Digital Culture

An Unpromising Act of Inclusion- The Problem with Award Shows.

Sophie Wright

Frances McDormand in Nomadland via  IndieWire.

Time and again award shows have faced an onslaught of backlash about the lack of diversity amongst their nominees and winners. However, the 2021 Golden Globes decided they wanted to tick gender off their list of diversity boxes in terms of nominations. Their list contained, most excitingly, three female nominations for best director. Unfortunately it wasn’t until I saw who the nominations were for, that I began to once again question the validity of their choices. The likes of our winner Chloe Zhao, for the exceptional drama Nomadland being pitted against Emerald Fennell’s A Promising Young Woman, perplexed me. Had I watched a different movie to everyone else? Or were the Globes finally responding to their audiences demands for inclusion

Carey Mulligan in A Promising Young Woman. Via NPR Focus Features.

Fennell’s film itself isn’t bad per se, containing a stand out performance from Carey Mulligan, however, its direction ends up feeling tone-deaf. At the best of times, there’s some funny dialogue and interesting interactions, but the movie doesn’t really attempt to do anything new. Its twist ending is predictable and its final thirty minutes contains a complete tonal shift that has little payoff. The trailer seemed to promise something new, a female lead and directed vigilante story, and a refreshing exploration of sexual assault- sadly it didn’t deliver. 

Imagine my surprise when it received a nomination for best director at the Globes? It feels as though this “box-ticking nomination” detracts from the other female nominees who, in my opinion, are more deserving of their nominations. These awarding bodies are now seemingly enlightened to their lack of representation but to the detriment of the quality of work produced, using Fennell like a diversity get out of jail free card. 

In the 2019 documentary This Changes Everything many famous female faces in Hollywood discuss the pitfalls of their journeys to success within this historically sexist industry. Many argue that they gained one shot at critical acclaim before waning backwards into another uphill battle for any form of recognition. This year Chloe Zhao became only the second woman to win for best director of a motion picture in the whole of the Globe’s 78 year run. So, to see films like Emerald Fennell’s appear to be completely wasted alongside her win is disappointing to say the least, as the two films are near incomparable. This seems a wasted opportunity for the Golden Globes to have nominated a better film. I personally would have loved for ,Thomas Vinterberg, director of the sensational  Danish film Another Round to have been nominated alongside Zhao, at least then it may have been a tighter race and an opportunity for another international film to break free of the confines of subtitles, much like 2020’s Parasites Oscar’s win.

One can only hope that this “inclusion” continues to be extended to all. But let’s hope we as the audience to these awarding bodies can fully wake up from the razzle dazzle of their ceremonies and the glitz and glamour of their stars.