Why Are the Golden Globes So Much More Fun Than the Oscars?

The 2020 Golden Globes appeared on television this past Sunday, kicking off an awards season that’s felt like a long time coming. (For those of us who live and die for tearful speeches and epic montages, anyway). The show, hosted by Ricky Gervais, was at times political, at times silly; barely any of the speeches ran too long and Tom Hanks cried! It doesn’t get much better–and this year’s Golden Globe Awards reminded us why this ceremony is pure fun. Especially when you compare it to the tough room over at the Academy Awards, which air in February. But what makes the atmosphere at the Golden Globes so light and upbeat as compared to the Oscars?

The Oscars
Oscar statues on display | Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

All of the Oscar nominations are for movies–you know, the fancier medium

While the Oscars limit their nominations to films and the people who worked on them, the Golden Globes offer awards for both movies and TV. Television has always been seen as the lower-culture medium. Words like “cinema” and the long tradition of film theory, history, and criticism make it all seem very high-art. While we are indeed in the Golden Age of television, and creators are doing some of their best work in that medium, it seems that film will always be placed on a cultural pedestal. Movies are meant to be seen in big, dark theaters on giant screens; it doesn’t feel quite the same as bingeing Say Yes to the Dress while housing Doritos on your couch. The fact that the Academy is film-only gives it a classier, more esteemed vibe.

Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes
Ricky Gervais hosts the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards | Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal Media, LLC via Getty Images

On the flip side, Gervais opened the 2020 Golden Globe Awards by walking onstage with a beer and telling the audience this would be his last year hosting, and that he didn’t care. All very typical behavior of the British comedian, but he soon launched into a stream of topical, hard-hitting jokes that left no man or woman behind. Gervais went after anyone and everyone, mostly the people in the room, who were about to receive the shiny awards. But this is why Gervais gets to host the Golden Globes, and not the Oscars; the Academy doesn’t seem quite ready for a “Jeffery Epstein didn’t really kill himself” joke. Anything goes at the Globes, baby!

The Golden Globes more often than the Academy Awards, honor new, fresh faces

The Hollywood Foreign Press has a lovely tendency of awarding television shows in their first season and actors who haven’t yet broken into the mainstream. It makes for a compelling night of television; we love an underdog success story, and on that the Golden Globes almost always deliver.

It’s hard to forget the look of raw surprise and joy on Rachel Bloom’s face when she won a Golden Globe early on in the run of her TV show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. She started off her acceptance speech screaming, “Oh my God!”

“We almost didn’t have a show!” she explained to the Golden Globes audience, stunned. Her team had produced a Crazy Ex-Girlfriend pilot, but then the network dropped the project. After six rejections in a single day, the CW eventually picked up the show–and it all paid off in awards season.

Or, remember when Gina Rodriguez won for her lead role Jane the Virgin in 2015? It’s so hard not to cry watching her passionate and emotional “I can and I will” speech. She won only after a few months of the show airing on The CW.

The Golden Globes
The 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards | P. Lehman / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Rodriguez ended the speech breaking down in tears, emphatically telling her father who always encouraged her, “I can, and I did,” while holding up her Golden Globe. It’s one of the purest awards show moments in history–and you rarely see something like it at the Oscars.

The Globes upset traditional predictions by honoring the underdogs

We also can’t forget the 2014 Globes at which Brooklyn Nine-Nine, at the time a low-buzz show in its first season, won Best Television Series for Comedy. The brand new sitcom beat out award-season comedy juggernauts The Big Bang Theory, Girls, Modern Family and Parks and Recreation. As a result, the entire Brooklyn Nine-Nine table erupted in shocked elation.

Moments like this upset the predictable lineup of winners that the Emmys and the Oscars often throw all their awards at. It’s refreshing to see fresh ideas rewarded by the Golden Globes–especially after so many years of seeing Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the Game of Thrones stars sweep the awards ceremonies (which is not to say they didn’t deserve their statues).

The nominees are nervous at the Oscars, drunk at the Golden Globes

Every kid who wants to be an actor (or a writer or a director) wants to grow up and win an Oscar. A Globe would be swell, but it’s hardly anyone’s end-all, be-all goal. What does this mean for the ambiance of the awards show? That the nominees are riddled with nerves at the Academy Awards, their dream of all dreams. The Golden Globes don’t hold this kind of emotional weight, so it’s easier for the celebrities to have fun and laugh at the host’s jokes. Also, the nominees (and winners) are visibly drunk; check out the latter half of the show and the speeches start making a bit less sense.

The Oscars
Actress Lupita Nyong’o accepts the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for the movie 12 Years a Slave | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The Oscars is often a tough room to please. The host’s and presenters’ bits tend to get tight-lipped smiles instead of full-bellied laughs. Sure, not all of the jokes are laugh-out-loud funny–but it’s also hard to feel mirth when you have Spanx suctioning your torso up to your bra line, and today might be the day you get to recite the speech you’ve been practicing in your mirror since you were seven years old–or not.

This is why the Golden Globes serve as Hollywood’s party. Gervais even closed out the show by telling the audience, “get drunk, take your drugs.” (Remember: that message was a joke, and meant for hot actors who rarely face real consequences. Don’t do drugs, kids.)

champagne at the Golden Globes
Moet is served at the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards | Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Mo√ęt and Chandon

Happy awards season!