Why the Golden Globes Will Be the Most Important Awards Show in Years

It has nothing to do with the movies and TV shows that are competing for prizes, and everything to do with the broken culture of Hollywood

Last Updated: January 7, 2018 @ 10:08 AM

Yes, it matters who wins on Sunday night at the 75th annual Golden Globes, at least until Oscar nominations drop in two weeks and make the Globes irrelevant.

And yes, it’ll be interesting to see who gets a little too loose from a little too much of the booze that flows freely at every table.

But those aren’t the reasons why Sunday night’s show will be the most important awards show in years.

This year’s Golden Globes come along at a time of seismic shift in Hollywood. There have been non-televised awards shows since the barrage of sexual-misconduct allegations brought down Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey and Matt Lauer and dozens of others, but nothing this high-profile.

On Sunday evening, the elephant in the room will be so big it’s a wonder anybody will be able to see anything else.

For a show that is designed to be loose and fun and entertaining and often downright silly, and for a town that is about to kick off two months of giving itself awards, this is a problem. Host Seth Meyers is good at making jokes about serious stuff — he does it every time he talks about Donald Trump on his late-night show — but as James Corden learned when he tried to make a couple of Weinstein jokes at an amfAR gala in October, you do not joke about sexual abuse.

The bottom line: Hollywood is broken. It created a toxic system that allowed abusers (of power, of sex, of everything else) to flourish and be protected for decades. It has to change. That’s what the town talking about, far more than if “The Shape of Water” can beat “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” if “Lady Bird” or “Get Out” will come out on top or if the 90-odd foreign journalists in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association prefer “The Crown” or “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

British Consul General Michael Howells put it bluntly in brief remarks at Saturday’s BAFTA Los Angeles’ Awards Season Tea Party: “What we celebrate and how we celebrate it,” he said, “can be an important agent for change.”

Not long ago, you might have found people in Hollywood who would rather ignore those words than embrace them. Except for a couple of passing remarks, the Academy’s Governors Awards in mid-November didn’t mention the sexual-misconduct scandals; on Tuesday, the Palm Springs International Film Festival’s Awards Gala largely did the same until Jessica Chastain ended her acceptance speech with a statement of purpose: “Each of us is diminished by a flawed system. We must make things better, and we will make things better.”

But make no mistake, Sunday night’s Globes will be full of women and men following Chastain’s lead — wearing black as part of the #TimesUp movement, which has turned what is usually a fashion choice into a political statement, and using speeches to push for a change in the culture.

And in that atmosphere, Meyers is supposed to deliver a fun show, and the HFPA is supposed to show us that it’s OK to celebrate the products of a toxic system.

That’s why this year’s Globes are so important: Because if this show can’t treat a serious situation appropriately and also allow us to embrace the worthy work that is up for awards, its failure will impact the rest of awards season.

Sure, other awards shows have dealt with this kind of challenge in recent years. In 2015, the Oscars came at the height of the #OscarsSoWhite furor, which host Chris Rock talked about so relentlessly that he was criticized for slighting other under-represented minorities.

Last year’s Globes took place in the midst of uneasiness over the election of Donald Trump; host Jimmy Fallon devoted nearly his entire monologue to the president-elect, and Cecil B. DeMille Award winner Meryl Streep made him the focus of a fiery and eloquent speech.

And now comes the 75th Golden Globe Awards, an anniversary show that comes at a time when we still have Trump’s craziness and diversity concerns on top of the black cloud hanging over Hollywood.

If Meyers and the HFPA figure out how to take all that and still have a celebratory night, they’ll have the thanks of the Critics’ Choice Awards, which are taking place on Thursday, and the SAG Awards, which will try it on Jan. 21, and all the other upcoming shows. And you know that the Academy and the Oscar show producers, Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd, will be watching more closely than usual.

The risks are big. The stakes are high. The Golden Globes have never been less silly, or more important.