I May Destroy You’s Snub Is About More Than Just Race

Early this month, the final selection for this year’s Golden Globes was announced. The nominations were some of the most notable films and television shows that encapsulated our screens in 2020 like The Crown, Schitt’s Creek, and so many more.  Among those nominated was Emily in Paris, a Netflix series following a young girl’s journey and experience moving to Paris, France. Although the show was relatively enjoyable in the midst of its nomination, the critically acclaimed I May Destroy You was entirely snubbed not to receive one award in any category for the Golden Globes.

The particular nomination of Emily in Paris sparked outrage on social media, emphasizing peoples dismay at the lack of acknowledgment for the show I May Destroy You, also reviving the conversation yet again on the lack of diversity within the Golden Globes, pressing on the fact that white media is far more worthy and notable than Black film and television media.  Tweets flooded social media referring to the nomination as a “joke”, and another example of the racial barriers and biases within award shows.

Lily Collins as Emily Cooper in Emily in Paris

When speaking out on the nomination, Emily in Paris’ very own writer Deborah Copaken voiced her own dismay at the snubbed nomination for I May Destroy You, stating: “Now, am I excited that Emily in Paris was nominated? Yes. Of course. I’ve never been remotely close to seeing a Golden Globe statue up close, let alone being nominated for one. But that excitement is now unfortunately tempered by my rage over Coel’s snub. That I May Destroy You did not get one Golden Globe nod is not only wrong, but it’s also what is wrong with everything.” Copaken is right, this snubbed nomination is what’s wrong with everything, but the snubbing of I May Destroy You is less about race and more about what’s wrong with the message that Hollywood is sending sexual assault survivors — that the truth, and revelations that their stories, strength, and experiences shed light on aren’t good enough to be awarded.

I May Destroy You was a groundbreaking series that followed the aftermath and intricate effects and details of sexual assault. The show also showcased the forms and faces that assault takes — the way it can completely destroy someone from the inside out, shattering the fragile lining of normalcy. It is a show that feels beyond its time but also made far too late, a show that encapsulates the dark, messy murkiness of a survivor’s experience while somehow remaining all together inclusive, uplifting, hilarious, heartwarming, and beautiful.

I May Destroy You created a universe in which we follow the narrative of a woman of color without leaving out or disregarding white women and LGBTQ+ members. The lack of acknowledgment for this masterpiece for me, personally, lies within the boundaries that the show disregards, the way that it remains unapologetic in every form and forces viewers to be uncomfortable in the reality that is sexual assault.

From left to right: Paapa Essiedu as Kwame, Michaela Coel as Arabella Essiedu, and Weruche Opia as Terry

Of all the shows I personally watched in 2020, Emily in Paris included, I May Destroy You pushed the barriers of my understanding of sexual assault while inviting me to understand just a glimpse, a fraction of the effect it has on a person. This was the first time I was made aware of the way sexual assault manifests in the LGBTQ+ community — emphasizing how society reserves this type of assault to women, especially straight women. I witnessed the failure of law enforcement when it comes to supporting and helping sexual assault survivors. The show’s inclusivity wasn’t just in its diverse cast but in every aspect of each character’s story arc and their experiences with sex and relationships. It was, in fact, a show full of triggers but one that was needed in media — a piece of work that didn’t sugarcoat, brush over or romanticize the darkness of sexual assault and the spaces it takes in the aftermath. It was a story surrounding the narrative of a Black woman, her Black friends, and her experiences as a woman and a survivor.

This show was a beautifully crafted piece that pivoted on awareness. Awareness is oftentimes uncomfortable, which brings me to think that the awareness that I May Destroy You created was far too uncomfortable to be acknowledged. The lack of a nomination made me really sink my teeth in the fact that to this day, sexual assault remains a societal taboo that should be experienced and dealt with in private, that it is far too uncomfortable to be talked about within dialogue, to actually tackle the ways that survivors are left in the dust by family, friends, and law enforcement to fend for themselves.

I May Destroy You was about checking privilege, about the real meaning of being a survivor.

Michaela Coel as Arabella Essiedu in I May Destroy You

It shoved the reality of trauma into everyone’s faces and begged us to check ourselves and our perceived understanding of this experience. And the fact that it wasn’t nominated saddens me because it was the epitome of what media should be, a craft that is in the public interest and betters the scopes and paradigms of society — good media is I May Destroy You.

This article is less of an analysis of the dubbed nomination by the Golden Globes and more of an apology for survivors out there that felt like their story was shoved aside for “relatively good”, an apology that it took a Golden Globe nomination for me to understand how much sexual assault awareness actually means and the power it holds. But most importantly, my support and solidarity are with you because you are not alone. Your trauma and the story you hold in should be told and respected — it should be nominated for the strength that it is.

Amanda Smith

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