The Golden Globes made a serious mistake not nominating Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You

The brave British series was the critical darling of 2020

Michaela Coel in HBO series I May Destroy You
(Image credit: HBO)

When the Golden Globes 2021 nominations were announced a few weeks ago, there were plenty of happy surprises, such as the inclusion of Emily in Paris in the Comedy Series category and female directors making history in the Best Director film category. But one shocking bit of nom news didn't go down quite so easily: the Hollywood Foreign Press Association flat-out failed to nominate Michaela Coel and her searing series I May Destroy You.

The BBC and HBO coproduction—which the multihyphenate Coel created, directed, coproduced, starred in and wrote based off experiences in her own life—was widely considered to be a frontrunner across TV categories going into the award shows 2021 season. The 12-episode limited series topped countless best-of lists as one of the highest-reviewed shows of the past year and already secured nominations this month from other high-profile awards bodies likes the Critics Choice Association, GLAAD and the folks behind the Independent Spirit Awards, who praised Coel's acting as well as the show itself.

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I May Destroy You follows a year in the life of Arabella (Coel), a twentysomething East London writer who comes to after being sexually assaulted in a nightclub, and all of the ripples and ramifications that that sexual violence inflicts on her world. It's an astonishing watch—at once harrowing and often hilarious—gamely deep-diving into the modern-day messiness of consent, queer identity, female ambition, white fragility, and how sexual trauma metastasizes across genders. Frankly, it's one of the best damn TV shows we've ever seen. 

So it was baffling to hear the Golden Globes nominations and find that Coel's genius was entirely shut out of the TV categories. What many called "the new Fleabag" was not showered in Globes gold the way that Phoebe Waller-Bridge series was, winning for both Comedy Series and Best Actress - Comedy at last year's ceremony. (For the record, Coel's I May Destroy You precursor, the outlandishly funny Chewing Gum, actually preceded PWB's Fleabag by a year.)

Both Coel's and Waller-Bridge's series are darkly comic millennial looks into female sexuality and the after-effects of trauma—topics and themes that the Globes pointedly did not shy away from this year, nominating Promising Young Woman and its director Emerald Fennell in several categories. 

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But what Coel throws into the mix is the intersectionality between race, womanhood and class. Like Coel herself, Arabella is a proud Ghanaian-British woman, and Black Britishness infuses every episode of the series, from the stories told onscreen—those of immigrants, young Black women and queer people of color—to the songs those stories are soundtracked to. (Janelle Monáe's Dance or Die, Arlo Parks' Cola and It's Gonna Rain by Reverend Milton Brunson & The Thompson Community Singers are just a few.)

In a year when many of her white British contemporaries have been lauded by the Golden Globes—the BBC drama Normal People and Netflix's The Crown litter the TV nominations—and when discussions of race relations and Black oppression are at an all-time high, the exclusion of Coel and I May Destroy You is yet another reminder of who is allowed to tell certain stories; who, in this post-Brexit world, is allowed to be loudly, proudly British. 

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter last summer about the comparisons to PWB, Coel responded: “It definitely doesn’t feel like a surprising thing. If you look, you know, over the years, I think it’s, it’s not surprising, is it?” No, unfortunately, it's not surprising at all.