So much more than just 'a doll'


Evie Banks (she/her) discusses Jo Koy's Golden Globes speech

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Image by Engin Akyurt via Pexels

By Evie Banks

It’s been a few weeks now since the 2024 Golden Globe Awards and I, like many others, am still trying to tackle the social gravity of Jo Koy’s speech. Social media has been particularly active in discussing the more controversial elements of the comedian’s speech. In the unlikely case that you are unfamiliar with these comments, here’s an insight into the events of the night, as Jo Koy hosted the 81st iteration of the awards on the 7th January.

While Koy did accept the position of host only ten days prior to the event, there appears to have been little consideration into the contents of the opening monologue which left the Beverly Hills audience with pained reactions. Whilst Koy acknowledged the comedic failures of his jokes - both on the night and in later interviews - claiming that they were not all his doing, the speech continued with some less-than-favourable, and outright misogynistic, remarks. In particular, I’ll shed light on the comments made at the expense of the Barbie movie, and the popularity of Taylor Swift.

Hailed as the feminist film of the year, the cast and crew of Barbie arrived in celebration of their nine nominations. Yet, the cinematic success of the movie was swiftly undermined by Koy’s joke, reducing it to “a plastic doll with big boobies".

Matters were only made worse by turning his attention to the male gaze of the audience, raising his concerns over “being attracted to a plastic doll”. The bitter irony of this is that the film tackles women’s objectification in a ‘man’s world,’ framing this portion of Koy’s speech as an almost satirical continuation of the cinematic themes.His comments ignored the film’s achievements in amassing $1.44 billion at the box office (the highest of 2023), and its praise in critical circles. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that these ‘jokes’ were largely met with disappointed looks from the celebrity audience. Especially as the male-centred and largely male-acted Oppenheimer was praised as “a 721-page, Pulitzer Prize-winning book about the Manhattan Project”’ The line comes at the expense of Barbie’s feminist message. It seems as though Koy didn’t grasp the significance of Gloria’s (America Ferrera) powerful scene about the relentless challenges and paradoxes of being a woman. The film, however, did go on to win the new ‘Cinematic and Box Office Achievement,’ alongside ‘Best Song,’ though there was still a veiled upset that lingered over those involved. This was mainly regarded in the following social media outbursts, but one can also imagine the disappointment the cast and crew must have faced in the ignorance of the movie’s message.

Unsurprisingly, creators on TikTok have responded in their masses, posting frustrated, feminist-fuelled videos. Attention was once again brought to the importance of Barbie in recognising the struggles of women, both in cinematic and political spheres. With President Barbie, Scientist Barbie, and Nobel prize-winning Barbie to name a few, the consummate examples of female excellence were widespread. Whilst this was ignored by some audiences, and Koy’s speech, social media audiences were attuned to the social importance of Barbie. Not only that, the movie elucidated the imagined hilarities of 'Ken World' and the fallibility of a world governed solely by men. With Greta Gerwig’s careful and poignant direction Barbie is, and will remain, much more than just the journeys of a 'plastic doll'.

Furthering the discomfort of the night, Koy’s comments later turned to Taylor Swift, who received nominations for her Eras Tour film this year. Once more bypassing the massive success of her shows - surpassing over $1 billion in revenue in 2023 alone - Swift could seemingly not be separated from boyfriend Travis Kelce. The host noted that the “big difference between the Golden Globes and the NFL” is that “on the Golden Globes, we have fewer camera shots of Taylor Swift”, a joke  met with little recognition from the singer.

Why is it that females in the limelight cannot be valued without reference to their male counterparts? Should we not see the 53% increase in female viewing of the NFL, since this relationship began, as a testament to Swift’s influence and media domination? Koy swiftly followed this by suggesting the comparison was an obvious one, saying it was ‘just where to go,’ which hardly placates the implications of his prior comment. Koy’s attempts at excusing this comment on the night, once more, blaming these badly received jokes on other writers - or criticising the audience for lack of ‘humour’ - doesn’t solve the bigger issues at hand.

Yet, the significance of Koy’s hosting of the awards should not be overlooked - however much we may pick apart his remarks. The comedian himself brought attention in recent interviews to his decision to host in the first place. He spoke of giving himself an “A-plus just based on the courage”, as well as feeling pride in being “the first Asian to ever solo host”. Whilst this success should be lauded in the lights of Hollywood and awards, it is certainly being detracted from after his speech at the Golden Globes.But is Koy himself mostly at fault for this? Even if the answer is only somewhat, it should not and does not legitimise his misogynistic tone.

There needs to be a greater awareness - whether in comedic or more public spheres - of the weight of one’s words. Making jokes, with ill intent or not, at the expense of a movement rooted in such injustice needs much more consideration. Koy’s comments unfortunately show there is still work to be done. To start, I’d definitely suggest another rewatching of Barbie.