at a positive, inclusive message and Malek’s powerhouse performance, the movie simply isn’t that good. I don’t like to criticize other artists’ work; I know how hard it is to create something that didn’t exist and present it for public consumption. Still, leaving out A Star Is Born, which I haven’t seen, I fail to understand how Bohemian Rhapsody is better than the other films in its category—If Beale Street Could Talk and BlacKkKlansman. I would argue that, on the whole, Black Panther is better, too. In a just world, Roma would have been part of this category instead of Rhapsody and might have created a Cuaronian bridge between foreign-language films and the more “American” categories.

BlacKkKlansman and Black Panther went winless, as did Crazy Rich Asians. Does this reflect Hollywood’s contentious relationship with Spike Lee as “too controversial,” with superhero movies as “too genre,” and with movies like CRA as “too commercial”? Or does it mean something that the strong but also much safer Green Book got all the love?

On some days, it feels like we’re progressing in creating art and an art-production culture that more accurately resemble American diversity. On others, it feels like we’re stuck in second gear, inching forward on the easiest path. I don’t know how the 2019 Golden Globes results will look historically on that continuum, but as these darned always-gotta-be-political artists reminded us, the question is worth asking, and the trip, no matter how slow, is worth the costs.

Brett Riley is the Pushcart-nominated author of The Subtle Dance of Impulse and Light (Ink Brush Press) and the feature-length screenplay Candy’s First Kiss, which won or placed in five contests. His short fiction has appeared in journals such as Solstice, Folio, The Wisconsin Review, Red Rock Review, The Evansville Review, and many others. Email him at, or follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @brettwrites.

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