Why The 2016 Golden Globes Diversity Is Worse Off Than You Probably Thought
What is the difference between December 2015 and January 2016? To me, the difference is optimism. Not just because the transition into a new year makes the world seem like it's teaming with opportunity, and that any resolution is possible, but because of awards season. When the 2016 Golden Globe nominees were announced in December 2015, the movie categories might have been a disappointment as far as diversity was concerned, but the television categories were rich with representation of all kinds: black actors, Hispanic actors, and television shows with main characters of color could all be found among the TV categories. And yet, somehow, we stand at the other side of the ceremony only to discover that, despite the diversity of the nominees, the actual list of 2016 Golden Globe winners is not diverse. In fact, across the 25 categories, only six people of color walked home with an award tonight. (Seven, if you count Denzel Washington winning the Cecil B. DeMille Award.)
That might seem pretty standard — and, in fact, is usually the standard when it comes to award shows — but this year it seems particularly egregious. Why? Because 21 percent of the nominees were diverse, and diversity among the winners, including entertainers of color or shows, movies, or songs starring people of color, represented only 24 percent of them. To put it into even better perspective, of the number of diverse nominees, 77 percent of them went home empty-handed. And, even worse, this is actually improvement upon the 2015 Golden Globes, in which only 16 percent of the winners were diverse, or the 2014 Golden Globes, when only 12 percent of the winners were diverse. And, for an award show with somewhere around 125 nominees across 25 categories, that's just depressing.
I'm not claiming for even a moment that all of Sunday night's winners didn't deserve to go home with their award. (Well, except Lady Gaga. I'm still trying to understand Lady Gaga.) But the amount of times that a person of color was passed over for the win in favor of white actor was frequent enough to be noticeable. Maura Tierney took home an award instead of Regina King or Uzo Aduba. Lady Gaga took home an award instead of Queen Latifah. "Writing's On The Wall" took the win instead of "See You Again." Tierney, Lady Gaga, and "Writing's On The Wall" are all award-worthy in their own unique way, but, when you look at the dismal final percentage of diversity by the end of the night, it's time to start asking some questions. Did they really outperform everyone in their categories? What made them the final choice above the quality work put forth by the people of color in their categories? And is it really meant to escape our notice that three times as many white actors or singers were found deserving of awards than actors or singers of color?
And that's ultimately the problem every time an award show comes around. The problem has never been the lack of a diversity quota forcibly instituted to make award shows "fair and diverse." The problem is that it seems a lot easier to actually win an award you're nominated for, and get nominated for that award in the first place, if you're white than if you're a person of color. Despite the fact that the percentage of winners has been inching steadily upward in the last three years, that doesn't dispel the fact that there appears to be some sort of glass ceiling between nominees and winners for people of color. It's as if Hollywood has collectively decided that just nominating them is enough, but they don't actually need to win. 77 percent of them should go home with nothing.
The absurdity of that statement goes without saying, so why does this keep happening year after year? Why is the optimism of a diverse list of nominees always so soon followed by the disappointment of an overwhelmingly monochrome list of winners? Television in 2015 was some of the most diverse yet, and already that is not being reflected in the awards being given out to recognize television excellence. Already that is not being reflected in the Golden Globes, which achieved a true victory in 2015 when they shocked everyone by giving Gina Rodriguez a well-deserved win for Jane The Virgin . It's for that reason that I find myself more disappointed with the Golden Globes than I might be with, say, the Oscars — see #OscarsSoWhite — or even the Emmys.
After 2015, I expected better, and it's disappointing to be forced to realize that not only did that better not come, but also that even the disappointing numbers of the 2016 ceremony was still an improvement over the last two years. That bodes both well, and not so well, for 2017.
Image: Caroline Wurtzel/Bustle