PLAYBOY ASIA Playboy examines the agony and the ecstasy of an awards show that still can’t quite get it right

Written by Candice Frederick & Joe Andre Alam

PLAYBOY ASIA - Playboy examines the agony and the ecstasy of an awards show that still can’t quite get it right. It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. That’s the best way to describe Sunday night’s confounding Golden Globe Awards, which patted itself on the back for its “diversity” while also reminding us that it won’t be straying too far away from the political status quo anytime soon.

It’s strange because, leading up to the ceremony—in a year when #MeToo and #TimesUp were part of the cultural zeitgeist—the Golden Globes seemed to be mildly interested in accommodating the demands of a woke TV and film audience. They hired Sandra Oh as the cohost of the evening, along with Andy Samberg. It was a move that stuffy conservatives may have considered “risqué” or “edgy.”

But weeks after this announcement, the Hollywood Foreign Press seemed hellbent on appeasing their buttoned-up stakeholders and baby-boomer audience with press statements implying that just because they hired an Asian-American host following a year when Asian talent flourished on the big screen, they were not going to get all political on us, OK? There would also be no mention of, say, Donald Trump, or Kevin Spacey, or the slew of other toxic male offenders—at least not from the hosts.
So, how do you tread that line of being a politically enlightened host and keeping the evening fun and entertaining? Well, as it turned out, by staging a round of flu shots for the (mostly repulsed) “liberal,” white Hollywood crowd. And by starting the evening with the two hosts double-downing on fun, lighthearted “jokes”—including, “Spike Lee! Mr. Do the Right Thing! Well, I’ll tell you who does the right thing: you, as a director. Lifelong fan, can’t wait to see what you do next”—that landed with a kerplunk. It was … cringey.

Thank goodness Oh knew to take a brief moment to genuinely reflect on the variety of diverse Asian talent on screen in 2018, which was met with what was probably the most on-brand Hollywood response from someone in the live audience: a loud laugh. Ironically, too, because that was the one time throughout Oh and Samberg’s monologue that wasn’t desperate for a punchline. And yet, there it was—for that one person, anyway.

Moving past the mostly awkward opening monologue, there were some truly great moments of cultural diversity among the winners that are worth celebrating. Oh herself finally—finally—won her first ever Golden Globe for her stunning performance on Killing Eve. And right before her big win, Regina King took home the coveted award for her heartbreaking portrayal in If Beale Street Could Talk. Gotta love that back-to-back winning streak for two of the most well-deserved women in Hollywood.

Likewise for the nominated men of color, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which race-swapped the iconic superhero with an Afro-Latino lead, won for best animated film. Alfonso Cuarón was finally recognized for directing a film (the wonderful Roma) that does not star a white lead—though his Best Director win came in a category with only-male nominees. Darren Criss won for playing the hell out of gay serial killer Andrew Cunanan in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. Rami Malek prevailed for portraying the late, great queer icon Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, and Mahershala Ali earned a Best Supporting Actor award for his performance as the gay musical genius Dr. Don Shirley in Green Book. So, kudos to the Hollywood Foreign Press for giving respect when it’s due—for a whole, maybe, 15 minutes in an exhaustive two-and-a-half hour ceremony.

But once again, this big step forward was met with several giant steps backward because the aforementioned Mercury biopic, which practically erased his queer and racial identity and also wasn’t good, had the audacity to win for Best Picture—Drama in a category where literally every other nominee was better: If Beale Street Could Talk, BlacKkKlansman, Black Panther and A Star Is Born. Oh, and the credited director of Bohemian Rhapsody, Bryan Singer, was accused of multiple cases of sexual assault in the past. Stay woke, Golden Globes.

And just so we’re all clear on where the Hollywood Foreign Press stands as far as diversity goes, the voters couldn’t stop showering Green Book with awards. In addition to Ali, the film—another one that pushes the queer identity of its co-lead character, a black man, to the background and reduces him to an elusive stereotype—won for Best Screenplay and Best Picture—Musical or Comedy. It’s a movie that’s been condemned by many critics of color, as well as Shirley’s own family, but clearly the Golden Globes isn’t going to let a little thing like cultural reverence get in the way of their own agenda.

Last night’s Golden Globes was merely the latest Hollywood attempt to get politically engaged without exacting any real change in its voting procedures or actual politics. Seeing how last year’s prevalent conversation around gender and racial equality took a backseat throughout last night’s ceremony and on the red carpet—save for one or two acceptance speeches—I can’t help but wonder how sincere the Hollywood Foreign Press is in its stride toward diversity. Only time will tell.

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