This year’s Golden Globes ceremony took place on Sunday night at the Beverly Hilton, Hollywood, and despite the many glittering stars and celebrities present at the prestigious, annually anticipated event, it seemed the one star that took center stage at the ceremony was the subject of representation — Hollywood representation, that is, particularly in regard to people hailing from minority backgrounds.
This was the subject of host Sandra Oh’s opening spiel alongside Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Andy Samberg, who, after cracking jokes on Hollywood’s oft-criticized lack of diversity and representation in its film productions, stated that “I said yes to the fear of being on this stage tonight to look out onto this audience and witness this moment of change, and I’m not fooling myself. I’m not fooling myself, next year could be different, but right now this moment is real. Trust me, it’s real. Because I see you and I see you, all these faces of changes. And now, so will everyone else.”
“I said yes to the fear of being on this stage tonight to look out onto this audience and witness this moment of change, and I’m not fooling myself.”
Oh’s emotional speech arrived at the heels of her and Samberg throwing shade at Hollywood’s practice of whitewashing minority roles — that is, of Hollywood’s continuous casting of white actors to take on characters of black or Asian descent, such as those of Scarlett Johannson in Ghost in the Shell, and Emma Stone in Aloha — who Oh also called out in a humorous exchange. She later went on to win the award for Lead Actress in a Drama for her role in Killing Eve — her second win since her role in the acclaimed Grey’s Anatomy.
Apart from Oh being the first Asian host of the event, Constance Wu also made waves late last year upon receiving her nomination for Best Leading Actress in a Musical/Comedy for her role as Rachel Chu in Crazy Rich Asians.
The film was also praised for being one of the first to feature a prominently Asian cast and creative team. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Wu streamlined on perhaps what is one of the most resounding statements thus far, amidst all the current buzz on Hollywood representation:
“It’s really meaningful for us to be recognized for a story that says our culture isn’t skin-deep. It’s not just how we look. It’s where we grew up. It’s how we grew up. For so long in Hollywood, Asian actors were supporting other culture’s story. It’s great to have diversity and to have faces that are different supporting the dominant culture’s narrative. What’s even more special is to have our stories be the narrative.Constance Wu
And indeed, that very narrative in particular is what stars the like of Wu, Oh, and other actors of Black and Asian descent are aspiring to transform. In another show of representation appreciation in the ceremony, Half-Filipino actor Darren Criss dedicated his Best Performance in a Limited Series win to his Filipina mother, describing her as a “firecracker Filipina woman from Cebu” who was “responsible for most of the good things” in his life. Criss’ performance as assassin Andrew Cunanan in The Assassination of Gianni Versace previously drew wide acclaim from critics, and earned him an Emmy win in September last year.
#ICYMI Here is SMTD alumnus @DarrenCriss‘s @goldenglobes acceptance speech for “Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Limited Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television” for his work on @ACSFX! #umicharts #umichsmtd #forevergoblue pic.twitter.com/Dyei13s9l6— U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance (@umichsmtd) 7 January 2019
Finally, the most anticipated awards of the night went to Rami Malek, who won Best Performance by an Actor for his widely-praised portrayal of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody; the film also won Best Picture for Drama. Malek dedicated his win to the Queen band members, and, of course, to Freddie Mercury himself, praising the band’s dedication to “ensuring that authenticity and inclusivity exists in music, in the world, and in all of us.” Bohemian Rhapsody, aside from chronicling the formation of Queen as a band, also featured Mercury’s complications and controversies as a gay man in the music industry, and in struggling with AIDS.
And all this is a mere crescendo in the larger cultural conversation currently ongoing in Hollywood. As the world’s largest purveyor, distributor, and all-around center of entertainment and movies, Hollywood — and thus, Hollywood’s executives — are inherently powerful in their capacity to influence cultural consciousness, in that they are those who drive the narratives that shape culture and ideology through movies.
Since the time that studios began creating pictures, movies have largely been Western-centric — that is, movies have all but been centered around white Western stories, with white Western characters played by white Western actors. Only recently have people of more diverse backgrounds been equally recognized, and their own stories told and included in the larger narrative, hence actors and creatives of color celebrating their achievements at prestigious ceremonies such as The Golden Globes.
But all this is simply a mere beginning of the cultural revolution that is seemingly, hopefully, overtaking Hollywood. Recognizing the achievements of minority celebrities is a mere first step, if Hollywood truly is dedicated to achieving long-term, in-depth diversity in its system. What’s next, moving forward, is placing their very stories at the forefront of central narratives — of letting people of Asian, Black, and other minority races take more control in telling their own stories in their own movies, or in casting them in significant, complex roles, in significant, complex movies that matter not just for their cultural value, but as pieces of entertainment in their own right. Because minority people deserve to be recognized and celebrated not just because of their cultural relevance — but because they are talented, complex, skilled, and capable individuals in their own rights.