Critics Choice Member Resigns Over Frustrations With LGBTQ Celebration (Exclusive)

A member of the Critics Choice Association has resigned after more than a decade with the group, citing what he believes is a “transactional” process behind the CCA’s forthcoming inaugural Celebration of LGBTQ+ Cinema & Television.

John Griffiths, who was the longtime television critic for Us Weekly and has more recently written for the TV Academy’s Emmy magazine and AARP magazine, sent a note of resignation Sunday to the organization behind the Critics Choice Awards. The note, which has been obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, alleges that the group has a policy of expecting honorees to pay for a table at the ceremony.

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“Despite my commitment to advancing queer and trans-centric representation, I have become deeply disheartened by the selection process for this event’s honorees,” Griffiths wrote. “Simply put, I believe many people expect that members of the Critics Choice Association are the ones who select the awardees for this celebration; instead, the awarding process appears to be transactional.”

His note continued, “While the LGBTQ celebration boasts a nice cross-section of honorees, an event that advocates for diversity on screen and TV should uphold the principles of equity and inclusion at all levels.”

Representatives for CCA clarify that the group’s celebrations that highlight underrepresented communities are not intended as awards shows like the annual Critics Choice Awards, which involve submissions and nominations for the group’s members to then vote on the year’s top film and TV projects. According to the CCA, the upcoming LGBTQ celebration had over 40 potential honorees who were vetted by the event’s 27-member committee, with these individuals encouraged to offer feedback. After the honorees had been selected, studios and networks were given the chance to purchase tickets and support their talent. The CCA says that ticket sales go directly toward paying for the event, which is not a moneymaking venture for the group.

“We’re just so incredibly proud of what we do,” CCA chief Joey Berlin tells THR of the celebrations. “This is the good side of this awards ecosystem, that we get to shine a light on things that might get otherwise overlooked. It’s so appreciated by the communities, and they’re just such beautiful, joyous events.”

Griffiths tells THR that he was initially excited when Berlin approached him to help with the group’s efforts to laud the LGBTQ+ entertainment community, much in the way that the organization has previously done with their Celebrations of Black, Latino and AAPI Cinema & Television. This year’s Celebration of LGBTQ+ Cinema & Television is set to take place June 7 at the Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles with host Sherry Cola.

In his letter of resignation, Griffiths wrote that he finalized his decision to exit upon hearing the event’s producer state in a Zoom meeting last week that, after previous discussion, there would not be room in the budget to allocate any of the proceeds to an LGBTQ charity. (CCA representatives tell THR that there are no proceeds from this inaugural event.)

“Maybe I’m naive, but if something has the banner of ‘Critics Choice,’ it should be the critics’ choice,” he tells THR with a chuckle. “A lot of [observers] think that that’s what is happening here — that it’s the critics voting, at least in some way.” He adds, “That’s not the case. I got increasingly disheartened that it seems like the awards are bought.”

In response to his resignation note, Griffiths says Berlin sent an email to thank him for voicing his concerns, with Berlin expressing that he hoped to resolve these issues in order for Griffiths to continue as part of CCA. Griffiths says he responded that he is firm on resigning but that he suggested that the group’s LGBTQ members initially vote to decide the honorees and then later reach out to representatives to see about sponsoring the event.

Griffiths, who praises recent inclusion efforts behind the Oscars and Golden Globes, plans to focus his own advocacy efforts on GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, the group comprised of professional journalists that he founded in 2008 and continues to guide as executive director. In February, the group handed out its 15th annual Dorian Film Awards, with its television awards set to be announced in August.

“Ideally, it would be wonderful for this celebration to have queer folk do the voting,” Griffiths says. “But I don’t know if that works out business-wise for them.”

May 7. Updated with details from CCA and Berlin’s quotes.

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