In this op-ed, writer Sara Li unpacks Golden Globes 2020 and how the ceremony ignored some of the many culturally-relevant movies and shows made by women this year.
Another year, another award season that falls upon us in a flurry of designer wear, meme-able faux pas, and glitzy after parties. Golden Globes 2020 was no exception to the typical Hollywood schmoozing and snubbing, and as is tradition with award seasons past, this year’s Golden Globes rung in another year in which women were undermentioned, undervalued, or simply forgotten altogether. In case you missed it: no women were nominated in the Best Director category, and stories made by women (many of which centered women’s perspectives) were hardly featured at all.
Some of the year’s most interesting films and shows made by or about women didn’t receive their Golden Globes due: Unbelievable (starring Kaitlyn Dever), Little Women (directed by Greta Gerwig), Booksmart (directed by Olivia Wilde), and When They See Us (directed by Ava Duvernay), to name a few. The ones that did, like The Farewell and its star Awkwafina, felt massively important but still few and far between. These were important, timely stories created by women. And like much of Hollywood’s overall treatment of women, they were ignored.
The lack of inclusion at the Golden Globes, however much fun they are, isn’t entirely surprising, or even new. In the entire history of the Golden Globes, there have only been four female Best Director nominees, with one winner in 1983. The situation has gotten so embarrassingly loud that even Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais addressed it on Sunday night. “No female directors were nominated this year. No one. I mean, that's bad. I've had a word with the Hollywood Foreign Press, and they've guaranteed that will never happen again,” Gervais deadpanned. The punchline: “Because working with all the major studios, they’ve agreed to go back the way things were a few years ago, when they didn’t even hire women directors, and that will solve the problem. You’re welcome.”
The kicker, whether or not Gervais is in on the joke, is simple: “Why aren’t these women happy with what they’ve got? They get to make movies, don’t they?” But it’s not enough — it’s not enough when the projects women creators are making are still seen as niche. And that hits at both sides: they’re seen as not artsy enough for awards show acclaim, but they're also seen as too narrow for mass commercial consumption.
So it’s ironic then that these shows and films that didn’t win or for some, didn’t even get nominated, are some of the most culturally-relevant works from the past year. Unbelievable, a Netflix original based on true events, shed light on the horrific process of reporting sexual assault. As the Harvey Weinstein trials start today (Jan. 6), the realities that people who have been sexually assaulted face are stories that could not be more timely or needed.
Little Women and Booksmart both tackle the sacrifices of coming of age, albeit set in wildly different historical periods. Both premiered to glowing reviews from critics and fans. Yet on Twitter, discussion raged about Little Women not being appealing to male fans, and the kinds of stories that get the privilege of appeal to all genders. Booksmart, meanwhile, had to contend with Delta Airlines’ censorship of its lesbian sex scene, which seemed to further prove how vital the film’s story is. Both received noms for their leads (Beanie Feldstein and Saoirse Ronan, respectively), but didn’t get Globes acclaim at large (and both Beanie and Saoirse lost). Compare that to a film like Boyhood (directed by Richard Linklater), which swept the Golden Globes in 2015 and was also a coming of age tale, but one centered through the perspective of a boy.
Meanwhile, Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us about the Central Park Five received some of the most reverent praises when it premiered on Netflix. When They See Us told the real, powerful, and devastating tale of how five innocent black boys were imprisoned simply for being black. With the combination of Ava’s directorial work with the series and the real life implications of what it means to be black in America in 2020, it was predicted to be a sure contender. It received no Golden Globes nominations (though maybe Ava herself isn’t too upset about that fact).
These stories, all vastly important in their own respects, deserved a chance to be officially recognized as moving works of art that touch upon some of the most culturally important conversations we’re having. Their power isn’t taken away by the lack of accolades, but critical success and future opportunities are still unfortunately shaped by awards.
The winners of this year’s Golden Globes were overwhelmingly about the male perspective. From Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood to The Joker, we were reminded once again how much value the awards infrastructure places on stories about men, versus the very little they give to stories about women. For decades, women have been expected to see ourselves in stories about men. We have settled for the scraps of representation and fought for even just the right to be heard. But in a time when we have more female directors, writers, and storytellers than ever, it’s not enough just to be given permission to make art.
As we enter 2020, let’s all establish once and for all that women’s realities are more than just a limited genre. The works and stories of women need to be celebrated — because they influence all of us.
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