After viewing the motion picture Girl Trip written by Kenya Barris and Karen McCullah, I was left feeling utterly violated. I simply can’t come up with another word to describe it. After seeing advertisements for the movie, I figured that there would be some depiction of black women as unwarranted traditional stereotypes, but I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of some of the worse stereotypes of black women that have unfairly been attached to us for possibly hundreds of years. This searing degradation of black women seemed so intense, that I found myself discussing my disgust for it with my husband 24 hours later.
The movie begins innocently with four black women who are friends graduating from college together. It’s a fitting image since according to the data, black women are the most educated people in this country. Unsurprisingly, shortly after those statistics were published, the internet was flooded with articles by people attempting to explain away the numbers that were right before our eyes. I stand on the side of believing the data I can see rather than someone’s pseudo interpretation of it.
The movie goes downhill immediately with one of the friends having an extremely loud psychotic episode at work I guess to perpetuate the stereotype that black women tend to be crazy. It continues with the friends calling each other “bitches,” a mother of one of the friends shown watching a “reality” TV show where black women seem to be encouraged to depict stereotypes along with the mother agreeing that her divorced daughter should have casual sex in order to reduce her grouchiness.
From the airplane trip, to the five-star hotel, to the club, to the streets of New Orleans, the women, at any given moment, are loud, belligerent and obscene. They are so obscene that not only do they talk about intimate sex acts, one of the women is shown simulating one with a grapefruit and a banana as casually as one would discuss the weather over avocado toast. Speaking of obscene, two of the women not only urinate in public but also urinate ON the public in the French Quarter. None of the black women I know would urinate in public let alone on the public. NONE.
In keeping with the onslaught of what I’m deeming to be a big screen intentional effort to demean black women, we get the frontal view of a visibly dirty elderly drunk man, whose genitals one of the characters seems to be quite impressed with, a naked and screaming black male, the friends using illegal substances, the friends drunk, the friends physically fighting another group of women and the friends finally verbally assaulting each other in what appears to be an effort to perpetuate the stereotype that black women can’t get along with anyone – not even each other.
I don’t personally know any black women who behave as these characters did. I’m sure there are black women who have some of these characteristics, because these characteristics exist among ALL racial groups. The difference is, we’ll most likely NEVER see a movie with Caucasian, Asian, Latino or any women from any other group depicting their women in such a degrading manner – nor should we, but we shouldn’t be bombarded with black women being depicted in such a negative light on a daily basis, either. Black women are depicted as over-sexed, rude, loud, uneducated and inconsiderate to name a few virtually across all forms of media. And for those who argue that it’s ok – that movies like Girl Trip is are just comedies, my response is this, “If it were ok, then why is this type of depiction across all forms of media uncommon among other racial groups?”
We went from seeing the genius of real-life black women reenacted in the movie Hidden Figures to the utter debauchery of the fictitious characters in Girl Trip. Go figure. These types of depictions of black women are dangerous, because not only do they encourage black girls who will soon become black women that behaving in such a manner is perfectly acceptable, it sends a message to others that black women are good for nothing more than easy sex and to be troddened upon – to be the donkeys of society.
Incidentally, there is NO shortage of black women who are defying the odds and contributing to their communities, to their countries and to the world on a daily basis. And I’m not just talking about the Mary McLeod Bethunes, the Madame CJ Walkers and the Mae Jemmisons. I’m talking about black women who are living and accomplishing today like Darlene Lewis who has helped thousand of excons find gainful employment, Dr. Foyekemi Ikyaator who opened a free-standing emergency room with her husband and Mary Parker, the president and CEO of the largest security firm owned by any women in this country. There are scores more like these black women, but it’s highly doubtful that we’ll see movies depicting black women in such a positive, truthful light.
For now, here’s my solution: Before viewing any movie where black women are the main characters, including those written or produced by black people, I will wait and check how others feel about it. I don’t generally base my decisions on the opinion of others, but if doing so can spare me from a two-hour long attack on my sense of what it really means to be a black woman, I’ll take it. And I’ll keep my money in my pockets.