On Black People Watching the Golden Globes (Even Though We Shouldn’t)

steve-mcqueen_240x340I soldiered through yet another installment of the Golden Globes this Sunday. Three mundane hours of watching white people rub elbows, drink Moet, chuckle, and get awards will make you start questioning things. What were they all talking about between presenters? Why is Kevin Bacon’s daughter on stage? How do they expect these rich people in their priceless gowns to squeeze through these giant ornate tables? Oh, and where the heck are all the people of color?

Black folks had an amazing year with 42, The Butler, 12 Years A Slave, Black Nativity, The Best Man 2, and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. But, watching the droves and droves of white folks on stage at the Globes, you’d have no idea anyone of any other hue even lived within a 100 mile radius of Hollywood.

So, the only question remaining is: Why do we (black people) continue to watch the show at all?

Maybe we just like the pain of remembering how infrequently we are rewarded in proportion for our contributions and abilities. Maybe we just wanted to make sure we would have something to talk to people about at work the next day. Or, maybe we figured we’d see something new, innovative, exciting…yeah, probably not.

I honestly watch these awards shows because I feel I have a duty to my readers to do so. And, while live tweeting, I often find myself burdened by that duty.

Someone actually lightweight chastised me on social media for tweeting about the show I “claimed” I “care so little about.” They accused me of being inauthentic for watching it and complaining the entire time. I guess, by using some type of sideways logic, one could deduce that my watching the Golden Globes – and taking the time to tweet about it – means that I not only care but I care a lot. I have another theory about that.

In this culture, I think nonwhites are required to sit through a lot of things they don’t necessarily enjoy or really care about because of its inherent American-ness. For the sake of being “normal,” we watch other “normal” people on TV. Is it really our faults that all these “normal” people also happen to be white? Since television, radio, print media, and web content is obsessed with the Golden Globes, we all become a bit invested. We may not care on a personal level (which is what I meant) but we care about how our media represents us. We each want to know that an industry we have no choice but to patronize takes our talented acting brothers and sisters seriously. To a certain extent, it is less about caring or being cared for and more about validation.

I watched the Golden Globes because I hoped that the same disservice often dealt to blacks in public spaces wouldn’t be upheld on such a grand stage. I wanted to see Chiwetel Ejiofor or Lupita Nyong’o or Don Cheadle or Idris Elba or Kerry Washington saunter up and give a “Thank You” speech. The only prominent black figure accepting an award on Sunday was Steve McQueen for Best Film. None of his cast won. But, he at least got recognized. So, yay…I guess.

Sunday’s Golden Globes were the epitome of why writer Olivia Cole is “not here for #WhiteGirlsRock.” The messages sent that night were not directed at a black audience. It was “For us by us” but for the quintessential girl next door.

They say that insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. So, I guess all of us non-mainstream folks are as crazy as it gets.

The Golden Globes likely aren’t changing any time soon. All that’s left to change is our perspective.

Did you watch the Golden Globes? How do you feel about the level of diversity?

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Jenn M. Jackson

Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief
Jenn M. Jackson, PhD is a co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Water Cooler Convos. She is a native of Oakland, CA. Jenn is a radical Black feminist scholar who believes none of us are free until all of us are free.

6 Responses

  1. a.r. magalli says:

    it seems like you shouldn’t watch the Golden Globes is you are more concerned with representation than film merit. diversity in film is a worthy topic, but it should be addressed at an academic, professional, and development level. did you want Ejiofor or Elba to win for Actor because you believed they were superior performances, or simply because you wanted them to win? if you’re going to write about film critic awards, maybe bring film criticism into play.
    (and omitting ‘Fruitvale Station’ and ‘The inevitable defeat of mister and pete’ from your list of films? tsk!)

  2. Dionne says:

    I don’t think you understood the point of the article. The writer aptly highlights that the GGs are not meritorious awards. Otherwise the small sample of awardees would represent the entire population of 2013 films. Given the broad diversity of films and the relative homogeneity of awardees, her claim stands. Why would she critique actors’ merits, if that is not the argument here?

  3. a.r. magalli says:

    in a merit based competition, i find the reverse of what you say is going to be true: that the majority of lauded awards are going to be given to a small percentage of superior performers. in order to decry against this award show, I expect there to be some evidence of injustice. who was not awarded that should have been?
    it leads to me to the conclusion that perhaps we spend too much time being critical of these judiciary and critical bodies, who after all are only intended to observe what is put before them. The stricter analysis should be made of the studios that produce…or prevent…the growth in development of award caliber film by non-white director/writer/producers.
    ‘The Butler,’ ‘Mandela,’ and ‘Fruitvale Station’ are not without merit, but can an objective judge point to an award that one of those films should have won but was denied? other than an adapted screenplay nod for ‘fruitvale station,’ I see no instance where one of those films was unduly denied.

  4. I agree that I missed those two key films (the list was not meant to be exhaustive in any way but I get your point). I find it interesting though that you imply that these awards shows are objective in some way. I don’t believe that at all.

  5. You neglect to note that two of the three films you mentioned were snubbed in nominations not just in winning the awards. No one can deny Oprah’s performance in The Butler was riveting, inspired, and artful. Yet, she was ignored by the Globes.

    Some are actually saying it was timing that harmed movies like The Butler and Fruitvale Station since they were not released toward the end of the year like American Hustle and Wolf of Wall Street. If that’s the case then we are really wasting our time watching these shows at all.

  6. a.r. magalli says:

    as much as I respect Winfrey’s performance in ‘Butler,’ I believe the competition was too strong. Though I didn’t see ‘Blue Jasmine,’ I can say confidently that the other 4 actresses nominated for Supporting globes absolutely deserved the nod. Oprah has not acted in a movie since 1998, and before that not since the 80’s. though her performance was effective, she’s simply not the same level of technical actor as the professionals she was competing against. and the role had a ceiling on recognition on account of the range of the part.

    On what grounds are you dismissing the objective element of these awards? the Academy certainly isn’t known for their judgment, but I’ve always appreciated the Hollywood Foreign Press (even if they, and everybody else, think that ‘american hustle’ is a better movie that i do). Though I don’t believe that the golden globes get everything ‘right,’ they are very good about not getting things ‘Wrong.’ It’s a journalistic injustice to declare the adjudicating body unobjective without presenting a more objective-based argument yourself, though.

    But I do believe you are right about the timing…it’s an unfair and self-fulfilling prophecy that ‘awards movies come out in the fall, therefore only fall movies are award-worthy.’ Normally this hurts small studios, who do spring releases in order to avoid theater competition with the Big Names in the summer and fall.
    but consider this point, which i find very interesting: Mandela, Fruitvale, 20 feet from stardom, and Butler were all distributed by the weinstein company…staggered throughout the year. Not to avoid other films, but to maximize profit. They are being treated like ‘niche’ movies. the company that has charge of all the biggest films starring black actors is treating those films with a consideration which prioritizes profit rather than awards contention, and doesn’t have faith in the audience for these films.