The snubbing of Michaela Coel's BBC/HBO genre-defying series quickly generated outrage, including from celebrities like Kathy Griffin and Emmy Rossum. Even an Emily in Paris writer was outraged. "Of course, one awards show cannot and should not cement a show’s legacy, but Coel’s snubbing by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is particularly tough to swallow when one recalls the fanfare with which Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag was met at the same ceremony in 2020," says Emma Specter. "(Waller-Bridge’s show scored three nominations and two wins, one for best musical or comedy TV series.) It’s facile to suggest that Fleabag and I May Destroy You are of a kind just because they both center around far-reaching stories about women (and, to be fair, it took until season two for Fleabag to get its Golden Globe noms). But it’s difficult not to wonder whether Coel might be a better candidate for awards-season plaudits if her story were just a little more, well...white (or, to put it in the coded language that Hollywood execs favor, a little more universal). One in six American women experience sexual assault in their lifetimes, meaning that in essence the story Coel is telling should be one of the most universal of all. That said, women of color are more likely to be assaulted than white women, even though 80% of rapes are reported by white women. Coel created a piece of work that addressed that reality head-on, confidently centering a Black survivor of sexual assault and shedding light on the myriad ways in which Black survivors of all genders and sexualities are likely to be disbelieved or let down by the system that purports to protect them. The narratives around sexual assault that we see play out on TV and in movies are still weighted toward white protagonists; why is a show that so boldly breaks those barriers not commended for it at one of the industry’s highest levels? Is it possible that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is just more comfortable seeing a woman who looks like Waller-Bridge push the boundaries of what it means to be alive, angst ridden, and female? If Coel’s story took place in a whiter, higher-income part of London, would it be easier for HFPA voters to see its merit?"
TOPICS: I May Destroy You, Fleabag, Michaela Coel, Diversity, Golden Globe Awards