Commentary: Jo Koy’s “jokes” represent a larger issue

Portrait of comedian Jo Koy and Host of the 81st Annual Golden Globe® Awards, held on January 2024. (Courtesy of Golden Globes)

As media consumers, we’ve witnessed the world of entertainment and how live award shows tend to be magnets for drama. We’ve had our fair share of hosts that announced the wrong winners for best picture, have been slapped by an actor and given awkward performances.

This year, the Golden Globes were hosted by Jo Koy, who decided it was appropriate to share gnarly comments disguised as jokes about Taylor Swift and Greta Gerwig’s 2023 film Barbie, using the fact that he “got the gig ten days ago” as an excuse.

“The big difference between the Golden Globes and the N.F.L.? On the Golden Globes, we have fewer camera shots of Taylor Swift,” joked Koy, garnering an unamused look from Swift as the cameras panned to her. 

He received many similar looks that night, notably from Greta Gerwig, as he contrasted the films Oppenheimer and Barbie, stating that, “Oppenheimer is based on a 721-page Pulitzer prize-winning book on the Manhattan Project, and Barbie is on a plastic doll with big boobies.”

The reactions of the artists in question – you may have seen videos of Swift and Gerwig’s disappointed faces floating around the internet – were sufficient to understand how out of place the jokes were. People took their opinions to X (formerly Twitter) and expressed their disappointment with the performance.

The Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild- American Federation of Television and Radio Artists’ (SAG AFTRA) strikes took place and ended not long ago. Shows like the Golden Globes and their lack of planning display how little the industry makers care about the appreciation of art. This disorganization is noted when a comedian is allowed to utter sexist jokes in front of an audience of some of the most recognized female artists today. This lack of organization and overall care shouldn’t be surprising, only concerning.

Many people like me were busy that day or don’t involve themselves that much in this side of entertainment and only found out about the Golden Globes happening because of Koy’s performance.

I firmly believe that these award shows are analogous to the wrong-doings of media in general. This can be seen in the people who are nominated, who gets a seat at the table, the categories, the public attention to celeb’s outfits (which usually generate comments about their bodies) and finally, whoever hosts the show and how they go about it.

Except that host performances are the least concerning thing about award shows for people who care about injustices in show business.

Sexist people will continue to say sexist things whenever they want to, even when the world wants to progress as much as it wants and tries to. The problem ensues when those sexist voices are given a platform such as hosting an award show in front of some of the most important people in media on this side of the art world.

How is it that a comedian can be allowed to say such things without having had a revision of their act before? Even Saturday Night Live, which happens every single week, has revisions of the monologues that take place in every episode — so messes like these happen less often.

It raises questions since these awards have so much time for planning different parts of the event. They know who to invite, what people to leave out because they aren’t relevant enough, who to nominate, etc. So, was this just a way to give attention to award shows that are losing relevance as time goes by?

Still of the Golden Globes sign for its 81st edition. (Courtesy of Golden Globes)

Award shows like the Golden Globes are becoming less relevant with time, because the opinions of the people who experience art firsthand are taken more into account. Of course, we like to see our favourite actress winning or one of our favourite singers be sat at the table, but award shows are a decoration in a world where media takes up a large percentage of peoples’ lives. We watch award shows to see the shows we already like mentioned, usually not for recommendations on what film is best.

The fact that we’re still somewhat surprised about the mess that happens in these shows demonstrates the power that media has on us, even if poorly written jokes are given such a platform, they have more people talking about them when they create such drama.

The Golden Globes and award shows in general give a platform to such comedians, which represents a larger issue within the entertainment industry that is deeply rooted in sexist narratives — already noticeable in the gender disparities in other aspects of award shows in general.