Watch the Golden Globes, and you see why the French Revolution had to happen. Not just because the modern aristocracy are thinner and better looking, and the reflection from their shiny teeth and plumped up faces strikes us like the mud that splashed the peasants as their betters zipped past in their carriages without paying any taxes. But because they have the nerve to speak down to us, and be such hypocrites in plain view. Bring on the pitchforks.
‘Everyone is depressed, and maybe that’s as good a reason as any that everyone could use a little time to laugh and celebrate,’ said arch-smirker Andy Samberg on behalf of a third of a billion Americans. His co-host Sandra Oh, channeling Lina Lamont in Singin’ in the Rain, promised to bring a ‘moment of joy’ into our humdrum little lives. But then she had to go and spoil it: ‘Honestly, with who is going to be in that audience, the nominees this year, it excites me so tremendously — mostly because of the diversity in that room.’
They can’t stop themselves, can they? The Golden Globes aren’t tremendously exciting because they might reward good films and good acting. They’re tremendously exciting because they promise to be a moral theater, a circus of contemporary virtues. A cast of cokeheads, carb-dodgers and kiddy-fiddlers act out a fantasy script in which the spoils of the ‘Best This’ and ‘Best That’ just happen to be divided into a perfect racial rainbow.
Identity politics turns the talent into ciphers, and it cheapens the awards. Sandra Oh was favorite to win Best Actress for her role in Killing Eve, but this was also the year of Crazy Rich Asians, and a general sense that this year is the Asians’ turn to win. They’ve waited so patiently, after all. Perhaps if they weren’t a model minority, and had complained instead of working hard, they’d have received some Golden Globe nominations earlier. But we shall never know if Oh was rewarded as Best Actress or Best Asian.
The possibility that it was Asian year must have created a crisis of conscience for the voters of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, because this was also the year in which three of the five nominations for Best Drama were Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman and If Beale Street Could Talk. Proudly liberal outlets proudly described Black Panther as a film everyone should be proud of, because it was proudly made by black people for black people. The truth is that there could not be a more deracinated work than a Hollywood adaptation of a superhero comic — it’s a myth about a myth about a myth. The truth also is that when myths of heroic omnipotence are located in their original context, they turn fascistic. Like the real Black Panthers, in fact.
The answer of course was to split the difference between the minorities, and give most of the awards to white actors. Sandra Oh won, and the Best Supporting awards went to black actors, Mahershala Ali in Green Book and Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk. Green Book pipped Crazy Rich Asians and Mary Poppins Returns for Best Comedy or Musical too, but that was the limit for non-white actors and films, diverse and exciting or not.
Best Comedy or Musical Actor and Actress went to Christian Bale (Vice) and Olivia Colman (The Favourite), and Best Drama Actress to Glenn Close (The Wife). A solar system of lesser Globes went to Patricia Arquette, Ben Whishaw, Michael Douglas, Richard Madden, Lady Gaga and Jeff Bridges. Possibly the award of Best Drama Actor to Rami Malek was tokenism, but I don’t think so; Malek is paler than Christian Bale.
Bohemian Rhapsody beat Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, If Beale Street Could Talk and A Star is Born for Best Motion Picture. The director of Bohemian Rhapsody, Bryan Singer, was fired from the set with two weeks of production remaining, and did not accept his award in person. He is currently fighting allegations that he has sexually assaulted underage boys, and not for the first time. No one mentioned that, but Brad Falchuk, producer of The Assassination of Gianni Versace (Best TV Movie or Limited Series) gave us a stern lecture about our duty to ‘resist’ the forces of hatred ‘in the streets’. Ah, showbiz.
So, after all the talk about diversity, this happened to be the whitest awards ceremony in a while. It’s almost as if most of the awards were made on merit. The hypocrisy!
Dominic Green is Life & Arts Editor of Spectator USA.