A few years ago, the hashtag #CarefreeBlackGirl started trending on social media. #CarefreeBlackGirl is a celebration of the fact that Black women deserve to experience light-heartedness, unfiltered joy, and the relief of not having to carry everyone else’s burdens. Like most things which celebrate the agency of Black women, which remove us from the roles of playing mammy to Black men, White people, and nonBlack people of colour, #CarefreeBlackGirl was met with dismissal at best and hostility at worst by all those who’ve never had to exist in the world as the most disrespected group of people on Earth. The idea that Black women would want to bask in the pursuit of our own happiness rather than help others chase theirs helped revealed all of the people who felt that we were unworthy of such bliss. Girls Trip, an encapsulation of #CarefreeBlackGirls, was no exception to this.
Upon initial release of its trailer, this remarkable, uplifting comedy was criticized for being too raunchy, absent morals, and promoting “hoe culture” (read: the sexual agency of Black women, absent respectability politics). Thankfully, nothing gives me such life as seeing happy Black women, so I went to see the film, and Girls Trip is, without a doubt, one of the best films I’ve ever seen. Though comedies are often (unfairly) treated as inferior to more “serious” dramas, Girls Trip was anything but mindless entertainment.
Girls Trip is centered around four Black women who met at college and became best friends, experiencing graduation, marriages, divorce, and life-changing opportunities, always being there for one another along the way. Ryan (Regina Hall), Sasha (Queen Latifah), Lisa (Jada Pinkett-Smith), and Dina (Tiffany Haddish) haven’t seen one another in several years and decide to come together to attend the Essence Festival in New Orleans to reconnect, put their responsibilities on hold, and let their hair down. The laughs start within seconds of the films opening and almost never let up, but in between the comedy is a very real story of how, very often, life gets in the way of staying close to those we love, and how any friendship worth having must be prioritized.
Though many recent, very popular portrayals of Black women’s friendships are catty, petty, and jealous, Girls Trip serves as a much-needed reminder that for a Black woman, other Black women are your strongest (and usually only) allies. As with any group of friends, every person has an unofficial designated role. Ryan is the golden girl who has it all together, Sasha is the straight-shooting big sister, Lisa is the mom of the group, and Dina is the comedian. The friends take turns protecting, defending, standing in solidarity with, consoling, and cheering for one another.
Girls Trip was so many things to me. It was a modern, cinematic version of Living Single. It was an all-Black, grown-up, Facts of Life. It was every YouTube tutorial of the Black hair and makeup deities. Most of all, it was validation. Constant, positive validation of a Black woman’s feelings. So often, Black women are dismissed as angry, bitter, or emotional (whether we are or not), simply because we are unhappy and unwilling to put up with any more of anyone else’s bullshit. These buzzwords are silencing techniques which have been quiet effective in gaslighting us into silence even as we are suffering. But in Girls Trip, each person’s feelings of anger, humiliation, inadequacy, and hurt are treated as valid portions of their humanity that needed to be met with compassion, and not just temporary nuisances to be ignored or belittled.
Hall, Queen Latifah, and Pinkett-Smith are seasoned actresses who more than carried their weight in Girls Trip, but it would be criminal to overlook the contributions of relative newcomer Haddish, who infused the film with such delightful whimsy and realness. Just as much as we needed Hall’s sincerity and remarkable does eyes, Queen Latifah’s tough love, and Pinkett-Smith’s mamma bear nurturing, this film absolutely would have been lacking without Haddish’s impeccable comedic timing. No person (and thus, no friendship) is perfect, but Ryan, Sasha, Lisa, and Dina remind us that your real friends accept you with your imperfections, don’t judge or dismiss you when you fall short, and call you out when necessary. Those who love you won’t allow you to lie to yourself, or allow others to take advantage of you. As we explore Ryan’s complicated marriage, Sasha’s complicated career, and Lisa’s self-imposed seclusion, Dina’s unabashed, unapologetic authenticity and unwillingness to live on anyone’s terms but her own remind us that being happy will always matter more than keeping up appearances.
Girls Trip had hilarity, high fashion, and beautiful, intelligent, assertive, and kind Black women. The film seamlessly transitioned from funny to poignant as needed and remained thoroughly entertaining all the while. Brimming with appearances from celebrities such as P. Diddy, Eric Benet, and Iyanla Vanzant, the film wasn’t just here to drop names and faces. Girls Trip made it clear that no one is ever truly “carefree”, least of all a Black woman, but that we deserve to be. It was a reminder that Black women don’t have to be strong all the time, that we need a support system just like everyone else. Sometimes you will fall, and good friends will always be there to pick you up. This film was truly #BlackGirlMagic.
I give this one 5 stars.