When asked who she was rooting for at the 2017 Emmys, writer, producer, actress, and fellow awkward black girl, Issa Rae replied with, “I’m rooting for everybody black.” Since then, the now iconic phrase has been headlined, memed, lyricized, printed on t-shirts, you name it.
In any award show season, it’s hard not to remember the words of Issa Rae. The Golden Globes are no different. But for an award show infamously known for its collusion, it’s getting hard to root for everybody black when hardly anyone is black. And while this may seem insignificant to some, as if but another notch on the bedpost of weirdo white supremacists, it once again illuminates the lack of, specifically, racial diversity cast on award shows, television, entertainment and art in general–especially the business side of it. You know, the side that accumulates wealth and determines success. Along with this echo-chamber argument of racial representation surfaces other issues like tokenism and, my personal favorite, the nonissue of “reverse-racism”: the go-to rebuttal of defensive and inconvenienced-by-too-many-race-conversations white people. Should BIPOC artists win simply because they’re BIPOC, no. But when the BIPOC artists outperform white artists and don’t receive the praise they deserve, therein lies the issue.
We learn in economics that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. And to receive a Globe, or even a nomination, this is certainly true. But it seems you don’t earn it, you buy it. Literally–you buy the voting committee lunch. So, ironically, the committee ends up with a free lunch! Make it make sense, economists! In 2016, Denzel Washington recalled his first luncheon with the Globe voting committee, Hollywood Foreign Press, during a career achievement acceptance speech in which he quoted producer Freddie Fields as saying, “They are gonna watch the movie. We are gonna feed them. They are gonna come over. You gonna take pictures with everybody. You are gonna hold the magazines, take the pictures, and you’re gonna win the award.” And he did. Granted, this is Denzel we’re talking about, but it’s the principle of the matter. A lesser known actor of color likely (definitely) would not have had the same opportunity. One can imagine how many times this has occurred behind closed doors.
As a self-proclaimed TV aficionado and a fan of Darren Star (Sex and the City, anyways), when I see basic, ambient content like Emily In Paris, created by Star, nominated for best series and best actress, I can’t help but wonder…Emily In Paris? In a pandemic? During Black History Month?! It’s the audacity for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m always excited to witness anything in the same realm of Tina Fey, this year’s Golden Globes co-host. However, after perusing the nominations and seeing the likes of Emily In Paris, Prom, and The Undoing, I’m going to give a big *chile, anyways* transition (if you know, you know) and highlight 3 works that should have also been nominated. And in honor of Black History Month, I’m going to do the one thing award shows struggle to do–make it black.
Da 5 Bloods
Created by Spike Lee
For the culture and for the violet pride. From Do The Right Thing in 1989 and to this day, Lee has always told stories of race relations and black history in the U.S. And since history keeps repeating itself, we’ll likely continue to be treated with Spike Lee joints for as long as he lives! With no shortage of content, this notion of time moving on, yet history repeating itself, is essentially the underlying message of Da 5 Bloods, as we follow Vietnam war vets searching for the body of their squad leader. As if the signature Lee grandiose, thought-provoking narrative, and starpower of the late Chadwick Boseman were not enough, it is a bit surprising to not see any nominations for this, knowing that the Globes tend to focus on trends and after the Black Lives Matter protests last summer. Who didn’t post a black square on IG, whether you meant it or not?
Even after seeing Spike Lee in the Tisch elevators as an undergrad, when he greeted every single black person except me, I’ll still always vouch for him. That hurt, Spike.
Produced by Shonda Rhimes
Everybody, and their mother, and their mother’s mother, and even their fathers are watching and loving Bridgerton. A wonderfully executed, novel-inspired show, following the lives of high-society Londoners complete with all drama, intrigue, romance, unrequited love, and comedy one could hope for especially in a horrifying 2020 (year of the rat indeed). Complete with diversity, beautiful music, and quick-witted writing, it’s premium Netflix content for everybody. SNUBBED!
I May Destroy You
Created by Michaela Coel
If Netflix’s The Crown, an incredible show, deserved 6 nominations, this show deserved 7. Growing up black, you often hear your parents tell you how you have to be 10 times better to be given the same opportunities. But how much better do you have to be to receive just half of the opportunities? That’s why there is so much comparison between I May Destroy you and Emily In Paris. When the latter is nominated for both best series and best actress, at the very least, one of them should have gone to Michaela Coel. Her own story that she created, wrote, directed, and starred in about the aftermath of sexual assault was so geniusley executed. To write a television series appealing to all four rhetorical strategies of logos, pathos, ethos, and kairos and yet present a fresh perspective, while still sprinkled with humor, is almost inconceivable. Especially in the wake of the Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements, the lack of any nomination seems like a direct attack.
James Baldwin so eloquently wrote, “It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself, and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.” Perspectives like these is why nominations matter. Award shows are meant to validate and laud an artist’s work, no different from how promotions and raises are meant to validate and laud the everyday-person’s work. As it is now, the Golden Globes is the second most popular award show after the Oscars. It’s one thing to not win a Globe, but to not even have deserving black nominations invalidates and undermines the black narrative and overall creative output of black people. While there were some great film nominations, including Regina King, Daniel Kaluuya, Chadwick Boseman, Andra Day, and Viola Davis, TV nominations were severely lacking. Only Lovecraft Country received a nomination for best drama series, almost as if there could only be one to say, “Hey, we’re not racist…see!”
Discussing the topic of racial diversity actually does effect change. The epic #OscarsSoWhite controversy of 2016 majorly highlighted the perpetual and systemic issue of a lack of representation in Hollywood awards. Then in 2020, black artists collectively broke the record for the most Emmys won in major categories by black actors in a single year. Being that it took 71 years since the first Emmys to get to that point, it’s safe to assume no matter how much those performers deserved the awards, they likely wouldn’t have all received them without the catalyst of public outrage. It’s not as if in 2020 black people all of a sudden got talented.
Post George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, there does seem to be a national cry for change. However, until that domino effect consummately topples the perceptions of black creativity and narratives in Hollywood, we can expect a continuation of snubbed BIPOC talent.
But no matter what any convoluted nomination list may look like, we know who the real MVPs are.