For black women, everywhere. I love you desperately.
Black women have long deserved a celebration as bold, colourful and debauched as Girls Trip since John was a boy. Girls Trip, written by Tracy Oliver and Malcolm D Lee, serves to upend the cinematic status quo that sees black women ignored, abused and/or absorbing the ills of society by ensuring friendship, love, joy and sexual desire are our focus in the comedy hit of the summer. Hollywood royalty Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Regina Hall and silver screen newcomer (my new personal obsession) Tiffany Haddish take us on the craziest journey as their friendships are tested and romances blossom. It’s well measured medicine for the battered psyche, taught for decades black women are beasts of burden, gifted at shouldering the pain inflicted upon us.
This last year, black representation in cinema has taken us literally to the moon and back; Hidden Figures, Moonlight and Fences all delivered on their promises to entertain us and deliver us from the shadows, propelling us forcefully and masterfully into the forefront of Hollywood; winning BAFTAs, Golden Globes and Academy Awards along the way, but it is in Girls Trip where black women are truly unfettered from racism, misogyny and, their omnipresent mother, misogynoir. Sasha, Dina, Ryan and Lisa aren’t fighting against institutional injustice or swimming against the tide of socio-political inequality, in Girls Trip they just exist in a space where their race has no negative consequences. They are free to be as beautiful and problematic as other women have been for a while now.
Next year will mark twenty years since Sex & The City the series debuted on HBO and ten years since the first Sex & The City film graced the silver screen; white women have had access to images of themselves that reflect their multiplicity and sexuality for decades now. Girls Trip is not, as this piss poor review suggests, “the Sex & The City film fans deserved”, it magically centres four different black women without completely denigrating black men or ignoring white women, a feat rarely achieved when the tables are turned. Think Like A Man told black women to change ourselves and the way we behave in order to be worthy of receiving love and respect, Girls Trip unshackles black women from societal pressures to behave respectably, prophesying a safe place where our glory is celebrated every year in New Orleans; The Essence Festival.
!!!MILD SPOILER ALERT!!!
Don’t get it twisted, Girls Trip is not perfect. As a big, black woman, I was a touch sad the woman who most physically represented me; Queen Latifah, didn’t find love (big girls deserve love too) and the most visibly dark skinned black woman played by the stunning Deborah Ayorinde, was relegated to the role of the conniving mistress. Alas, you cannae have it all and my babes Michaela assures me there is value in the narrative of a black man cheating on a black woman with a darker skinned black woman when we are bombarded with images of black men leaving black women for women more societally palatable all the time. *sigh* I cannot demand this comedy fulfil every one of my dreams for a black women led film. We must follow their lead and continue creating the stories we want told. Black women are not a monolith, we will not all fit neatly into the roles presented to us here, but it is a glorious start to a genre of black women led comedies, proving once again we are box office gold (seriously here is a list of black comedy films; Girls Trip is the first time an ensemble of black women have been the leads in a comedy). When you target us with a product that is well developed, shiny and appealing, we will turn up and reward you by taking you to the top of the box office. A group with the spending power black women have shouldn't be as ignored as we are but misogynoir allows Hollywood and other major industries to ignore us when they should be bowing at our feet.
Of the twelve negative reviews Girls Trip received on RottenTomatoes.com, compared to the 85 fresh reviews, it’s no surprise the first five of the negative responses were from white men. “Never feels right”, “the longer it goes on, the louder and shriller Girls Trip becomes”, and “the actors are wasted in a huge bloated mess” claim these critics but these same men Josh Lasser, Paul Whitington and Donald Clarke all gave glowing reviews to Birth of a Nation or Twelve Years A Slave proving many are comfortable and when black women are brutally, violently physically and sexually abused on the periphery of black men’s narratives but not when we have agency and autonomy over our bodies and sexualities and are slap bang in the middle of our stories. Suck a big dick.
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day and while I’ve made a name for myself decrying the cultural crimes levied against black women, I’m feeling good the day is upon us where the image of four black women having fun is inescapable as the marketing campaign for Girls Trip makes it impossible for you not to see their faces. Black women are more than slaves, maids and receptacles of pain. Black women are beautiful, successful, sisters, mothers and friends and it’s time more of these stories are told on this scale. I highly recommend you take your girls and a bottle of wine each to see this film. You deserve the glow of joy I had when I left the screening that night confident this is only the beginning of more displays of black women friendship on the silver screen.
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