Award season is just around the corner and you know what that means – more BIPOC and POC snubs. Every year, the panel of judges for many of these award shows decides to uphold white supremacy in the art and media space without any remorse or shame. You would think that after the turbulent year that was 2020, with all the heightened and necessary conversations revolving around inclusivity and race, they would change their tune and shift their perspective. Considering award season is probably one of the most-watched series of events in American pop culture, there seems to be very little regard for non-white creators and a silent upholding of white supremacy.
One of the most shocking Golden Globe nominations was Emily in Paris, the shock factor being its juxtaposition with the snub of Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You. Look, as a fair warning, I am going to bash Emily in Paris. I didn’t watch the show but I feel like the trailer told me everything I needed to know about the show and its plot, enough for me to fully dislike it.
If you aren’t already familiarized with either of these shows, let me give you a brief breakdown. Emily in Paris is a Netflix comedy-drama series starring Lily Collins (now best known for this show, but will always strictly be known as Phil Collins’ daughter in my book). The story centers around Emily, a Midwestern American girl, who moves to Paris and essentially forces her American way of living and viewpoint on the French marketing firm she works for. The show was yet another quintessential portrayal of the bored American who picks up and suddenly transplants themselves in a foreign space, only to strengthen and worsen American stereotypes.
I May Destroy You, an HBO British drama series created, written, co-directed, executively produced, and starring Michael Coel, is a deep dive into Coel’s true story of sexual assault as played out by her character, Arabella, a Twitter-star-turned-novelist. The cast of I May Destroy You is predominantly Black (which I’m sure now has you realizing why it was snubbed) and focuses on a subject that is both uncomfortable and heavily silenced, especially when it comes to BIPOC. To no one’s surprise, this is not the only Black-led show that has been snubbed on this year’s Golden Globe Award nominations list.
Emily in Paris is a stark display of whiteness and for it to be nominated for a Golden Globe award is yet another full slap in the face to the BIPOC community. While these unabashedly white award shows should not hold the weight that they do in regards to artistic achievement, the sad truth that overshadows the award itself is the fact that BIPOC voices and stories will continue to be shrugged off and seen as lesser than in comparison to low-brow, recycled white stories. Deborah Copaken, a writer for Netflix’s Emily in Paris, wrote in The Guardian, “Emily in Paris aired a few months after I’d spent June and July marching for racial justice through the streets of New York with my kids. I could definitely see how a show about a white American selling luxury whiteness, in a pre-pandemic Paris scrubbed free of its vibrant African and Muslim communities, might rankle. Our show also aired soon after I read Caste by Isabel Wilkerson and gobbled down Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You, a work of sheer genius about the aftermath of a rape. ‘That show,’ I told everyone who would listen, ‘deserves to win all the awards.'”
The frequency at which BIPOC experience sexual violence is alarming. Their trauma is very often intentionally left unknown and silenced. For Michaela Coel to create an entire series recounting her experience as a sexual assault victim is bold and vulnerable, to say the least, and she more than deserves recognition for her story and its extension of healing and catharsis it provided its viewers. If we have all collectively agreed to take the social power aspect away from award shows, then the next step is to actively uplift BIPOC creators and continuously work on ourselves by making space for them to tell their stories. Without this mindful and ongoing work, we will see less and less space for these stories to exist.
Photo via Laura Radford/HBO