Monday, January 17, 2011

The Golden Globes as a collective action problem

Even by the standards of Hollywood awards, the Golden Globes was a largely pointless exercise, selected by small and lightly credentialed group of no particular standing. For awhile, it represented a small net positive for the industry -- it did generate publicity and the large number of categories meant that a lot of shows could add "winner of..." to their promotional material -- but eventually the meaninglessness, the poor choices and the suspicion that nominations were made based on who might attend the ceremony all pushed the Golden Globes into the liability category. This came to a head this year with multiple nominations for the Tourist, one of the worst-reviewed pictures of the season, and with a payola scandal.

I suspect that most of the industry would like to see the Golden Globes go away but here's where the collective action problem comes in. If everyone who disapproved would stop covering or attending the event, they could probably kill it in a year or two (I'm counting being bumped to E! as virtual death), but even the Globes' harshest critics haven't been able to go cold turkey. As long as the show is there, all the incentives on the individual level are lined up to keep the show going. The journalist who refuses to write about the nominations or the ceremony loses ground to competitors. The nominated star who boycotts the awards passes up publicity and may be seen as difficult to work with (a label that can devastate an actor's career).

There's something refreshingly trivial about Hollywood versus the Golden Globes, but it does raise an interesting point: just how embarrassing does a situation have to be for an industry to find a solution to a collective action problem? Apparently it need to be worse than having the host of a prime-time network awards show opening with jokes about the fact that the nominations are fixed.

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