The team behind Three Billboards were thrilled with their night, but Hollywood should be doing better.
The team behind Three Billboards were thrilled with their night, but Hollywood should be doing better. MIKE NELSON/AP

Hollywood’s huge Golden Globes hypocrisy

OPINION

UNTIL the end of the Golden Globes, change looked possible. There was talk of action, bravery, and agency on stage, and it looked genuine. "Happy New Year, Hollywood! It's 2018. Marijuana is finally allowed and sexual harassment finally isn't!" were among the first words spoken at the ceremony by host Seth Meyers.

But these were merely words.

The actions of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association - the judges of the Golden Globes - suggest the industry has a long way to go.

By awarding Best Picture Drama to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - a film that has been widely criticised for its portrayal of domestic violence and racism - the industry is letting itself down.

Slammed as "tone-deaf" by The Daily Beast, and even likened to a "racist uncle" by the Huffington Post, the movie follows Mildred (Frances McDormand), whose daughter was murdered in a still-unsolved case. Dissatisfied with the incompetence of the local police department (Sherriff Bill Willoughby is played by Woody Harrelson and Officer Jason Dixon is played by Sam Rockwell), she goes on a vigilante mission to find out the truth.

The town of Ebbing is marred by abuse, injustice and violence. Dixon's treatment of a black man while questioning him is appalling. Mildred's abusive ex-husband (John Hawkes) keeps re-entering the picture. When he upturns a room, choking Mildred while pushing her against a wall, it's played at first as a horror film-esque jump scare, and then a laugh. His new girlfriend Penelope (Samara Weaving) - noted frequently to be 19 years old - walks in with an absent-minded, bubbly request for the bathroom. Mildred's arc is framed as female empowerment, a rebellion against the notion of "respectability", but comes off as cartoonish to the point of discrediting her plight.

Without justification, this film asks for two horrifying things: to forgive those like Dixon and Mildred's ex-husband who harmed others yet show no remorse, and to laugh at the pain of their victims.

"It's not only an attempt at emotional manipulation that runs cold, but it's also a journey that's played for comedy throughout Three Billboards," Ira Madison wrote for The Daily Beast. "It's a movie that has a violent, racist cop as a central player and uses his history of torturing black people as a kind of edgy character detail," said Gene Demby, co-host of race, ethnicity and culture podcast Code Switch. "The lack of relatable female characters, combined with the ethical indifference toward violence against women, makes Three Billboards already feel like a relic," said critic Inkoo Kang.

But despite the insensitive way the film handles both racism and domestic violence, it cleaned up at the Golden Globes, winning four awards.

On a night where the elephant (Harvey Weinstein) wasn't in the room, and after months of #metoo and #timesup it was an event that could have marked a real turning point.

And in some ways, it did.

Oprah's speech was inspiring, telling abusers that they no longer lived in a world where they could get away with their shocking crimes. "Their time is up," she loudly claimed, to a standing ovation.

And the judges made the right call in awarding Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgard for their work portraying domestic violence in Big Little Lies.

Following her win, Kidman vowed to keep the spotlight on abuse victims, acknowledging her own industry's failings and the need to give victims a voice.

"This character that I played represents something that is the centre of our conversation right now - abuse," she said. "I do believe and I hope we can elicit change with the stories we tell and the way we tell them. Let's keep the conversation alive, let's do it."

But by saving the night's biggest award for a film that - unlike Big Little Lies - almost glorifies violence - the Golden Globes showed that Hollywood still needs to step up if it wants to be a leader for change.

In the words of Oprah: "A new day is on the horizon." It's up the leaders of Hollywood to take us there.



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