Golden Globes 2021: why that Michaela Coel and I May Destroy You snub is so shocking

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“Are we right now witnessing an absolutely criminal snub of Michaela Coel and I May Destroy You?” 

The 2021 Golden Globes nominations were always going to be interesting, particularly as the Covid-19 pandemic stopped so many great films and TV shows in their tracks last year.

When the list was made public today (heavily leaning, as predicted, on original content from streaming services like Netflix), though, many were shocked to learn that I May Destroy You had been snubbed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.  

Created, written, co-directed and executive produced by Michaela Coel, who also stars in the series, the comedy-drama tells the tale of social media star and author Arabella, who pulls an all-nighter with her friends when she finds herself struggling to meet a publishing deadline.

Thanks to a heady combination of drugs and booze, the evening quickly spirals out of control, leaving Arabella with the hangover from hell and very fuzzy memories of the night before. However, as the day progresses, she begins experiencing a smattering of intrusive, frightening flashbacks – flashbacks that indicate she’s been the victim of a sexual assault

I May Destroy You
Michaela Coel in I May Destroy You.

I May Destroy You, which aired on both sides of the Atlantic via BBC and HBO, was praised for its interrogation of consent. For making viewers laugh out loud and snapping their hearts in two. For sensitively exploring the complexities around race, gender and sexuality. For being utterly, utterly addictive (this writer streamed the whole thing in one big greedy gulp).

As such, it has been frequently described as “one of the best TV shows of 2020” – and not just by yours truly.

So why on earth wasn’t it included in the Best Limited Series category alongside the likes of Unorthodox, The Queen’s Gambit, and The Undoing? Particularly as two other BBC shows – Small Axe and Normal People – made the cut.

Why, too, wasn’t Coel considered for Best Actress alongside the likes of Cate Blanchett (Mrs. America), Daisy Edgar-Jones (Normal People), Shira Haas (Unorthodox), Nicole Kidman (The Undoing) and Anya Taylor-Joy (The Queen’s Gambit)?

And what about Coel’s co-stars Weruche Opia and Paapa Essiedu (aka Arabella’s best friends Terry and Kwame)? Why were they overlooked in all the Best Supporting categories, too?

“Are we right now witnessing an absolutely criminal snub of I May Destroy You?” tweeted one fan in frustration.

Many others have been quick to call out the “erasure of Michaela Coel”, insisting that the talented writer and actor had been “robbed.”

“How is this even possible?” one person wondered aloud. 

And @Oloni tweeted: “I May Destroy You was definitely snubbed. There is absolutely nothing like it to ever exist and I know many other productions will draw inspiration from Michaela Coel. 

“She deserves her flowers.”

The glaring omission is perhaps even more bewildering because Emily In Paris was named among the best comedy shows and James Corden received a best actor nomination for his extremely controversial performance in The Prom.

“I am, to use a word I don’t think I’ve ever used before, gobsmacked that I May Destroy You was left out the Golden Globe nominations,” says Stylist entertainment director Helen Bownass.

“It was, unquestionably, the best thing I watched in 2020: generation defining, subversive, funny and totally unforgettable TV. And it’s not just me who thinks so; every single actor and director I’ve interviewed, since it came out in June, has talked about its power and brilliance.” 

I May Destroy You on BBC One
A scene from the I May Destroy You finale on BBC One.

Of course, there are some positives to take away from this year’s Golden Globes nominations. It’s great to see the talented Shira Haas recognised for her outstanding work in Unorthodox, Viola Davis showered with love for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Andra Day given the nod for her performance in The United States vs. Billie Holiday.

And then there’s the fact that 2021 marks the first time more than one woman has been nominated for best director in one year: Chloe Zhao, Emerald Fennell and Regina King.

“Three women on the best directors list is something to shout about,” agrees Helen. “But I’m gutted that Michaela Coel has been shut out for creating one of the most vital and smart dramas I’ve ever watched. 

“What were they thinking?”

While it remains uncertain as to why I May Destroy You wasn’t included among this year’s Golden Globes nominations, many have already begun to draw their own conclusions.

“Genuinely think the only reason I May Destroy You was completely shut out of the Golden Globes nominations was racism,” tweeted one fan of the show. 

“Like, there is no other reason.”

Taking to her own Twitter, critic Hanna Ines Flint echoed this sentiment, noting: “I’m so happy for Promising Young Woman but it says a lot that this white rape story gets recognised by the #GoldenGlobes but I May Destroy You’s Black rape story gets snubbed.

“No better example of the pecking order of #MeToo experiences which puts white women on a pedestal compared to Black women and women of colour.”

It’s a very understandable reaction, especially as last year’s Golden Globes nominations sparked their own #GlobesSoWhite backlash following the HFPA’s snubbing of When They See Us and Watchmen. 

And even more so as, this year, the actors from Lovecraft Country were – much like Coel – utterly ignored (despite the series getting the nod for Best Drama).

Sadly, it seems we still have a very long way to go before we are met with an awards season that feels well and truly inclusive. Until then, all we can do is call out these injustices as and when we see them.

Because only by doing so, and by holding the HFPA accountable for their decisions, will we truly see progress.

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Images: BBC

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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