How snubbing I May Destroy You cracked the Golden Globes' diversity problem wide open
On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times published a lengthy report detailing alleged ethical conflicts and other misconduct within the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization that gives out the annual Golden Globe Awards. Nestled within the story was the revelation that more than 30 HFPA members visited the set of Emily in Paris in 2019, where, among other perks, they were reportedly treated to a complimentary two-night stay at a five-star hotel. Said one member, "They treated us like kings and queens."
Like the proverbial bad penny, Emily in Paris was turning up again. The much-maligned and widely mocked Netflix series starring Lily Collins has become an unexpected flashpoint for conversations around the Golden Globes and the HFPA, which have long been lambasted for their often head-scratching nominations. This criticism has intensified in recent years as awards bodies' lack of racial diversity, in both their membership and nominees, has come under increased scrutiny. So when Emily in Paris landed two nods among this year's very white crop of Globes nominees — for Best Musical or Comedy TV Series and Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy Series for Collins — the furor was immediate and intense. (See EW TV critic Kristen Baldwin's reaction in the video above.)
Observers were particularly incensed that Emily made the cut while Michaela Coel's I May Destroy You, one of the most acclaimed shows of the past year if not decade, was shut out completely. "To me, there is no more baffling excluded than I May Destroy You. It's the finest thing I saw on television this past year," The New York Times' Kyle Buchanan told Newsweek. "You just have to wonder if all the Globe voters were simultaneously hit on the head in the exact same place. I am just completely baffled by it."
Also among those incensed: Deborah Copaken, a staff writer on Emily in Paris, who penned an op-ed for The Guardian arguing that I May Destroy You deserved to be nominated over Emily, and that its exclusion was "an oversight that symbolizes a larger issue."
"Am I excited that Emily in Paris was nominated? Yes. Of course," Copaken wrote. "But that excitement is now unfortunately tempered by my rage over Coel's snub. That I May Destroy You did not get one Golden Globe nod is not only wrong, it's what is wrong with everything."
As noted, this was not the first time the Globes' apparent racial issues had been pointed out. In 2019, Queen & Slim director Melina Matsoukas claimed that HFPA members skipped multiple screenings of her film that had been set up for them. Earlier in this very awards cycle, controversy arose over HFPA guidelines rendering the American film Minari ineligible for the Globes' Best Picture categories, due to its largely Korean-language dialogue. (It was ultimately nominated for Best Foreign Language Film.)
Nor was I May Destroy You the only prominent contender from Black artists to be excluded this year. Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods was also shut out completely, and despite acting nominations, movies like Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, One Night in Miami, and Judas and the Black Messiah did not make it into the Best Picture categories.
Then, in the wake of the Emily in Paris outcry, came the L.A. Times story, which also shone a light on the HFPA's membership. As the Times reported, the Globes' voting body includes no Black people among its 87 members, a revelation received with outrage, albeit not surprise, by Hollywood. "People are acting like this isn't already widely known? For YEARS?" Ava DuVernay wrote on Twitter amid social media chatter about the piece.
A social media initiative by Time's Up soon gained steam, with many celebrities posting an image criticizing the HFPA alongside messages calling for change on Friday. (Many posted the same text, "A cosmetic fix isn't enough.")
"For any governing body of a current Hollywood award show to have such a lack of voting representation illustrates a level of irresponsibility that should not be ignored," Sterling K. Brown wrote on Instagram. "With the power you have HFPA, you simultaneously hold a responsibility to ensure your constituency is fully reflective of the world in which we live."
In response, the HFPA pledged to diversify its membership in a statement to the L.A. Times on Thursday: "We are fully committed to ensuring our membership is reflective of the communities around the world who love film, TV, and the artists inspiring and educating them. We understand that we need to bring in Black members, as well as members from other underrepresented backgrounds, and we will immediately work to implement an action plan to achieve these goals as soon as possible."
The HFPA also responded to the social media outcry on Friday, posting the same statement on the Golden Globes' Instagram account and adding, "We will also address this in our show on Sunday."
It remains to be seen what form that action will take, as the HFPA has yet to offer further details. Perhaps time is indeed up for Hollywood's strangest awards show — or perhaps a cosmetic fix will, yet again, be enough to stave off the latest wave of controversy. Either way, like many a snubbed masterpiece before it, I May Destroy You will endure.