Watching the Golden Globes is always an odd experience.
First off, there’s the mix of TV awards with movie awards. For someone like me, who spends most of January thinking about the Oscars, it’s always somewhat annoying to have to sit through all of the television awards before even getting to the first film award. The Emmys are over so it’s not like winning a Golden Globe is going to give Chernobyl or Fleabag the boost necessary to win a real award.
(Especially since those two shows already deservedly cleaned up at the Emmys….)
When it comes to the Globes, we care about the movies. I was happy with the majority of the film awards. I was especially happy to see the underrated Missing Link pick up the award for Best Animated Film. I was glad that Once Upon A Time In Hollywood was named Best Comedy, even though I think it’s debatable whether or not the film was actually a comedy. I’m sorry Eddie Murphy didn’t win for Dolemite Is My Name but, at the same time, Taron Egerton gave an outstanding performance in Rocketman. I haven’t seen 1917 yet so I’m not going to comment on whether it should have won Best Drama or whether Sam Mendes deserved to defeat Scorsese and Tarantino. That said, upset victories are always fun.
Of course, this morning, most of the Golden Globe coverage is not centered on 1917 defeating both The Irishman and Marriage Story for Best Drama. Instead, almost everyone is talking about Ricky Gervais. It says something about the vapidness of pop cultural criticism in the age of social media that Gervais was apparently “too mean” for some people.
When it comes to a show like the Golden Globes, the host sets the tone. For instance, when Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosted, they set a tone that basically said: “Look at us and all of our famous friends!” It’s a friendly tone where everyone tells everyone else how great they are. When Ricky Gervais hosts, the tone of the evening is usually a lot more awkward because no one is quite sure what Gervais is going to say and, being the Brit who created The Office, it’s not like Gervais is going to suffer if no one in Hollywood ever returns another one of his calls. Both approaches have their strengths and their weaknesses. There have been some years when I’ve been in the mood for the Fey/Poehler approach. This year, with its promise of 11 months of wealthy celebrities trying to tell everyone else how to vote and probably getting angry because people in Iowa don’t care about funding Amtrak, I was in the mood for someone willing to shake things up and say, “Get over yourselves.” In other words, I was in the mood for RIcky Gervais.
During Gervais’s opening monologue, he touched on several topics that everyone should have known he was going to touch on. He said that Epstein didn’t kill himself and then accused everyone in the room of being his friend. He told the assembled that Ronan Farrow was coming for all of them. He told everyone that no one wanted to hear their political opinions because they had no idea what it was like to live in the real world and that they had less schooling than Greta Thunberg.
And whether you think any of that is funny or not is up to you. Humor is subjective. Personally, I think that the most important thing that a comedian can do is ridicule people who think that they’re above ridicule. I also think that any belief or ideology that’s worth anything will be able to survive being the subject of a joke. Many of my followers on twitter were not amused that Ricky Gervais made a joke about Greta Thunberg but so what? If what she’s doing is truly worthwhile, it’ll be able to survive someone making a joke about her skipping school.
Besides, Gervais made a few good points. Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself and a lot of famous people did hang out with him, even after he was first arrested. The majority of Hollywood did work with Harvey Weinstein, even though apparently his behavior wasn’t exactly a secet. There are many self-proclaimed “woke” celebrities who do work for terrible companies. (And let’s not even get into the people who refuse to criticize China.) And when it comes to politics, Patricia Arquette proved Gervais’s point to be correct during her acceptance speech.
(The audience, I noticed, was surprisingly lukewarm to Arquette’s anti-war speech. There was some applause but still, one got the feeling that the room’s reaction was largely, “Oh God, Patricia’s talking politics again.” Personally, I was more impressed with Joaquin Phoenix’s speech, if just because it may have been inarticulate but it was also sincere. Of course, as soon as he said that celebs didn’t need private jets, the music started.)
Good points or not, you could tell that the audience was often not sure how to react to Gervais’s comments. Tom Hanks looked shocked, though I think that has more to do with Hanks being the most impossibly wholesome film star working today than with what Gervais saying. (Seriously, if anything bad ever comes out about Tom Hanks, my entire belief system will crash.) Others, though, had that “OMG — WHAT’S HAPPENING!?” look on their face. It reminded me a bit of the 2013 Country Music Awards, when Carrie Underwood made a joke about the Obamacare website crashing and the audience clearly didn’t know whether or not it was safe to laugh.
(Of course, the same people who loved it when the CMAs made fun of Obamacare weren’t amused when future ceremonies featured jokes about Trump. So often, people’s attitude towards humor seems to be, “I love it when you make jokes about the other side but if you make a joke about me, you’re the worst person who ever lived.” Eventually, Gervais will tweet out an anti-Trump joke and the people who love him now will suddenly hate him and the people who currently hate him will go back to retweeting him. What a vapid time to be alive.)
Anyway, last night’s Golden Globes ceremony was a typical awards show ceremony and no one will remember a thing about it in a week. The Globes are pretty much there to tide us over until the Oscar nominations are announced. They did their job and life goes on.