As Natalie Portman tactfully reminded viewers of Sunday night’s Golden Globe awards, the fight for gender equality in the field of directing is often a losing battle for women when it comes to sharing the awards season spotlight with their male colleagues.
That struggle intensified upon the announcement of this year’s Golden Globe nominations, which ultimately saw Lady Bird filmmaker Greta Gerwig — despite the hefty monetary, critical, and industry-wide footprint left by her solo directorial debut — shut out of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s five-strong set of best director nominees.
If she had received a nomination, however, Gerwig wouldn’t have been the first woman to do so. Since the Golden Globes’ inaugural ceremony in 1944, seven films directed by women have been nominated in the best director category, though only five women have received the honor as two of them received matching nods (albeit in different years).
Barbra Streisand remains the only woman to have won the accolade, as she took the honor for directing the 1983 film Yentl; she received a follow-up nomination for directing 1991’s The Prince of Tides.
Jane Campion followed in Streisand’s footsteps two years later, recognized by the HFPA for her work in directing The Piano. It took a decade for another woman to occupy a slot, with Lost In Translation‘s Sofia Coppola earning a nod in 2003. Kathryn Bigelow was next in line, and received a nomination for helming 2008’s The Hurt Locker (the film that would ultimately shepherd her into the winner’s circle at the Oscars) and again in 2012 for directing Zero Dark Thirty. Selma’s Ava DuVernay made history in 2014 with her monumental nomination for best director, becoming the first woman of color to appear in the category.
While Gerwig’s inclusion among 2018 nominees Guillermo del Toro, Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, Martin McDonagh, and Christopher Nolan would have been welcome (and deserved), this year’s Golden Globe Awards did make strides for female-centric films in general. For the first time since 2003, both the best drama and best musical/comedy victors (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Lady Bird) were toplined by female actors. Some 16 years ago, The Hours and Chicago were the last pair to achieve the feat. Before that, it has happened on only two separate occasions: once in 1966 (Doctor Zhivago and The Sound of Music) and again in 1983 (Terms of Endearment and Yentl).
Widely seen as a more reliable portent for the Academy’s best picture winner, the Golden Globes’ best drama category has traditionally aligned more with best actor than best actress. Prior to Frances McDormand taking best actress for her role in Three Billboards, the last performer to win the Golden Globe for best actress in a film that also won best drama was The Hours‘ Nicole Kidman all the way back in 2003. Before that, Mary Tyler Moore won for her lead role in the 1980 best drama winner Ordinary People, as did Louise Fletcher for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Ali MacGraw for Love Story (1970), Geneviève Bujold for Anne of the Thousand Days, Gloria Swanson for Sunset Boulevard (1950), Jane Wyman for Johnny Belinda (1949), and Jennifer Jones at the first Globes ceremony for The Song of Bernadette (1943).
While the HFPA is almost entirely removed from the “insider” industry precursors that traditionally line the weeks leading up to the Academy Awards (its membership encompasses roughly 100 journalists, not film professionals), it does offer invaluable visibility directly or indirectly. Oscar voting began Friday, and closes on Jan. 12. That means this year’s Golden Globes ceremony — with its attendees and award recipients highlighting issues regarding gender and race in Hollywood — likely pointed Academy voters’ attention toward the conversation about women behind the camera, with Gerwig’s noticeable omission putting pressure on the Academy to pick up the HFPA’s slack.