Why NBC dropping the Golden Globes is a put-up-or-shut-up moment for the HFPA

·4 min read

After decades of glitzy, boozy Golden Globes affairs that kicked off awards season in style, the real story behind the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is one heck of a buzzkill.

And after Tom Cruise mailed his trophies back Monday, the HFPA may need to start clearing out its lobby for more incoming mail. The backlash to the 87-person HFPA’s glaring lack of racial diversity has been swift and decisive, from Netflix, Amazon and WarnerMedia breaking ties with the longtime organization – which doesn't have a single Black member, according to a Los Angeles Times investigation – to a strong rebuke from the movie stars it desperately loves, including Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson. However, the biggest bomb dropped Monday when NBC pulled out of airing next year's Globes.

"We continue to believe that the HFPA is committed to meaningful reform. However, change of this magnitude takes time and work, and we feel strongly that the HFPA needs time to do it right,” the network said in a statement, hinting that a 2023 show is possible if the HFPA “executes on its plan” of reforms.

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Tom Cruise (right, with Dustin Hoffman) won best actor for "Jerry Maguire" at the 1997 Golden Globes – a trophy that's been unceremoniously returned to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
Tom Cruise (right, with Dustin Hoffman) won best actor for "Jerry Maguire" at the 1997 Golden Globes – a trophy that's been unceremoniously returned to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

Already dealing with sagging ratings before the current tumult, the Globes are an endangered species right now. And in an time when Hollywood is finally being dragged kicking and screaming out of #OscarsSoWhite, pressing pause on them is absolutely the right thing to do, even if it means next year’s awards season is slightly less glamorous. (We just lived through a period of Zoom acceptance speeches and winners in their pajamas, so it’ll probably be OK.)

From the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on down, voting groups of artists and creators are working to diversify their membership rosters to reflect reality. It’s starting to show: For the first time this year, the Screen Actors Guild Awards had people of color sweep the individual acting honors (Viola Davis, Yuh-jung Youn, Daniel Kaluuya and the late Chadwick Boseman), and several Oscar winners also made history, including "Nomadland" filmmaker Chloe Zhao, who became the first woman of color to win best director.

Then there's the HFPA, which is a burning house of scandal right now, from preferential treatment received by its members to the issue of racial representation, and true power players are seemingly done with the high jinks. (WarnerMedia specifically asked HFPA for a code of conduct to prohibit "unwanted physical contact" of its talent and staff following a groping allegation.)

The organization has laid out reforms, including adding 20 new members by August (with a specific focus on recruiting Black members) and a stated goal of increasing the membership by 50% in the next 18 months. Maybe they'll take it seriously after being kicked straight in the moneymaker: The Globes are the main source of income for the HFPA, and Variety reported in 2018 that NBC was paying $60 million per year for broadcast rights in an eight-year pact that runs through 2026. In other words, each of those returned Cruise trophies can remind them of $20 million lost.

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It also couldn’t come at a worst time in general, after a slate of award shows with cratering ratings. The pandemic-era Globes sunk to 6.9 million viewers, down a massive 64% from 2020 and only barely beating a 2008 NBC news conference announcing the Globe winners as the result of a writer's strike. Audiences already seem less and less interested in these congratulatory showbiz affairs, and no Globes next year could just be a reminder of how unnecessary they were in the first place.

In a way, it’ll be the HFPA's “It’s a Wonderful Life” moment: Everybody will get to see what life’s like if the show didn’t exist. And if they want to avoid all-out extinction, the HFPA might really want to get its act together.

Putting out the fires and fixing what’s broken will take time, but the best way to come back strong is to have a star-studded 2023 affair that reminds everyone of the alcohol-fueled, loosey-goosey Globes of past years that were fun to watch, whether in the crowd or at home. And the only way they’re going to get mainstays like Cruise back is if they play ball and take those criticisms to heart like the HFPA’s life depends on it – mainly because it does.

Otherwise, they’re in for many unhappy returns.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBC cancels Golden Globes amid backlash: Why it matters for Hollywood

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