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HomeOpinionOp-EdsWe Need Performance, Not Performative Activism

We Need Performance, Not Performative Activism

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On the evening of Jan. 9, a modest version of the Golden Globes took place with very little fanfare at an undisclosed location in Beverly Hills — without a single television camera or red carpet in sight. On the surface, this appeared to be just another sacrifice of a beloved awards show in the name of social distancing and public health mandates. Yet, the new COVID-19 variant sweeping the nation was not the reason for this year’s absence of festivities. 

In fact, the scaled-back ceremony is actually part of a wider publicity stunt by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) to salvage its reputation in light of recent scandals. 

Widespread backlash following the 2021 Golden Globes spawned an exposé by the Los Angeles Times which placed heavy scrutiny on the HFPA’s internal corruption and lack of diversity. Not only did the article purport that members were in the practice of accepting gifts and promotional materials from studios and publicists, laying bare a flagrant conflict of interest, it also revealed that the HFPA had zero Black journalists among its 87 members.

This longstanding history of quid pro quo favors and gifts exchanged for flattery and awards underscores the interdependence between Hollywood’s elite and the press. Given the reciprocal relationship of these two groups, it comes as no surprise to anyone that the HFPA’s conduct over the years consists of many ethical lapses. 

Both entities have benefited immensely from this system, which is why we should question the sincerity in all of this outrage and the motivations behind their symbolic gestures of apology. That is assuming the everyday person on the street is even paying attention, let alone has any investment in all of this fuss.

Meanwhile, NBC’s indefinite halt on their televised broadcast of the ceremony will allow space for “transformational change” to occur, thus perfectly setting up the Golden Globes for their redemption arc. The HFPA’s plan to atone for their past and to neatly resolve this PR nightmare includes a laundry list of reforms: an expansion of their board of directors and members to include more BIPOC voices, a five-year partnership with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and greater oversight and restrictions on gift-receiving, to name a few. 

Though these ideas are all well and good, some normalcy might actually be what audiences are yearning for. A return to the basic values and principles that unite us all in the movie-watching experience is much needed. While representation is important, so is escapism. We often indulge in movies because they transport us away from our realities, which have become increasingly characterized by growing wealth inequality, racial divide and the constant culture war. And as the lives of ordinary people seem to be at the mercy of an uncontrollable virus, many of us see right through the veneer of these ceremonies. The entertainment industry is so obsessed with virtue-signaling and being on the right side of history that it has left its audience in the dust.

Nevertheless, the Golden Globes will inevitably make their comeback in 2023, seeing that they make good on their promises for more inclusivity. Perhaps industry insiders and devoted cinephiles may still want to see what goes on at the Globes and who takes home a golden statuette, though it’s safe to say that the majority of Americans couldn’t be less interested.

A word of advice to Hollywood and the HFPA — or whoever is listening: 

No one at home wants to sit through another acceptance speech bemoaning fossil fuels and the dire need to save our planet from a person who likely flew in for the awards by way of a private jet. Stick to the movies, please!

Melissa Newell is an Opinion Intern for the 2022 winter quarter. She can be reached at mrnewell@uci.edu.