One its surface, Netflix’s critically acclaimed series Bridgerton is awards season bait. Produced by Shonda Rhines, it’s horny, slightly feminist, well-acted, features vague racial politics and easy to watch. It’s also set in Regency-era London, and we all know whoever runs awards shows loves a spicy costume drama. On top of all that, it’s a certified cultural phenomenon. I mean, a record 82 million people watched the show last quarter, and I would say that a majority of those viewers go around fantasizing about the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page) licking spoons. The series even provided fashion inspo, with people seeking out empire waists and puffy sleeves. So, you would think that the Golden Globes would recognize Bridgerton’s achievements with at least one nomination.
Well, we all thought wrong. When the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced their list of nominations earlier this month, Bridgerton was noticeably absent. Nominations for Best Performance by an Actor for Page and Best Television series felt preordained, yet the voting body couldn’t be bothered with the bodice ripping show. While awards season snubs are par for the course, Bridgerton’s omission felt especially glaring. Netflix–the studio behind the hit series–earned a total of 42 nods for shows and movies like The Crown and Ozark, yet the sexy costume drama couldn’t even get a piece of that enormous pie. If Bridgerton was shut out from the nominations, then what kinds of shows can even make the cut?
The Globes lavished praise on two (sort of middling, mostly enjoyable) dramas from Ryan Murphy, Ratched and Hollywood, while nominating Emily in Paris–otherwise known as one of the most universally mocked and mindless shows released last year (which doesn’t make it any less fun to hate-watch!). The yearning Irish miniseries Normal People picked up multiple nominations, as did fan favorites The Queen’s Gambit, The Undoing, and The Crown.
So, the answer to Bridgerton’s snub may lie in the composition and voting practices of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The HFPA consists of a mere 87 journalists from around the world and hardly admits any young, fresh faces. While a good amount of the members hail from major publications and overseas outlets, there are some who barely qualify as working film reporters. According to an LA Times report, the HFPA is composed of wealthy socialites, former actors, and beauty queens, with a significant portion being elderly.
While other organizations have taken steps to expand their voting body to include historically marginalized voices, the HFPA did no such thing. Instead, their association has refused to extend any memberships to Black journalists, though there are members of color. In a statement to the LA Times, a representative from the HFPA said, “We do not control the individual votes of our members,” adding, “We seek to build cultural understanding through film and TV and recognize how the power of creative storytelling can educate people around the world to issues of race, representation, and orientation.”
While the lack of Black members is egregious, it’s not all that surprising. The Golden Globes is reputedly a white and out-of-step institution created to trade awards for access to their favorite celebrities and kickbacks from studios. Even past hosts, like Ricky Gervais, mocked the Globes as “worthless,” with the award being “a bit of metal that some nice old confused journalists wanted to give you in person so they could meet you and have a selfie with you.”
The LA Times reports, “Its members — relatively few of whom work full time for major overseas outlets — are routinely granted exclusive access to Hollywood power players, invited to junkets in exotic locales, put up in five-star hotels and, as Globes nominations near, lavished with gifts, dinners and star-studded parties. To the studios, networks and celebrities that court its favor and exploit its awards as a marketing tool, the group is at once fawned over, derided and grudgingly tolerated.”
Between the allegations of self-dealing and the lack of Black members, the answer to Bridgerton’s snub may lie in a backwards institution that has baffling taste in TV. If the most critically acclaimed shows like Bridgerton, Insecure, and the buzzy I May Destroy You–taken together with the films Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Judas and the Black Messiah–were snubbed, and the only unifying factor is their Black casts and production teams, then something insidious is afoot. And that insidious thing is likely slightly racist gatekeeping. Like it, or not, though, the Golden Globes will continue to have a grip on the industry and determine what gets recognized.