The Golden Globes Don’t Mean Anything (Here’s Why They Matter Anyway)

The statues that celebrities get from the HFPA may not be meaningful symbols, but the telecast has value.

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani

Every year I find myself repeating the same old reasons why, here at Crave, we don’t cover the Golden Globes like a serious awards ceremony. It’s a televised event that brings out all the stars, certainly, but we’re not a celebrity gossip publication. We try to focus on the films themselves. And unlike many of the other awards ceremonies – which consist of critics groups, guilds and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences – the Golden Globes are presented by the ethereal Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a consortium of nebulously qualified individuals whose actual contributions to Hollywood, the press and the world at large are notoriously difficult to quantify.

In short, the Golden Globes themselves don’t really “mean” anything. They don’t symbolize the respect of an artist’s peers or the appreciation of respected connoisseurs. They’re really lavish paperweights. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have one all my own, but that’s mostly because of the novelty factor. We’ve all heard of the Golden Globes so having one of those statues in my living room would be quite the conversation starter, no two ways about it.

And yet I’m willing to admit it: I know the Golden Globes don’t have any deeper meaning, but I watch the ceremony every year anyway. And it’s not just because it’s a holdover tradition from my early days of fandom, back when everything Hollywood seemed ultraglamorous and the nuances of the industry escaped me. (Although that’s probably part of it.)

Indeed, as time has gone on, I have been forced to concede that the awards ceremony has great value, even though the awards themselves aren’t significant. Does that make sense?

Paul Drinkwater / NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Paul Drinkwater / NBCUniversal via Getty Images

We can skim past the obvious entertainment value of the Golden Globes, an awards show with a less rarefied air than the Oscars, one that encourages the biggest celebrities in the world to drink copious amounts of alcohol before they take the stage. There’s a reason why Ricky Gervais was invited to host the Golden Globes multiple times, even though the comedian couldn’t be bothered to hide his obvious disdain for the event. It’s a casual gathering for the purpose of self-aware self-congratulation, and it’s difficult to argue against the idea that that makes for damn good television.

But beyond this, beyond the glitz and gaffes and livetweetable memes, the sheer visibility of the Golden Globes is undeniably relevant. The fact that people watch this awards show, en masse, gives it a modicum of power. There may be no overlap between the people who vote for the Golden Globes and the people who vote for the Oscars, but any actor or filmmaker who wins one of these little metal orbs gets a boatload of press and a place in the overall awards season conversation. That may not equate to an eventual award of meaningful symbolic value but it’s a feather in one’s cap in an industry that obviously has a hefty appreciation for feathers.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

That’s just the industry. The majority of the Golden Globes audience isn’t going to be voting for these films and television shows themselves. Indeed, just about every year the Golden Globes nominates entertainment that most mainstream audience members have missed, or that they haven’t even heard of. Last year, Golden Globes were awarded to shows that weren’t on the cover of many magazines, like Mozart in the Jungle and My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The awards may not have come from certifiably qualified individuals but they did, at least, go to recipients whose work genuinely needed a boost in visibility.

Every year, a lot of people watch the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes and they come to the realization that some, or even a lot of the nominees are films that they have never seen or didn’t know about. There’s one school of thought that suggests that this disconnect between an audience’s personal experience and the nominees at an awards ceremony is a bad thing, one that generates an impenetrable divide between the mainstream and the industry, but that’s a cynical interpretation. That divide can easily be crossed by seeing these movies, and if they didn’t play in a theater near you, you can eventually discover them on home video. And you’re a heck of a lot more likely to do so after watching an awards ceremony like the Golden Globes because now you know that they exist, and that they are (supposedly) worthy of praise.

Paul Drinkwater / NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Paul Drinkwater / NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Awards shouldn’t just be given to confirm an audience’s taste. If they have to be given at all, they should be given to worthy artists. If the audience for the awards ceremony didn’t know about the recipient’s work until that very moment, then that’s their reward for watching. They get to expand their horizons and seek out new stories, new ideas.

I watch the Golden Globes for the fun of it. I’ve seen (or at least heard of) all the nominees in advance of the ceremony nowadays, not because I’m cool or anything, but because it’s literally my job to keep up with them. But I enjoy the drunken escapades, I appreciate the self-deprecating nature of the telecast, and I look forward to the immediate reactions on social media when films like Big Eyes or television shows like The Affair win statues, and everyone admits that they’ve never heard about those things but are suddenly interested in seeking them out. That’s gratifying. That’s a good thing.

The presentation of the Golden Globes has an undeniable impact. If the awards themselves were worthy of all this attention, the ceremony might even be genuinely important. Eh, let’s just take what we can get.

Top Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon, and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most CravedRapid Reviews and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.