The Golden Globes were Sunday night and right on time Monday morning there were a few tweets and articles that expressed the opinion that the right films and actors did not win. But this is often the case after every awards show, isn’t it? This past year, one might say that there were a lot of excellent performances—such as Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody and Mahershala Ali in Green Book, but both are films that critics have called questionable in their reviews. I’m not here to knock those films or The Favourite or The Wife or the other films, shows, and performances from this year, but when do we get to a point where the merits of what makes an excellent film are based on more than just the typical markers that have traditionally determined what makes a great film, performance, song, or show?
For as long as I can remember, The Golden Globes and the Oscars have repeatedly chosen the same types of films to be nominated in major categories and go on to win. They are often male-directed, period pieces, a war story, an occasional slave narrative, or a harrowing tale of hardship where a beautiful actress transforms into a run-down version of herself to play a character that either murders or rises above her circumstances to overcome adversities, etc. So much so has this been the narrative of awards season, that when we see a “mainstream” film like Black Panther or Crazy Rich Asians, that depicts people of color in positions of strength that go outside the “norm” and receives positive attention, somehow that attention and praise is perceived as being undeserved or it gets shut out of winning anything at all. But why? One reason I would say is that the same standards of white palpability that have permeated the existence in the workplace or society at large—are the same in the film industry as well as among the critics who review films or those that cast votes for awards. Does this mean that I think every cast of color, film directed by a woman, or film/show helmed by a person of color deserves to be bombarded with accolades? No, but I am saying that they deserve a fair assessment based on the quality of the work rather than outdated review standards or the limitations of objectivity by the reviewer.
To say that Crazy Rich Asians was not as good as The Favourite feels wrong to me. You can certainly not care for one genre or subject matter versus the other, but both were good films. The same can be said for the song categories. I cry every time I hear “Shallow”, from A Star is Born; it is an amazing song—but so is “All the Stars” from Black Panther which makes me feel empowered and proud. The levels of excellence are equal, but perhaps antiquated rubrics of excellence tip the votes in favor of The Favourite or “Shallow”. Maybe, just as there has been a call for more diversity in Hollywood with women that make films and people of color in the types of films that get made, shouldn’t there be the same level of diversity in the voters and critics who review them? Imagine what that award show would look like.
Afro Bo Peep is a teacher and occasional activist/poet. Once in a while, she has opinions she will share with her cat, but the really strong ones, you can find here.