The Hollywood Foreign Press has made diversity big news this year.
They handed out a Golden Globe to Latina Gina Rodriguez for best actress in a TV comedy for her lead role in Jane the Virgin. Transparent won for best TV comedy or musical, and its star Jeffrey Tambor won for best actor in the same category for his role as a transgender woman. Common and John Legend won an award for their song Glory, for the civil rights movie Selma. Meanwhile, Matt Bomer won for his portrayal of a gay man dying of AIDS in The Normal Heart.
It’s a sad commentary on Hollywood that its overdue recognition of diverse communities should be such a big deal, and–let’s face it–that diverse characters are still relatively rare.
On the other hand, each of the winners made the most of their moment. using their acceptance speeches to speak eloquently about the significance of their wins, and of different communities’ representation on screen.
In her acceptance speech for Jane the Virgin, Rodriguez said, “This award is so much more than myself. It represents a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes.”
As she subsequently explained, airing a show with Latinos in significant roles matters—both for the Latino community’s self-image, and for society as a whole.
“The nomination alone was a win for me because it allowed our culture, it allowed Latinos, to see themselves in a beautiful light. It allowed them to see themselves where we all desire to be—invited to the same party. … And if we can create an effect that shows Latinos like the investment bankers, the doctors, the lawyers that exist in my own home, then I think that’ll change the way young girls, young boys look at themselves. And I think that that’s needed, especially now during a time where we have dealt with Eric Garner and Michael Brown. When we are dealing with a society that, that is so diverse, that is so beautiful, and that is so human. We all need to remember that we all have the same stories and see them as such.”
Jeffrey Tambor smartly dedicated his award for Transparent to the transgender community. In doing so, he showed Hollywood how an actor can ally with a community and pay tribute to its stories.
“This is much bigger than me. … If I may, I would like to dedicate my performance and this award to the transgender community. Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your courage, thank you for your inspiration, thank you for your patience, and thank you for letting us be a part of the change.”
Selma’s Musician Common spoke about his experience working on a period movie, but he could just as easily have been talking about viewers’ experiences today.
“I realized I am the hopeful black woman who was denied her right to vote. I am the caring white supporter killed on the front lines of freedom. I am the unarmed black kid who maybe needed a hand but instead was given a bullet. I am the two fallen police officers murdered in the line of duty. Selma has awakened my humanity. … We look to the future and we want to create a better world. Now is our time to change the world. Selma is now.”
There were a few great feminist moments too, from host Tina Fey’s George Clooney joke to Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin’s snarky ode to the world finally recognizing men’s comedy skills (“Finally we can put at rest that negative stereotype that men just aren’t funny.”). Joanne Froggatt from Downton Abbey shared words from rape survivors who had written to her, Amy Adams thanked pretty much all the women in the room for setting an example that her 4-year-old daughter can follow. Maggie Gyllenhaal, who won for The Honorable Woman, perfectly summed up how roles are changing for women, moving away from relentless strength and into reality: “What I think is new is the wealth of roles for actual women in television and in film. That’s what I think is revolutionary and evolutionary and it’s what’s turning me on.”