They came, they saw, they conquered. Last night’s Golden Globes awards will likely be remembered as a celebration of diversity as Viola Davis, Tracee Ellis Ross, FX’s Atlanta and the indie hit Moonlight took home awards. But as with most breakthroughs, there are also bittersweet realities. Only the most naive of observers can dismiss the blatant hypocrisy of Hollywood’s treatment of Birth of a Nation star Nate Parker and Manchester By the Sea’s Casey Affleck, the latter taking home honors for Best Actor. This morning, let’s took a look at the winners and overlooked losers.
TRACEE ELLIS ROSS, “blackish” (Winner, Actress in a television series, musical or comedy): First off, wasn’t Ms. Ross looking absolutely gorgeous? This was a historical win as no black actress had won since Debbie Allen in 1983. There was some stiff competition, particularly with Issa Rae also vying for a win. While I enjoyed Insecure more as a show, the range of topics touched in blackish revolved around a family dynamic and required more emotional and comedic acting range from Ross.
VIOLA DAVIS, “Fences” (Best supporting actress in any motion picture): Everyone that’s seen Fences has been blown away. Many have told me watching the film reduced them to tears. Naomi Harris (Moonlight), Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea) and Nicole Kidman (Lion) had strong performances, but Viola’s emotional monologue (which she later admitted took 23 takes) was impossible to overcome. Her acceptance speech confirmed the performance was deeply rooted in her personal life as she credited her father, who had a fifth-grade education and didn’t learn to read until 15, as the original Troy Maxson.
ATLANTA AND THE MIGOS WIN BIG: The crew of FX’s Atlanta took home the honors of best television series while creator Donald Glover received the best actor nod. For a series that was met with mixed reviews from mainstream publications, this was quite the turnaround.
The best moment came when Glover gave props to the Migos’ hit “Bad and Boujee,” naming it one of the best songs ever. If the Migos and Glover don’t do a remix, I’d be disappointed.
MOONLIGHT, Best Motion Picture: If you followed last night on social media, a lot of people were getting bent out of shape that Moonlight wasn’t winning. But with ensemble films, it’s more difficult to take home individuals awards. Mahershala Ali, who was nominated for best supporting actor, was in the film for all of 10-15 minutes. Yes, it was memorable, but others who carried their films the entire way will get the recognition 9/10 times.
Once I saw Brad Pitt, the film’s producer, get on stage to give a spotlight presentation, I knew Moonlight’s award was secure. It was well-deserved and hopefully encourages more studio support of projects that show the diversity of the black experience.
THE SHADOW OF NATE PARKER AND BIRTH OF A NATION: From Sundance darling to industry pariah. The fall of Nate Parker and Birth of a Nation has been swift. I have no interest in recapping the trial transcripts, nor Parker’s guilt or innocence. What does interest me is Parker being shunned while Casey Affleck, who settled out of court for sexual misconduct and harassment, was cheered and honored last night.
That tells me a few things. One, political Hollywood clout and timing are everything. The Affleck name has power and provided a shield not given to Parker. Timing is something not many have considered. I truly believe if Parker’s scandal had occurred after Trump’s nomination, he would have garnered more support. A lot of media conversation has centered on the alt-right and their racism. Parker’s story about Nat Turner’s slave revolt could have been championed as a rallying cry and the past rape accusations shot down as a smear campaign.
Second, the slave drama is dead. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking rebellion or otherwise. 12 Years a Slave was the climax and a film palatable to mainstream audiences with a white savior. A rebellion film about Turner, who spared no white man, woman or child, was not a figure that mainstream America was willing to get behind. In the black community, some didn’t want to sit through another film where we were brutalized for two hours. They had seen enough of that during the nightly news and on Twitter hashtags last year. Unfortunately, this means Birth of Nation’s failure has killed the black liberation genre before it even got started, effectively closing the door for any film dealing with other rebellions like the Haitian Revolution.
Third, separating art from the artist was not a luxury for Parker. It was absurd to watch the leaps in logics as critics morphed Birth of a Nation from a Sundance standout to a “problematic” and “flawed” film after the scandal. Suddenly, the historical truths of white slave masters raping black women couldn’t be stomached because of Parker’s history. Do I think BOAN should have been nominated for Best Picture? No, but Parker and Aja Naomi King’s individual performances were certainly worthy of Globe nominations.
If you’re looking for a silver lining, just remember that Hollywood and the media loves a comeback story. Look no further than Mel Gibson, who was in attendance last night for his Best Director nomination (Hacksaw Ridge).
Hit the comments below and speak on your favorite Golden Globe moments.