Tom Cruise has returned the three Golden Globe trophies he won for Born on the Fourth of July (Best Actor, Drama), Jerry Maguire (Best Actor, Comedy or Musical), and Magnolia (Best Supporting Actor) to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, amid ongoing controversy surrounding the group’s lack of diversity. It’s the latest in a long line of condemnations against the organization, which has been called out for sexism, racism and sexual harassment in the past. Let’s break down its controversial history.
What is the HFPA?
Founded in 1943, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association comprises journalists or photographers who cover American entertainment for outlets outside the US. To join, a journalist must have a primary residence in southern California and publish at least 24 articles or photographs in non-US publications over the past three years. The group, which currently has 87 members from 55 countries, hosts the annual Golden Globe Awards that recognize achievements in film and television. Its members vote for the winners.
Why is it under fire?
This year, former HFPA president Meher Tatna told Variety that the group hasn’t had a Black member since 2002. The publication reported that the group’s policy of admitting new members only once two existing members had vouched for them was a tough barrier to cross, given that it wasn’t easy for journalists to build relationships with this tight-knit, exclusive group. The association also faced criticism for failing to nominate Black-led Oscar contenders such as Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Judas and the Black Messiah for its own Best Picture award. Last month, the group came under fire once more when its former president Phil Berk referred to Black Lives Matter as a “racist hate movement” in an email sent to members.
On May 3, the association announced it would add 20 new members this year, with a focus on underrepresented groups. It also proposed setting up a hotline to report violations and introducing term limits for members. Time’s Up president Tina Tchen criticized the proposal, stating that its September 1 deadline for some reforms meant that no changes would be implemented in time for the 2022 Golden Globes Awards cycle. She also pointed out that the group did not say it would make the process of adding new members more transparent.
What other pushback has it gotten?
More than 100 Hollywood publicity firms published a joint statement announcing that they would refrain from attending HFPA-sanctioned events unless the association spoke about its issues with greater specificity and set a timeline that took into account the 2022 awards season to fix them. Amazon Studios and Netflix announced that they would stop working with the HFPA until steps were taken to reform the group. WarnerMedia announced that it was boycotting the HFPA, criticizing its lack of diversity and the “special favors and unprofessional requests [that] have been made to our teams and to others across the industry.” NBCUniversal stated that it would not air the Globes in 2022.
Actress Scarlett Johansson revealed that she had refused to participate in HFPA conferences for years on account of receiving “sexist questions and remarks…bordering on sexual harassment” from its members. Actor Mark Ruffalo called on the group to “right its wrongs” adding, “Honestly, as a recent winner of a Golden Globe, I cannot feel proud or happy about being a recipient of this award.”
— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) May 8, 2021
What other controversies has the organisation faced?
In 2018, actor Brendan Fraser said former HFPA president Philip Berk groped him in 2003. While Berk denied this, the organization conducted an investigation into the incident and asked Fraser to consider signing off on a joint statement concluding that Berk’s behaviour “was intended to be taken as a joke and not as a sexual advance.” Fraser refused, saying that the association refused to share the details of their investigation, their evidence or what procedure they used to arrive at such a conclusion. Berk continued to remain an active voter in the organisation.
A Los Angeles Times investigation published earlier this year reported that the group’s smaller size makes it easier to lobby and influence during awards season, compared to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Television Academy. It pointed out that the team behind Netflix series Emily in Paris, which secured two Golden Globe nominations despite middling reviews, had earlier treated HFPA members to a two-night stay at a five-star hotel and trips to a private museum.