The 2015 Globes Were Great for Diversity in Television... Film, Not So Much
The 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards were full of surprises. Everything was not awesome for The Lego Movie , which fell unexpectedly to How To Train Your Dragon 2. Despite Best Actor and Screenplay awards, Birdman succumbed to the twee charm of The Grand Budapest Hotel in the Comedy category. And The CW actually won something! But probably the most surprising aspect of the ceremony was how wonderfully diverse the television categories turned out to be... and how sadly un -diverse the Globes film categories were by comparison.
At last year's Golden Globes, the television category was business as usual. All eight acting winners were white, and the three series winners (Breaking Bad, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Behind The Candelabra) centered around white male protagonists. This time around, 2015 seemed to be shaping up the same way, with plenty of steam building behind the likes of House Of Cards and True Detective. But the Hollywood Foreign Press managed to confound expectations and present awards to a wide array of diverse programs. HBO's crime anthology, which was often (and rightfully) derided for its lack of compelling female characters, ended up losing to FX's crime anthology, Fargo — a program which, despite such big (male) names as Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton (who won over Matthew McConaughey for Best Actor in a Mini-Series or TV Movie), was carried almost entirely by the abilities of its female lead, plucky Detective Molly Solverson, played by enchanting newcomer Allison Tolman. (Tolman herself lost the Best Actress award, but when it goes to Maggie Gyllenhaal for playing a half-Israeli businesswoman working towards peace in the Middle East in The Honorable Woman, it's hard to complain.)
Although Kevin Spacey won Best Actor in a Drama for House Of Cards, the Netflix series itself was trumped by Showtime's freshman program The Affair — a program created by a woman (Sarah Treem) and featuring two compelling female characters: frustrated wife Helen, played by Maura Tierney, and grieving mother Alison, played by Ruth Wilson (the night's winner for Best Actress in a Drama). Newcomer Gina Rodriguez, who was born to two Puerto Rican parents, beat out her four white competitors (Lena Dunham, Edie Falco, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Taylor Schilling) to take home the trophy for Best Actress in a Comedy — drawing attention to the delightful telenovela Jane The Virgin and winning The CW its first-ever Golden Globe award in the process.
The field of diversity that the HFPA seemed most interested in was sexuality, oddly enough. Downton Abbey's Joanne Froggatt won Best Supporting Actress, due in no small part to her superb execution of a storyline that involved her character recovering from a horrific rape. While the plot was not without controversy, it provided an excellent platform for conversations about depictions of sexual violence in entertainment, and it gave Froggatt the opportunity to deliver an eloquent speech dedicated to survivors of rape. Matt Bomer won Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of an AIDS victim in Ryan Murphy's The Normal Heart. And Jeffrey Tambor won Best Actor in a Comedy for the groundbreaking role of Maura Pfefferman, an aging patriarch who comes out to his grown children as a transgender woman. His series, Transparent, won Best Comedy for its female creator, Jill Soloway.
Strangely, the kind of diversity that was lacking from the TV awards was racial. Of the eight acting winners, Gina Rodriguez was the sole person of color. Two of the night's most surprising upsets came at the expense of two women of color: Uzo Aduba for Orange Is The New Black (who lost to Froggatt), and Viola Davis for How To Get Away With Murder (who lost to Wilson).
This lack of racial diversity carried over to the film section of the Globes' broadcast... which also lacked pretty much any diversity you can think of. This is especially disappointing after Steve McQueen's slavery epic 12 Years A Slave took home the top prize last year. You would think a major win like that would pave the way for more depictions of diversity, and yet all six acting winners were white and the only prize that went to a film featuring mainly people of color was a Best Original Song award for Selma 's "Glory" (by Common and John Legend). The film and its director, Ava DuVernay, lost to Boyhood and its director, Richard Linklater; and its star, David Oyelowo, lost to Eddie Redmayne of The Theory Of Everything.
Now, I'm certainly not saying that Selma should have swept the Golden Globes just because it was a film about a black Civil Rights leader rather than a British genius or an American billionaire. It's just sad that there's still not more diversity in Hollywood in general, and that racial minorities are featured prominently in only one film out of 10 nominated for Best Picture at the Golden Globes — and at the Oscars as well, most likely... although we'll find out for sure on Thursday morning.
Speaking of the Oscars, things are looking even more grim when it comes to the most prestigious of awards ceremonies. The HFPA only nominated two actors of color this year, including Oyelowo, and one of them (Quvenzhané Wallis for Annie) is certain to not be recognized by the Academy. And Selma's losses at the Golden Globes — as well as its recent snub by the Producers Guild — puts its chances with the Academy in jeopardy. The PGA Awards have correctly predicted the eventual Best Picture winner each of the last seven years in a row; surely the fact that they didn't even nominated Selma can only be bad news for the film come Oscar time. If the lack of enthusiasm for DuVernay's film translates into a snub for Oyelowo (in favor of dark horse Jake Gyllenhaal for Nightcrawler , perhaps), then this will likely be the first year since 1997 that all 20 acting nominees are white.
Two years ago, three of the 20 actors nominated for Oscars were people of color: Demián Bichir for A Better Life and Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer for The Help. Last year, they were all on TV shows: Bichir in FX's The Bridge, Davis in ABC's How To Get Away With Murder, and Spencer in FOX's Red Band Society. Hollywood had better start recognizing the capabilities of its minority artists, or it's going to keep losing all of them to television, where their talents are clearly more readily embraced.
Images: Handout, Carlo Allegri/Getty Images; Paramount Pictures