“Girls Trip puts their money where their mouth is, providing work opportunities for actors of color. Of the top-billed 15 characters, 12 go to black actors."
Title: Girls Trip (2017)
Director: Malcolm D. Lee 👨🏾🇺🇸
Writers: Erica Rivinoja 👩🏼🇺🇸, Kenya Barris 👨🏾🇺🇸, and Tracy Oliver 👩🏾🇺🇸
Reviewed by Li 👩🏻🇺🇸
Earlier this year, Girls Trip stormed its way into the summer box office and easily crossed the $100 million mark to make history. And for good reason—this is a fantastic film. While I missed its theatrical release, the iTunes rental more than sufficed as I enjoyed a delightful evening at home, cracking up at Tiffany Haddish in her defining role as Dina and shedding tears at the heartfelt scenes between Sasha and Ryan (Queen Latifah and Regina Hall).
The only knocks on Girls Trip are its slight inconsistency (the sausage chopping scene falls a bit flat, as does the writing for the skanky Simone played by Deborah Ayorinde) and its predictability. The plot is familiar, found in predecessors Bridesmaids or The Hangover.
Still, it’s important to note that audiences have never seen a version headlined by black women and backed by a major studio to boot. In this sense, Girls Trip is truly groundbreaking and will be iconic for years to come.
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? YES
This film is a love story between women. It resonates deeply with anyone who has felt the complexities, soul bonds, and heartbreak found in female friendships, but it goes one step further to shed light on a unique perspective that is seldom portrayed in a big, international way: black sisterhood.
Charli Penn describes this singular relationship for Essence:
“‘You have to work twice as hard to get half as far.’ It’s a saying Black people know and understand all too well...and Black women have to love each other twice as hard to help each other go even further. It’s our truth, and it’s exactly what makes our vast sister circles and lifelong friendships and bonds all the more meaningful and magical.”
Even better, Girls Trip deconstructs the idea that all black women are alike. Valerie Complex writes:
“What’s most cool is seeing the different sides of each character, demonstrating that black women aren't a monolith. We can be conservative, ratchet, respectable, assertive, exciting and everything in between.”
Meanwhile, it must be noted that while female characters enjoy fleshed-out lives, men are relegated to support roles. Stewart, Malik, and Julian, the primary love interests played by Mike Colter, Kofi Siriboe, and Larenz Tate, are flat characters who are overtly sexualized for appreciators of the male form. But until something fundamentally shifts in our patriarchy, I’ll argue that this use of the “female gaze” remains largely benign. Unlike men, women do not experience the kind of power, both physical and systemic, that can infuse a gendered camera lens with a sickening sense of real life ramifications.
In a triumphant show of intersectionality, the black perspective of Girls Trip is nearly indistinguishable from its female voice. This film lives and breathes the understanding that multiple identities weave together into one brilliant human experience.
But if we’re breaking this film down by categories, we can see just how well Girls Trip portrays the black experience, as told through multiple characters who come from an array of backgrounds. To borrow from Complex’s quote once more, “[black characters] can be conservative, ratchet, respectable, assertive, exciting and everything in between.”
She does, however, bring up a great point on the colorism of the film:
“The issue I have with Girls Trip...is that once again, darker skinned black people are seen as evil (Ryan’s husband and his mistress) or used to satisfy a sexual need (Kofi Siriboe’s Malik, who plays Lisa’s love interest). There has been a long history of colorism in film. It's perpetuated by the central black stars being lighter than a paper bag, and those who are darker are antagonistic in some way. Movies are getting better about it, but there is still a long way to go in this arena.”
Still, for a film that sees 12 black actors out of the top-billed 15 listed on IMDB, Girls Trip puts their money where their mouth is by providing work opportunities for actors of color.
And for those detractors who might be itching to remind us that having a nearly all-black cast does not “diversity” make, then let me stop you there. Mediaversity is more concerned with the broader landscape of TV and film. We shine a micro lens on individual titles in order to examine parts of a whole. Through that angle, when Girls Trip is but one among hundreds of thousands of films...how many of those movies do you think feature multilayered, black American stars? Not many. But Girls Trip is one of them, and I’m excited as hell to see more from the amazing talents who have buffed their resumes with this gold-plated hit.
No LGBTQ characters or perspectives beyond a few, stray jokes that are ultra-heterosexual: casual asides to strapping straight men about having a girlfriend—”or boyfriend?” and the like. I kept an ear out for anything that felt problematic, but nothing pinged my radar. That being said, I’m a cisgender straight woman watching a film made for cisgender straight women, so feel free to call me out on this if you felt differently for this category.
Mediaversity Grade: A 4.83/5
Girls Trip walks the walk. It stars black women and delivers their unique perspectives while managing to appeal to all viewers. After all, who doesn’t love weekend benders, the friendships they can solidify, and a plethora of dick jokes?
Watch this movie if you haven’t. It’s a goddamned national treasure.