An opinion piece by Chris Lewis

If, like me, you’ve been out and about the net of late, you may have discovered it’s Golden Globe nomination season. You know the Golden Globes, right? That celebration of film and TV over the past year that happens in January. It’s a big, important thing.

Well… Yes. And no. Really, no. I’ll explain why.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, West Hollywood.

In 1943, a group called the Hollywood Foreign Press (HFP) was founded. The original purpose of the group was to give power to international journalists who wanted to get news and interviews relating to Hollywood when Hollywood would rather, Ah… Speak to Hollywood. The group decided to make their own ceremony, based on the Academy Awards – The hopes being that bestowing honours upon films, directors, and actors would draw favourable attention, opening the way for better coverage. It worked – By the 60’s, for example, the Globes were big enough to not only be celebrating TV, but being shown on it.

But how big is ‘big’, really? You might be under the impression that the Hollywood Foreign Press is a rather large organisation – The Academy Awards, after all, boasts around 6,687 voting members.

The HFP boasts a whopping… 90.

This image is a comparison of members if one member equated to an inch of height. Note you can only see one figure.

That’s not a lot of people to vote on the best films, directors, and actors of the past year. But they’re all journalists at least, right? Well… Technically!

In order to be a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press, there’s a few considerations:

  • There must be a free spot in the organisation to fill.
  • Applicants must pay $500 (non-refundable) to apply.
  • Applicants must be sponsored by two existing members.
  • Applicants must have published at least four articles/photos in a non-US based publication or website for financial compensation
  • Applicants must be based in Southern California.

So if there’s an opening, you’ve got mates in the club, and you’ve published something somewhere outside the US (blurbs and summaries are apparently accepted) for at least $1, and you live in, say, Santa Monica? You’re golden! So long as not a single current member says no to you, of course.

Those fairly dubious requirements, as one may suspect, have lead to what could be described as a ‘mixed’ company. Indeed, Vulture delved into the unpublished member lists and discovered that it contains legitimate journalists, wealthy fans, randoms (like the ‘just curious’ bodybuilder, Alexander Nevsky), and complete mysteries who don’t seem to exist outside the list itself.

Maintaining one’s self as a ‘professional’ writer/photographer doesn’t appear to be that big of a hurdle to keeping membership, either – If a member fails to publish the required amount, they become ineligible to vote in that year, but may reapply to join the following year if they pull up their socks. For example, in 1994, of the then 85 members, only 63 actually qualified to voted.

This comparison looks better, but it kind of isn’t.

…And considering HFP has also been dogged by rumours of corruption, interest in celebrity over actual substance, and other, less savoury things in the past, it’s not a brilliant look for the organisation. Though they do at least do some charity work.

So. If this group is just a small bunch of journalists and random fans, then why do the Golden Globes matter at all? Well, because people think they do.

Dick Clark Productions work on the event, and make it look amazing, as per the video below. They work to broadcast it all over the US, and even internationally, earning themselves some sweet bank. It’s so big that entertainment publications feel obligated to cover it. In other words, it’s a big deal because it’s been made to be a big deal.

It also doesn’t hurt that the Golden Globes take place days before the Academy Awards voting ends – And that can definitely influence indecisive voters, making that perception of power into actual power.

…And that’s something that many film studios have noticed in particular.

Say a film is nominated for a category – any category – in what is often considered the start of awards season. It gets announcements, related interviews, and press coverage, due to how big the Globes have become, which is a relatively cheap way of building clout and a sense of esteem. So we end up with smart companies doing really interesting things like, say, telling the HFP they’d like to submit The Martian to the Best Musical/Comedy category despite the fact it is neither of those things. Nominations get attention. And if your nomination actually wins, as the previous example somehow did… Well, that’s just extra gravy. Extra attention. Extra power.

I guess he did poop in the movie? Ha ha?

And that’s why the Golden Globes don’t really mean anything, and yet, very much do – When it comes down to it, its just a very greedy Hollywood inflating a very small group’s opinion for their own ends. It’s unfortunate – I’m sure the HFP has some people who take their roles very seriously, but as things are now, the Globes themselves really shouldn’t be.