Golden Globes and Hollywood Foreign Press Association backlash: What to know

NBC won't televise the 2022 awards show, and Tom Cruise has reportedly sent back all his trophies. What's going on?

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Expertise Breaking news, entertainment, lifestyle, travel, food, shopping and deals, product reviews, money and finance, video games, pets, history, books, technology history, generational studies. Credentials
  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
6 min read
Tom Cruise with his Golden Globe Award for Magnolia

Maybe it'll wind up on eBay.

Frank Trapper/Getty Images

The annual Golden Globe Awards, which honor TV shows and movies, are under fire, as is the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the group that gives them out. NBC announced in May it won't televise the 2022 show as protest, and actor Tom Cruise reportedly has sent back three of his awards. That didn't stop the group from announcing its slate of nominees on Dec. 13. Even if no network decides to televise the show, the organization still plans to give out its awards on Jan. 9.

What's going on? Here's a look at the Globes' tangled history and uncertain future. 

What's the controversy?

Well, it's not just a single controversy. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association isn't exactly the prestigious Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It's a tiny group of journalists and photographers founded in 1943, with members from more than 50 countries, though active members must live in Southern California. In February, the Los Angeles Times published a scorching story about problems within the group, and since then the Golden Globes , the group's high-profile awards show, has been in the spotlight.

"Right now, our only focus is implementing the comprehensive plan for reform that we overwhelmingly voted in favor of last week," HFPA president Ali Sar said in a statement. 

No Black voting members

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is a group of just 87 critics, and the LA Times report said the group has no Black voting members. Its most recent list of nominations didn't include several Black-led Oscar contenders, including Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and Judas and the Black Messiah.

The membership was questioned in other ways, too. The LA Times said "relatively few (HFPA members) work full time for major overseas outlets."

Former group president's email

Recently, former President Philip Berk was expelled from the HFPA for sharing with group members an article that described Black Lives Matter as a "racist hate group." He later said he "forwarded it as a point of information."

Berk, 88, wasn't just a random member. He was president of the group for eight years and a member for 44 years. And actor Brendan Fraser said in 2018 that Berk groped him in 2003. Berk denied that things happened as Fraser described and said he "pinched [Fraser] in jest."

Lavish junket

In 2019, 30 members of the group were flown to France for a luxury trip to the set of the Netflix show Emily in Paris, which later received two surprising Golden Globes nominations. Insider.com reported the trip was paid for by Paramount Network, the show's original producers, though the HFPA said in a statement to Insider the group paid for the airfare for its members on that trip. 

In an opinion piece that ran in the Guardian, one of the Emily in Paris writers said "it never occurred to me that our show would be nominated." That same writer pointed out that the Golden Globes snubbed the much more highly acclaimed I May Destroy You, which has a predominantly Black British cast. The question being asked seems clear: Were the producers able to buy Golden Globe nominations by pampering the foreign critics?

The Emily in Paris junket isn't a one-off type of event. The LA Times report said HFPA members "are routinely granted exclusive access to Hollywood power players, invited to junkets in exotic locales, put up in five-star hotels and, as Globes nominations near, lavished with gifts, dinners and star-studded parties."

Payments to members

The LA Times report also said the HFPA, a tax-exempt nonprofit, pays its members in ways that could violate IRS guidelines. 

"HFPA members collected nearly $2 million in payments from the group in its fiscal year ending in June 2020 for serving on various committees and performing other tasks -- more than double the level three years earlier," the LA Times reported.

The Times wrote that "by the end of 2020, the association was collectively paying nearly $100,000 a month to members serving on more than a dozen different committees." The film and television academies, the groups running the Oscars and Emmys, don't pay their members to serve on committees, the report said. 

The HFPA responded to the newspaper by saying its compensation is based on market rates, and that payments are "vetted by a professional nonprofit compensation consultant and outside counsel, where appropriate."

The New York Times spoke with an attorney who said that even though the group is a 501(c) (6) tax-exempt organization, and as such must benefit the industry in some way, payments aren't necessarily against the law, so long as they're considered reasonable. After looking over the HFPA's tax return, the attorney told the publication, "There are some healthy numbers on there, but not really beyond the pale."

The 2022 telecast

NBC announced on May 10 that it won't air the Golden Globes in 2022, as had been previously planned but noted that the HFPA has said it's working on reforms. "Assuming the organization executes on its plan, we are hopeful we will be in a position to air the show in January 2023," NBC's statement said.

That's a big loss for the Globes. The LA Times report noted that "last fiscal year, the organization pulled in $27.4 million from [NBC], up from $3.64 million in fiscal 2016-2017, according to a budget document."

But despite not having a network, the HFPA announced the nominees for the 79th Annual Golden Globe Awards on Dec. 13. Dune, West Side Story, Encanto, Squid Game and Ted Lasso are all nominated. The winners will be unveiled on Jan. 9.

Will the A-list Hollywood stars show up, if there's no broadcast? That remains to be seen.

The HFPA response -- and a backlash

In May the group announced plans to alter things. Suggested changes included adding more members with a focus on diversity; adding new administrative positions, including a chief diversity and inclusion officer; adding an oversight board; and restricting gifts. 

Members voted for the reforms, but the changes weren't enough for many. Time's Up, a group that fights sexual harassment at work, plus a group of 100 public-relations firms, said the HFPA wasn't moving fast enough and that the reforms weren't specific enough. The pressure put the HFPA back to work and it now plans to complete reforms by early August.

Studio reaction

Netflix, Amazon Studios and WarnerMedia have already refused to work with the HFPA until changes are made. And the changes the HFPA first proposed didn't go far enough to satisfy those studios.

Netflix co-CEO and Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said the organization is "stopping all activities" with the HFPA until "more meaningful changes are made." As The Hollywood Reporter reported, Netflix received more nominations and wins than any other studio or network at the 2021 Golden Globes in February.

"We have not been working with the HFPA since these issues were first raised, and like the rest of the industry, we are awaiting a sincere and significant resolution before moving forward," Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke said in a statement issued May 7.

WarnerMedia, home of HBO, also said the company wouldn't work with the HFPA until "changes are implemented."

What are the stars saying?

Actor Tom Cruise has returned the three Golden Globes he's won over the years, Deadline reported. The report didn't give details as to what exactly Cruise was objecting to or if he included a message, but the actor isn't exactly known for social protests, so this is novel for him.

It's unknown if other stars have returned their Golden Globes, but many of them do seem to favor HFPA reforms. In February, when Time's Up tweeted an HFPA-related message saying that "a cosmetic fix isn't enough," more than a dozen celebrities shared the message. That list includes Jennifer Aniston, Mark Ruffalo, Kerry Washington, Amy Schumer, Simon Pegg, Busy Phillips, Dakota Johnson, Patton Oswalt, Laura Dern and Alyssa Milano.

Director Ava DuVernay tweeted a statement noting the awards the HFPA gives out "unfortunately" matter as far as making it easier for winners to finance their projects. 

"Therefore, everyone must have balanced access and consideration so that the playing field can be more equitable for artists of all kinds, colors and cultures," DuVernay said in part.

Scarlett Johansson is also urging the film industry to pull back from the HFPA. In a statement to Variety, she said that for years, she refused to participate in the group's news conferences because, "In the past, this has often meant facing sexist questions and remarks by certain HFPA members that bordered on sexual harassment."

And Mark Ruffalo said he didn't feel proud of winning Golden Globes. "It's discouraging to see the HFPA, which has gained prominence and profited handsomely from their involvement with filmmakers and actors, resist the change that is being asked of them from many of the groups that have been most disenfranchised by their culture of secrecy and exclusion," he said in a statement to Deadline.

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