Last night’s Golden Globes ceremony offered a number of insights into the world of American culture as the event reflected the complex dynamic between technology, entertainment, and politics.
As a likely consequence of fears about the impact of streaming services on the movie-going audience, Netflix won just two prizes despite holding 34 nominations, and director Sam Mendes, who won the Globe for best director, said that he hoped his prize for the World War I epic “1917” would mean that “people will turn up and see this on the big screen, the way it was intended.” Mendes’s comments mirror remarks made by Martin Scorcese, director of the acclaimed “The Irishman,” who asked audiences to watch his film in theaters if possible, despite the film being made possible thanks to a considerable investment from Netflix. As people increasingly abandon theaters for the convenience offered by mobile devices, directors fear that the cinematic experience afforded by a night at the movies faces extinction, as evidenced by their negative commentary on the nature of streaming services as well as the relative paucity of prizes award to Netflix and similar services.
The timing of the ceremony coincided with a number of significant political events, which celebrities unsurprisingly took the opportunity to offer their personal views on. In particular, climate change took center stage last night, as actors used their platform to draw attention to the wildfires currently devastating Australia and the world’s relative lack of action in the face of catastrophic global warming. Russell Crowe was not able to attend the ceremony as he was in Australia with his family, so Jennifer Aniston, who spoke on his behalf, pleaded with the world “to act” in the midst of this crisis in order to “respect our planet for the unique and amazing place it is.” Joaqin Phoenix, too, addressed climate change while accepting his award for his performance in “Joker,” saying, “it’s really nice that so many people have sent their well wishes to Australia but we have to do more than that,” adding “we don’t have to take private jets to Palm Springs for the awards.”
Coincidentally, the show took place the night before the first day of Harvey Weinstein’s trial; while nobody mentioned Weinstein by name, some celebrities addressed the problem of sexual misconduct and the value of speaking truth to power. Michelle Williams, who won the award for best actress in a limited series or TV movie for “Fosse/Verdon,” urged women to vote in their own self-interest in order to gain political power, saying “as women and as girls, things can happen to our bodies that our not our choice.”
The new threat of war with Iran also became a subject for commentary during the show, as several actors and actresses expressed their opposition to the conflict and to President Donald Trump more generally. Patricia Arquette, while accepting an award for her role in “The Act,” criticized the president directly, saying that historians will characterize that night as “a country on the brink of war… and a president tweeting out a threat of 52 bombs including cultural sites.” She concluded by saying, “while I love my kids so much, I beg of us all to give them a better world.”
Last night’s ceremony functioned not just as a recognition for the talent featured in the entertainment world, but of the overall atmosphere of despair clouding the American public consciousness. This was perhaps best captured by Ricky Gervais’s nihilistic opening monologue, during which he repeatedly told the audience that he didn’t care, despite preemptively accusing his celebrity peers of hypocrisy for their political activism as they’ve done work for companies with questionable ethics like Apple and Amazon, and concluding his monologue by urging the audience to “donate to Australia.” Gervais went so far as to say, “if you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech; you’re in no position to lecture the public about anything, you know nothing of the real world.” Such a scathing and nihilistic attitude is a consequence of the fatigue many of us feel in response to the extremity of recent political events, and as this fatigue continues, it is sure to manifest ever-more prominently in American culture.