Yesterday morning, whilst we donned our WFH attire (sweatpants) and had a nutritious lockdown breakfast (a strong and much-needed coffee), the annual list of nominations for the Golden Globes was released. Now there always are a few curveballs thrown in with these prestigious awards – Emily in Paris? Really? – but the thing which really made our jaws drop was not a nomination at all, but rather a failure to provide one.
Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You, ground-breaking masterpiece that it is, didn’t get any nominations. Not one. And even Emily In Paris writer Deborah Copaken is up in arms about it.
I May Destroy You deals with the extremely complicated aftermath of rape in a way that we haven’t seen before. Adding humour, human connection and incredible character development, Coel created a narrative which was ground-breaking not just amongst the film and tv produced last year, but the amongst that of the last decade.
Sadly, although there is a unanimous outrage that I May Destroy You wasn’t afforded even a single Golden Globe nomination, no one seems to be surprised.
This is because even though the message Black Lives Matter was held aloft proudly by so many last summer, every writer room in Hollywood has over 91% white showrunners, 80% of which are male (Color of Change, 2017).
I May Destroy You put contemporary black culture to the forefront of a television show that we haven’t seen before, and Hollywood’s Foreign Press Association either failed to grasp the importance of this, or worse, purposefully ignored it. What’s more, Micheala Coel wrote, codirected, executive produced and acted in the show, a momentous achievement that critic’s have raved about, and yet has passed by unacknowledged by the Golden Globes.
Bringing to the forefront issues such as sexual abuse, trauma, race and sexuality, I May Destroy You sparked discussions across social media when it aired last June that people hadn’t necessarily even thought about before. On Rotten Tomatoes, a review site known for being hard to rank highly on, I May Destroy You has a score of 98%.
That is not to say that the Golden Globes nominations haven’t made some steps forward in terms of diversity – Chadwick Boseman, Daniel Kaluuya and Steve McQueen were all rightfully nominated – however there is an insidious clue as to why their projects may have been more readily accepted. The stark fact is that white audiences prefer to watch stories which tackle race issues from the past, not the present. Race issues going on right now are too close for comfort.
If we look into this further, then we could also make the observation that I May Destroy You presents a perfect illustration of how race affects the daily experiences of black people in subtle but very powerful ways. Alternatively, the plots which feature racial tension in an explicit and often violent way are more widely accredited – perhaps the idea of racism on our TV’s being black and white itself is more palatable to digest.
Words by Becca Seib