Awards season has officially begun, and so has the controversy. The Golden Globes just announced this year’s nominations, but many were surprised to see that one of the biggest blockbusters of the summer season was completely absent from the list.

Not only did Girls Trip not get nominated, but breakout star Tiffany Haddish, the comedian who delivered a side-splitting performance as Dina, was not recognized in the Best Supporting Actress category. Twitter users GIF’d their way through the disappointment, but one person’s tweets added an entirely new perspective.

After initially trying to keep her frustrations quiet, Jada Pinkett Smith, Haddish’s co-star in Girls Trip, went public with her thoughts on the nomination list and tweeted: “I’m not upset about @TiffanyHaddish or @GirlsTripMovie not getting a nom… I’m discouraged about the fact that the Hollywood Foreign Press/@goldenglobes wouldn’t even WATCH the movie.” Pinkett Smith added that the Golden Globes instead invited Haddish to be a presenter at the awards.

Pinkett Smith’s tweets were just posted this week, but unfortunately, this whole scenario sounds all too familiar.

Haddish’s gift-of-a-performance in Girls Trip has been likened to Melissa McCarthy’s Oscar-nominated role in 2011’s Bridesmaids. After starring on shows like the recently ended The Carmichael Show, Haddish’s bold and vibrant portrayal of Dina catapulted her to new heights, hosting Saturday Night Live and a debut standup special on Showtime. While the HFPA didn’t recognize the strength of her craft, they definitely recognized the fact that she’s become an unstoppable force—and clearly hope to siphon that for their own ratings gain. In fact, using Haddish as a presenter sounds awfully in line with the historical trend of utilizing Black women’s work without proper and deserved recognition (but the HFPA will likely just call it “business as usual”).

How does the HFPA decide which films to watch, anyway?

Girls Trip made history by becoming the first film with a Black producer, director and all-Black starring cast to earn more than $100 million dollars, and it was the first comedy to do so in 2017. Metrics like these, in addition to press-circuit buzz and critical acclaim, all factor into the HFPA’s consideration of films for nomination, but Girls Trip somehow didn’t fit the bill for the journalists in the association.

Considering that the HFPA nominated widely slammed The Tourist in three major categories in 2011, one would have hoped they had learned to develop a more discerning eye—which surely would have landed them at a screening for Girls Trip. This well-written, well-acted comedy provided more than just summertime cinematic fluff. Girls Trip was a box-office success because it touched the pulse of its audiences in different ways: it was smart without being preachy, sexy and raunchy without being gratuitous and hilarious enough to pause the inane debate over whether women can be funny.

Tiffany Haddish Golden Globes snub: A screenshot from the film Girls Trip with Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish and Jada Pinkett Smith in New Orleans, drinking and wearing beads

(Photo: Michele K. Short)

Girls Trip provided so much more than the silly, good-for-cheap-Tuesday laughs I assumed I’d get based on its initial ads. I watched the film with a group of my girlfriends, and saw a bit of all of us reflected in the main characters. We were drawn in by its authenticity and left feeling refreshed by the new dynamic it offered.

All too often, films portray Black people in offensively stereotypical roles or as empty plot devices for a white character’s development (like critiques of TIFF’s top award winner this year, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri). Other times, it feels that films featuring Black characters are only green-lit when they highlight overt hardship and suffering (see: 12 Years A Slave, The Help and Mudbound). Girls Trip let us see a major movie release with joyful Black women, not without their own issues, revelling in their time with each other—and watching it made me feel like I finally exhaled after holding my breath for far too long.

Was the film simply seen as a “Black movie”? 

Pinkett Smith attributed the fact that this film was overlooked to the “antiquated system” in her Twitter thread, raising the question of whether Hollywood’s gatekeepers are ready to recognize the brilliance of Blackness on screen separate from suffering or stereotype. Gabrielle Union recently spoke to The Root about how films featuring people of colour are often underestimated in Hollywood. She notes that oftentimes films like Girls Trip get classified as “a Black movie,” separating them away from other films, such as Lady Bird or I, Tonya, which are both nominated for the best picture. She points out that even though Girls Trip killed it this summer, the general response seemed to be, “Look at this little Black movie go!” instead of looking at the film’s budget versus how much it ultimately made.

Whether right or wrong, the “Black movie” label doesn’t always bother me. With nuanced, quality blockbuster films featuring Black characters and stories being far and few between compared to ones with white characters and stories, I sometimes instinctively claim a movie that I can relate to in some way as a “Black movie.” My issues with the label, similar to what Union expressed, come when that label is used to minimize the quality or impact of a film, or when critics use it to claim they don’t “understand” a film. Utilizing the label as a marker of representation versus an excuse to be lazy are very different for me, and perhaps as the industry becomes more inclusive, the label’s use might change or dissolve altogether.

Girls Trip isn’t the only gem getting overlooked

It’s early in the awards season, but many are pointing out that the Golden Globes nominations reflect that segregation—and Girls Trip isn’t the only example. Kumail Nanjiani’s The Big Sick received rave reviews, yet was noticeably absent from Golden Globes list. Additionally, in a year filled with strong films by female directors like Dee Rees (Mudbound) and Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), the lack of even one woman in the best director category is particularly stinging.

For decades, Hollywood has had separate yet simultaneous streams of awarding excellence. For every long-standing institution like the Golden Globes and the Oscars, there are many other awarding bodies for niche demographics or underrepresented creative communities. This year we will yet again face the debate over the virtues of seeking mainstream inclusion and recognition versus building platforms celebrating “our own,” where the “we” in question is a population largely ignored by established entities. Haddish recently won the New York Film Critics Circle award for Best Supporting Actress, and at the African-American Film Critics Awards, Girls Trip took home Best Comedy while Haddish won for Best Supporting Actress. Mainstream recognition is still seen as a major marker for industry gatekeepers, and at the same time, there’s power in creating spaces to specifically honour those who are routinely overlooked. Both are valid, both provide various benefits and wanting both can be true.

Will the rest of Hollywood’s award season fill the gaps that the Golden Globes have created? Time will tell. One thing is for sure: whether the discussion is on Girls Trip being ignored, Haddish’s subsequent snub, the underestimation of films by or featuring people of colour, or the lack of recognition for women in crucial positions behind the camera—these examples will continue to push the discussion of inclusion, representation, and achievement in Hollywood forward. And as Haddish would say, “We ready.”


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