Peter Bart: Golden Globes And “Top Gov” Reveal Depths Of The Culture Chasm

In his new ad campaign, former Navy prosecutor Ron DeSantis dons an aviator outfit replete with goggles, billing himself as “Top Gov” and spoiling for a dogfight against the liberal-leading media. Those who disagree with his positions are promptly dis-invited to future speeches or press conferences. 

Will this strategy appeal to a broad audience or will it limit the Florida governor to a “niche”? Top Gov has his eyes on the widest niche — the  presidency — and hence has set his campaign on a political version of Cruise control. Says his top communications aide: ”We know the media hates us and hates everything we stand for.”

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Does DeSantis honestly believe he can unite the Republican Party by being even more polarizing than Donald Trump was before he was voted out and, many charge, fomented an attempt at a government overthrow by his unruly hardline base, the Proud Boys and Oath Keeper crowd?

His strategy is the opposite of the one employed by the Golden Globes and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a dubious enterprise that is trying to crawl out of banishment for not having a single Black voter for years, and for other misdeeds by the hundred or so journalists/parasites who are stringers for offshore publications. Given a position of importance with a weighty vote for a popular awards broadcast known to be more irreverent and fun than the stuffy Oscarcast, these journalists grew a rep for supplementing meager incomes with lavish gifts and junkets to glamorous places. They held interview sessions big stars were told by awards handlers they had to attend, often enduring rude and personal questions from these nobodies. And former HFPA president Philip Berk allegedly pawed at Brendan Fraser’s down under – the actor himself used the word “taint” to describe the exchange. Berk, a 44-year member and president for eight years, was allowed to stay after he denied he was a Golden Groper, and he wasn’t bounced until he retweeted a missive about Black Lives Matter being a “racist hate group.”

Fraser was nominated for his performance in The Whale, but said he wasn’t showing up, and didn’t. He was barely mentioned, but not so for Tom Cruise, who was bothered enough by the HFPA’s misdeeds that he rounded up the three Globes he’d won and sent them back. During the show earlier this week, host Jerrod Carmichael came out with three of the awards, said he’d found Cruise’s stash and suggested ransoming them for the “safe return of Shelly Miscavige.” She is the rarely seen wife of Scientology leader David Miscavige. Never mind that many believe Cruise turned around a dying box office with Top Gun: Maverick, after not allowing that film to be sold to a streamer during the pandemic. Whether you consider Scientology to be a form of faith or something else, you would not have seen Carmichael take a shot at Fraser on the same grounds, as that actor is Jewish.

It was noteworthy that this was about the only edgy joke uttered by Carmichael, who in his monologue mentioned he was selected as host “because I’m Black.” It probably didn’t hurt that he recently came out as a gay man, also. And the $500,000 he said he got was an enticement for him, a lot more than the $20,000 or so Deadline hears Oscar hosts receive.

But this was the odd thing about the Globes, which seemed to set a record for the presence of people of color presenting awards and winning them. Was this course correction done on merit? Had this “new and improved” HFPA that is largely comprised of the same membership as years past, and now pays $75,000 to those formerly struggling voting journos to cast their ballot, been sincerely moved by the benefits of all the efforts Hollywood has made toward diversity in the age of #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, George Floyd and other things that have leveled the playing field somewhat? Or is this simply desperation by an organization desperate to keep its primetime berth, relevance and outsized TV broadcast rights payment?

Many in the industry remain skeptical of the Globes. Around 27 nominees and multiple winners stayed home that rainy Tuesday night. Ratings were down 25%, not a good result for the HFPA or Todd Boehly in that this marked the end of NBC’s contract that paid $60 million per year. It’s unlikely that network or any other will pay that much going forward, especially for a sanitized version of the season’s most fun awards show, with an attitude of, who cares who voted these awards, the booze is flowing and hosts like Ricky Gervais and Tina Fey & Amy Poehler are puncturing the pompous ego balloon of the evening’s attendees?

Taking a hard turn toward dull didn’t help the Globes as it tries to crawl out of the woodshed. Back to DeSantis. Will his organization’s radical turn in the other direction also narrow his base and be hurt by a return to the insults and polarized messaging that Trump employed when he labeled media liars and evil? The Florida governor who seemed all too eager to parrot Cruise’s Top Gun look seems determined to find out.  

To the major media, DeSantis has emerged as the key rival to Trump. He has built a powerful constituency in Florida, his followers signing up to banning books and fueling the culture wars. His press aides have revoked credentials of CNN or other entities deemed too liberal. The Disney empire has been denounced for opposing DeSantis’ restrictive proposals even to the point of revising lenient tax legislation.

“We in Florida are not going to allow legacy media outlets to be involved in our priorities,” DeSantis explains. Media veterans recall that Trump, while vilifying the press, also cozied up to its media stars, carefully planting favorable stories.  

This country has always voted along party lines, but never has it seemed less sincere than now. In the case of both the Globes and DeSantis, we are left to wonder what is in the hearts of the people putting on these self-interested shows that seem less than honest in serving one agenda or the other. 

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