Feminism on film: we need to be talking about Chloé Zhao's win

The Golden Globes have been seen as out of touch in recent years. But with Chloé Zhao becoming the second woman director to win in the best director category - why aren't more people talking about it?

Johnathan Mack
12th March 2021
Image Credits: IMDb
Chloé Zhao broke records with her wins at the 78th Golden Globe Awards ceremony, and yet the institution has still been hounded by the looming shadow of controversy.

At the start of February, the nominees for this years Golden Globes were announced and immediately accusations were flying. Michaela Coel’s exceptional I May Destroy You went unrecognised, and fans promptly expressed their disappointment. Even Deborah Copaken, a writer for Emily in Paris (which received a Best Comedy Television nomination), spoke out against the discrimination which caused the snub. We also can’t forget James Corden’s nomination for his offensive performance of a gay character in The Prom, though the less said about that, the better.

It has been unveiled that the HFPA members actually voted against hiring a diversity consultant, ignoring the fact that there have been no black members for over 20 years.

But that wasn’t all that provoked ire amongst audiences. Minari, sparked calls for the HFPA to reconsider their categorisation of films when it was nominated for Best Foreign language film, even though it was produced, shot and set in America, and written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, an American filmmaker. More recently, it has been unveiled that the HFPA members actually voted against hiring a diversity consultant, ignoring the fact that there have been no black members for over 20 years.

In short, the Golden Globes were proven to be embarrassingly out of touch and shamefully behind in terms of representation.

Zhao and Frances McDormand on set
Image Credit: IMDb

And yet, a single moment shone through the dark clouds which overcast the ceremony: Chloé Zhao won in the Best Director category and her film, Nomadland, snagged Best Picture. It was a truly ground-breaking moment.

This is the first time that 3 women have been nominated concurrently for Best Director with Emerald Fennell and Regina King also being nominated. This raises the total number of women nominated for Best Director across the Golden Globes entire 78-year history to 8. Zhao’s victory also makes her the second women ever to take the award for Best Director home, finally providing some company for Barbra Streisand who won in 1983 with Yentl. To top it off, Chloé Zhao has become the first Asian woman ever to win the award.

Amongst the tide of controversy, this was a refreshing moment of triumph for a woman of a marginalised group. Even a group as behind as the HFPA recognised Chloé Zhao’s brilliance. History was being made here and it was glorious.

Image credit: IMDb

Sadly, it seems that some outlets are concerned with drawing attention away from Chloé Zhao, instead focusing on another part of the moment: David Fincher’s toast to his successful competitor. Now I want to be clear, I love David Fincher’s response to Zhao’s victory; he’s gracious and it really shows how supportive he is of other filmmakers – may we all hope to be so magnanimous in defeat. Obviously, Fincher is only interested in raising his peers up, and yet his kind gesture has been used to distract from Zhao.

Esquire UK’s post on Instagram showed David Fincher gleefully swigging a shot in honour of Zhao, he looks chuffed. But where is Zhao? This is her time in the spotlight, but all we see in the video is the top of her head. Even, her name isn’t mentioned in the caption and, unless you were already aware of Zhao’s win, you wouldn’t know from this post. There is nothing here which celebrates Zhao, only Fincher. This isn’t the only example either as outlets were reporting Fincher’s shotting almost immediately after the ceremony aired but mentions of Zhao seem to be cryptically buried in the depths of these articles.

It’s intriguing that, for some people, the most noteworthy aspect of Chloé Zhao’s historic win is the palatable reaction of a well-established male director

Yes, Fincher’s acceptance of his loss is praiseworthy, but is his response more praiseworthy than Chloe Zhao’s victory? Certainly not, but it’s intriguing that, for some people, the most noteworthy aspect of Chloé Zhao’s historic win is the palatable reaction of a well-established male director.

Let’s take a step away from David Fincher and get a view of the big picture: Chloé Zhao has won the Golden Globe for Best Director. It’s an incredibly significant event and the spotlight should be solely fixed upon her, not diverted towards others. Let’s celebrate Zhao's win. We can only hope that Zhao’s success continues and there are no more attempts to overshadow her as we move into the rest of the awards season.

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