The 2020 Golden Globes were a wild ride.
Let's get one thing straight: Ricky Gervais is an absolute jerk.
He's incredibly condescending about his atheism, he's defended transphobia, he's mocked Anne Frank, and he's generally built a career around making people uncomfortable. He's also pretty f*cking brilliant. The original creator of the international phenomenon The Office, Gervais' brand of clever cringe humor has helped to shape the direction of comedy for the last decade. As such, he was tapped to host the Golden Globes first in 2010, when he quickly set a precedent for edgy jokes made at the expense of the award show's famous guests. His obvious disregard for the status quo and willingness to offend powerful people was oddly refreshing, earning the awards show some of their highest ratings in years, resulting in Gervais returning as host for a record five times as of 2020.
This year, Gervais quickly made it clear that he planned to go for shock factor even more than usual, saying, "You'll be pleased to know this is the last time I'm hosting these awards, so I don't care anymore. I'm joking. I never did." He then went on to absolutely lambaste the Hollywood establishment, earning many dropped jaws and even an irritated look from Tom Hanks. His most controversial comments included:
"Many talented people of color were snubbed in major categories. Unfortunately, there's nothing we can do about that. Hollywood Foreign press are all very racist."
" Leonardo DiCaprio attended the premiere and by the end his date was too old for him. Even Prince Andrew was like, 'Come on, Leo, mate.You're nearly 50-something.'"
"Talking of all you perverts, it was a big year for pedophile movies. Surviving R. Kelly, Leaving Neverland, Two Popes. Shut up. Shut up. I don't care."
And then, finally, perhaps most scathing of all, he closed with: "So if you do win an award tonight, don't use it as a platform to make a political speech. You're in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. So if you win, come up, accept your little award, thank your agent, and your God and f*ck off, OK? It's already three hours long."
It soon became evident that many of the award presenters and winners ignored Gervais' advice. Michelle Williams called on more women to engage with politics, Jennifer Aniston delivered a brief speech calling for climate action on Russell Crowe's behalf, and Patricia Arquette denounced Trump and called on everyone to vote in 2020. And while each of these statements were met with applause from the audience, they also rang a bit hollow in the wake of Gervais' assertion that these ultra-rich, privileged celebrities know nothing of the real world. Jennifer Aniston is worth $240 million, Russell Crowe is worth $95 million, Michelle Williams is worth $16 million, and Patricia Arquette is worth $24 million dollars– meaning that each of these celebrities benefit from the system of late capitalism that has brought about the rise of the far right and climate change.
But isn't it still admirable that they chose to use their platforms for advocacy? Or is it simply hollow virtue signalling meant to make these extremely privileged people seem compassionate and "woke" in the eyes of the public? But if these kinds of statements make a positive impact regardless, does it matter? Do we have any reason to believe there is any positive change actually brought about because of political award show acceptance speeches? Is it all smoke and mirrors, like the rest of Hollywood?
Or maybe these aren't the right questions at all. Maybe what we should be asking is why anyone gives a sh*t what actors have to say in the first place. Gervais is right, at least, in that many of the glamorous guests at the Golden Globes aren't college educated, have been removed from the financial struggles of your average American for years, and generally exist in an isolated bubble of privilege. Though, one has to wonder what gives Gervais the right to engage in these conversations if he's so vehemently discouraging other celebrities from doing so. Afterall, his net worth is estimated at $130 million, so what does he know about the real world, either? One glance at his Twitter account makes it clear he is no stranger to political conversations, and he obviously takes great pride in feeling superior to other celebrities and Twitter users. One thing is clear: Gervais did not make such a controversial speech because of some genuine desire for change. He said what he said to stir controversy, to make himself feel superior, and to illicit reactions from the room. But that doesn't mean he was wrong.
Perhaps one has to ultimately conclude that all of it is nothing but a distraction from the only hope to save our world from its cycle of decay: big, structural change that can only happen as a result of a complete overhaul of our political system, culture, and collective perspective. Maybe celebrities have nothing to do with it. Maybe they're a part of the problem and can't be a part of the solution no matter how political they get when accepting shiny statues from antiquated and racist institutions.
Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.
Villains always have the best outfits.
From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.
Way more handsome than Batman. static.giantbomb.com
But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.
Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.
Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.
Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did. i.imgur.com
Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.
As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.
History of Nazi Chic
For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.
The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.
Very rotten, Johnny. i.redd.it
Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.
The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com
Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.
Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.
Lady Gaga looking SS-uper. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com
Nazi Chic in Asia
Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.
A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.
In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.
OF COURSE. i.imgur.com
That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.
In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.
So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?
The answer is not so black and white.
On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.
But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.
Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.
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The only possible justification for categorizing Inglourious Basterds as "American" and The Farewell as "Foreign Language" is racism.
"Many talented people of color were snubbed in major categories," said Ricky Gervais during his contentious host monologue at the 2020 Golden Globes. "Unfortunately, there's nothing we can do about that; the Hollywood Foreign Press are all very, very racist."
Gervais' monologue seemed to rub a lot of Hollywood's elite the wrong way, but that's for good reason. Examining one's own hypocrisy is oftentimes uncomfortable, and Gervais, in spite of his recent transphobic Tweetstorm, made some saliently "woke" points at the Golden Globes. As Gervais pointedly "joked," the Golden Globes are, indeed, racist. To prove that, one need not look further than the categorization of Lulu Wang's The Farewell as a "Foreign Language" Motion Picture.
an asian american woman made a film starring an asian american woman and her experience being asian american, givin… https://t.co/STkQ1zqzDr— khy (@khy)1578280730.0
The Farewell, directed by Chinese-American filmmaker Lulu Wang, tells a deeply personal story about a Chinese-American girl's relationship with her family. It is a distinctly American story (Wang has been living in the US since she was 6) told from the perspective of a Chinese-American girl whose life experiences hinge on the crossroads between two cultures. While much of the film's dialogue is spoken in Mandarin, the American upbringing and cultural sensibilities of the main character, Billi (Awkwafina), is both essential to and inseparable from the narrative thrust.
First things first, let's get technicalities out of the way. Technically, the Golden Globes categorize a Foreign Language film as "a motion picture drama, musical or comedy with at least 51% non-English dialogue." So yes, technically The Farewell meets the criteria. But technicalities have long been used as justification for upholding racist practices, so if we truly want to assess whether or not the Golden Globes' categorization is racist, we need to examine their Foreign Language category not from a technical standpoint but from a practical one.
Practically, "Foreign Language" categories of major awards shows have, perhaps somewhat misleadingly, been used to distinguish foreign-made films from American-made ones (The Oscars recently changed "Best Foreign Language Film" to "Best International Feature Film). In other words, the basis for categorization is typically the country of origin, rather than the actual language. This makes sense, because categorizing an American-made movie as "foreign" based on language alone is, effectively, a form of Othering Americans who grew up in non-white communities. In their adherence to such a technicality, the Golden Globes are an outlier.
The bigger problem, however, is that the Golden Globes don't actually apply their criteria across the board. Since 2000, the Golden Globes have nominated six American-made movies for their Foreign Language category: Apocalypto, Letters From Iwo Jima, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The Kite Runner, In the Land of Blood and Honey, and now, The Farewell. But at least one Golden Globe-nominated movie that technically fits their "Foreign Language" criteria is missing from the list: Inglourious Basterds. That's because Inglourious Basterds, over 70 percent of which is spoken in French, German, or Italian, was apparently still eligible for "Best Motion Picture - Drama."
The Weinstein Company
So what sets Inglourious Basterds apart from the other "Foreign Language" movies on the list? With the exception of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which had an American director but was produced by a French company in French-language, every other entry primarily features non-white characters having "foreign" experiences in "foreign" countries. Inglourious Basterds, even while not primarily spoken in English, is a distinctly American story about mostly American characters from an American perspective. Therefore, the Golden Globes decided that in spite of it meeting the "Foreign Language" criteria, Inglourious Basterds is still "American."
But here's the thing: The Farewell is just as "American" as Inglourious Basterds, if not more so. The only possible justification for categorizing Inglourious Basterds as "American" and The Farewell as "Foreign Language" is racism.
In a year when not a single female director was represented in any of the "non-Foreign" categories, and non-white actors were underrepresented in almost every other major category, the Golden Globes made a conscious decision to categorize one of the best female-helmed, POC-centric movies of the year as "Foreign." Stranger yet, Awkwafina was nominated for and (very deservedly) won "Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Drama" for her role, while the movie was deemed ineligible for the matching category. Of note, Awkwafina's win made her the first Asian-American woman to ever win Best Actress at the Golden Globes.
Mike Blake / Reuters
Ultimately, if any members of the Golden Globes' audience took offense to Gervais' roast of their hypocritical sensibilities, perhaps they should take a moment for introspection. Of course it's admirable to use one's platform to advocate for social progress. But how much progress can one really tout while on the stage of an awards show still mired in the Othering of Asian-Americans in 2020? At what point do we accept that Hollywood, too, continues to uphold the same racist institutions it pretends to condemn?
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