Golden Globes 2020: In a vintage year for women directors, this awards snub was unacceptable

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Once again, the Golden Globes has failed to include any female directors in its shortlist for 2020 nominations. Is one of Hollywood’s most feted institutions really fit for purpose?

Hollywood has a problem with women. You know it. I know it. The whole world is aware. Yet the studio bosses at the heart of the issue seem entirely incapable of tackling it.

Yet again, the Golden Globe nominations have been unveiled – with zero nod to the industry’s many and brilliant female directors. One of movieland’s most prestigious ceremonies has repeatedly come under fire for its failure to recognise the contribution of women (you know, that alien species) in its director category.

Only last year, actor Natalie Portman – presenting the award onstage – made a point of saying, “here are the all-male nominees”.

 Since it began 77 years ago, the Golden Globes has acknowledged just five female directors for their work. Only one has gone onto win the award: Barbra Streisand for the rom com musical Yentl, in 1984.

Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman has called out the lack of recognition for female directors

Once upon a time, perhaps, this omission was standard. Men ruled the director’s chair, scotch in hand, their female subjects firmly repressed and often – as has been made all too apparent by the #MeToo movement – abused. 

But times have changed. Women are making stand, as they work to undo a culture cut through with endemic sexism, and pave the way for a new generation of fresh-thinking female directors

In an age where the Time’s Up movement reigns supreme, the failure of the Golden Globes panel to recognise even one female director feels not just tone deaf but regressive.

What were the judges thinking? Clearly, the very same male gaze that infects the entire film industry extends to its umpires. And the 100 or so members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association who vote on the Globe nominations are either too blinkered, or too afraid, to do anything to change it. 

little women film
Greta Gerwig’s Little Women

Though female directors are still woefully underrepresented – just 16% of America’s directors are women – this year, like 2018, is not short on contenders for the Golden Globe title of best director. 

Greta Gerwig has already landed several nominations for her re-telling of Louisa May Alcott classic Little Women (Gerwig was also passed over by the Globes for her work on Lady Bird last year, despite winning an Oscar nod for the same film). 

Jennifer Lee is co-director of Frozen 2, a huge box office hit that reaped two Golden Globe nominations this year; but notably, none in the director category. Lorene Scafaria is the brains behind Hustlers, another huge critical and commercial success of 2019 that passed unmentioned in the director’s category. 

Meanwhile, recognition also eluded director Lulu Wang, who has won rave reviews for her “moving and witty” family drama The Farewell.

Honey Boy director Alma Har’el, who was also snubbed by this year’s director nominations, says the system was fundamentally flawed.  

“Unless we have a new category for women directors — the same way we have [separate] actor and actress categories — we won’t see any changes,” she tells Vanity Fair.

Nowhere Boy director Sam Taylor-Johnson also hit out at the Golden Globes’ omission on Instagram, listing the female directors she would have included under the hashtag “iseeher”. 

Female directors are important. They frame a perspective we wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Their presence is an antidote to decades of gender prejudice, unequal pay and sexual assault on-set. 

It goes even deeper than that, too. Research shows that when women are in the director’s chair, they hire more female editors, writers, cinematographers and producers as a result. Their direction has a crucial filter-down effect on Hollywood’s badly damaged ecosystem. 

And yet, without the spotlight that these women deserve, they cannot create visibility for others to follow in their footsteps.

As Dame Heather Rabbatts, Chair of Time’s Up UK, tells the BBC: “The more that we see women directors coming through, the greater encouragement that will give to other women to believe that they too can do these roles.”

We live in a world where great female directors such as Sofia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow fight for recognition, while some of their male equivalents – Bryan Singer, Alfred Hitchcock and of course, Harvey Weinstein – stand accused of abuse, by virtue of the very same privilege.

It makes no sense. And yet: if you change nothing, nothing will change.

It’s time for the Golden Globes to own up to its mistakes. It needs to course-correct, pronto, before we lose all respect for an institution that appears right out of touch.

Images: Getty

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.

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