Like The Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail who insists he’s experienced just a flesh wound after getting his arm chopped off, the Golden Globes returned on Tuesday, December 13 to announce the nominations for the 80th Golden Globes. This came after years of controversy and criticism toward the awards show that inspired an overhaul of the voting body for the ceremony, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA). There weren’t a ton of surprises in the nominations and that included an incredibly discouraging continuation of a tradition in the Golden Globe nominations. No ladies were nominated for Best Director at the 80th Golden Globes and none of the 10 movies up for Best Picture across the two categories (Best Drama and Best Comedy/Musical) were helmed by women either.
The absence of women-directed cinema was incredibly aggravating and frustrating, but unfortunately, it’s part of a long and equally discouraging history of how women filmmakers have been recognized (or more accurately, haven’t been represented at all) at the Golden Globes.
A Brief History of the Golden Globes
The very first Golden Globe ceremony was held in January 1944. This was back in an especially dire era for women directors in American cinema. While women directors were quite common in the silent era of cinema, the shift to “talkies” and then colorized movies had moved Hollywood away from handing over work to women filmmakers. The likes of Maya Deren, Ida Lupino, and Dorothy Arzner still existed in this time period, but for the most part, women directors were scarce in Hollywood. By proxy, award shows like the Golden Globes didn’t give any thought at all to the exclusively male nominees in key categories like Best Director.
It would take until the late 1970s for more prestigious and global Academy Awards to finally recognize a woman for the first time in its Best Director category with a nomination for Lina Wertmüller for Seven Beauties at the 49th Academy Awards. The Golden Globes, which predominately have only recognized American movies at its various ceremonies, would take until the 1980s to break new ground and recognize a woman filmmaker. That would come about at the 41st Golden Globe awards with Barbara Streisand scoring a nomination for her work helming Yentl. Impressively, she’d go on to win Best Director at that ceremony, beating out such heavyweights as James L. Brooks, Mike Nichols, and Ingmar Bergman.
The Rarity of a Woman Being Nominated for Best Director
Streisand’s feat here is truly impressive and remarkable in that it redefined what was possible in terms of which filmmakers could get recognized where at a shockingly influential award show. If there was any downside to this development, though, it’s simply that Streisand did fit the bill of the kind of artist the Golden Globes tends to cater to. The voters for this event have often been criticized for catering to celebrities it wants to show up at the ceremony rather than art they feel passionate about. Streisand, being a massive musician and a major movie star, certainly is the kind of famous face the Golden Globes would’ve loved to have around.
This is not to diminish her accomplishments or suggest none of the voters liked her directing in Yentl. This is merely meant to provide context for why she could’ve been the only woman director recognized across the first 50 Golden Globes ceremonies (she’d be nominated in the category again for helming Prince of Tides).
Jane Campion would become the first non-Streisand woman to score a Golden Globe nomination for Best Director at the 51st Golden Globes ceremony (this nod would be for her filmmaking in The Piano). Unfortunately, she would be the last woman to get recognized in the category for the rest of the century. It would take until Sofia Coppola‘s nomination at the 61st Golden Globes for her work on Lost in Translation that another woman would break into this category. The only other time a lady would grace this category for the entirety of the 2000s would be six years later when Kathryn Bigelow got recognized for helming The Hurt Locker.
The lack of women being recognized in this category was emblematic of larger trends in the broader award season landscape that often ignored female directors entirely. Shockingly, by 2009, the Golden Globes had nominated more women in its Best Director category (albeit, only by one and two of those nominations were for Streisand) than the equivalent category at the Academy Awards. This didn’t preclude any of the shortcomings of the Golden Globes, but it certainly made it apparent that the problems with recognizing the validity of movies helmed by women was a rampant problem across the industry.
A Dry Spell for Women Directors
Into the 2010s, the Golden Globes would recognize a handful of further women filmmakers, including Ava DuVernay making history as the first woman of color recognized in this category for directing Selma. In the years that followed this feat, the Golden Globes missed out on nominating highly acclaimed women filmmakers recognized at nearly every other major American award ceremony, namely Greta Gerwig’s work on both Lady Bird and Little Women. After DuVernay’s nomination, it would take a whopping six years before further female directors were recognized in this category. To put things into perspective, this meant that, in the decade after Bigelow’s Hurt Locker nomination, the Golden Globes had only recognized one woman across 50 different Best Director slots. It’s an absolutely insane fact that reflects how badly this category ignored women filmmakers.
The 2020s have so far seen four women nominated in the Best Director category (including Campion scoring her second nod) while the 80th Golden Globe nominees featured zero women in the Best Director field nor any lady-directed features across the two Best Picture categories. It’s an egregious development on many levels, including how many features helmed by female directors have been making waves at other major award ceremonies in 2022. Titles like Women Talking, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, Aftersun, The Woman King, and many others have been fixtures of other big award shows recognizing the very best of 2022 cinema. Unfortunately, they and other titles were absent from the 80th Golden Globe awards.
The Larger Problems With the Golden Globes
The problems with the Golden Globes and its lack of recognition for women filmmakers aren’t just limited to these categories or the nominees for the 80th Golden Globes, though. The lack of a Best Documentary Feature category (a staple at most other award shows, including the Academy Awards) since 1977 further restricts when and how the Golden Globes can acknowledge the existence of women directors. The landscape of documentary cinema is covered in female directors, but those artists don’t get a chance to be seen or have their accomplishments recognized at the Golden Globes.
Of course, all these problems might sound ludicrous considering the simple fact that the Golden Globes themselves are often a punchline. After all, this is the ceremony that nominated The Tourist for Best Picture! However, the lack of recognition for women directors in its various ceremonies is still worth mentioning and recognizing largely because these ceremonies still have a lot of sway in Hollywood and on the award-season landscape. Plus, the problems with the Golden Globes and its issues with recognizing art made by women are echoed by other award shows. To acknowledge the shortcomings the Golden Globes has repeatedly shown with making space for women-directed cinema is to acknowledge how America’s definition of “awards-worthy cinema” is also skewed. When we’re talking about “the best movies of the year,” the erasure of women-directed cinema means we’re not talking about the entire cinematic landscape, just a small portion of it dominated by men.
The 80th Golden Globe Awards and its approach to women filmmakers was a frustrating reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Despite much-publicized reforms to try and make the Golden Globes voting block more diverse, women directors were still largely shut out from the nominations (similar problems tied to longstanding erasure befell features made by Black artists at this Golden Globes ceremony). The history of the Golden Globes and its difficulty recognizing women directors is, unfortunately, very much in step with the present-day state of the ceremony.