Why are the Golden Globe Award nominees a more diverse group than the SAG Award nominees?

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The nominees for the 2016 Golden Globe Awards have just been announced, and among them are quite a few people of color: Gina Rodriguez, Aziz Ansari, Idris Elba, Taraji P. Henson, Uzo Aduba, Regina King, Queen Latifah, Viola Davis, David Oyelowo, Will Smith, and Egyptian-American actor Rami Malek. This is a contrast to yesterday's SAG award announcements, in which only five people of color—Idris Elba, Rami Malek, Viola Davis, Queen Latifah and Uzo Aduba—were nominated. Why are the Golden Globes different?

For starters, there's who's doing the nominating. Who gets nominated for a SAG Award is voted on by two nominations committees in the Screen Actors Guild: One with 2,200 members, who vote on movies, and one with 2,200 members who vote on TV. According to Tim Gray at Variety, "the final awards are voted on by the entire SAG-AFTRA membership, which consists of more than 111,000 people." (SAG-AFTRA is basically a labor union; according to its official site, it represents "more than 160,000 actors, announcers, broadcaster journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists and other professionals.")

But the Golden Globes? They are decided upon by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. This organization, founded in 1943, consists of a bunch of randos—there are only about 87 members. (The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the folks who vote on the Oscars, has about 6,000 members.) Movie critic Peter Howell described the credentials of the people in the HFPA as "sketchy at best," and Scott Meslow at The Week called the Golden Globes "arbitrary and meaningless."


Since the Golden Globes voters are a smaller group, the nominees can end up looking a lot different from other award shows. As Meslow writes:

…[I]t's a matter of basic arithmetic: With such a minuscule voting bloc, every vote counts for much, much more, which means that every HFPA member has a dramatically higher chance of swinging an entire category toward his or her own idiosyncratic tastes. I'm not saying any of the other awards ceremonies are perfect, but they're certainly more democratic.

In other words, there may be members of SAG and HFPA members who just love the TV show Jane The Virgin, but you're more likely to see Gina Rodriguez get a Golden Globe nod (or win!) since the HFPA is a smaller group.

This year, one can assume that the members of the HFPA are really into Jane The Virgin, Empire, OutlanderCrazy Ex-Girlfriend and Scream Queens, since there were Golden Globe nominations for those shows, but no SAG nominations. There's a more diverse group of movies and TV shows that the HFPA likes, so we end up with a more racially diverse nomination list.


It should be noted that most of the racial diversity, for both of these awards, comes from TV; films have a long way to go in terms of properly representing people of color.

The Golden Globes don't have a good reputation among hardcore entertainment reporters and film/TV critics. Doc Jensen at Entertainment Weekly has deemed them "integrity-challenged," Glenn Whipp at the Los Angeles Times has called them "meaningless fun." But the award ceremony does have some power: It's a star-studded, televised event, covered by press outlets worldwide, and having racial diversity on that red carpet and on that stage matters. Being visible matters. The entertainment industry is a huge, profitable business, with a global audience, and it is important to see, and remember, that there are talented people of color working in movies and television. The Golden Globes may  not have the prestige of the Oscars, or the substantial affirmation that thousands of your peers think you're great, which is what a SAG award offers. But when an award show can stop and take a moment to shine a light on people doing good work, who might otherwise go unrecognized, isn't it worth it?

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