It’s Time to Take Tiffany Haddish Seriously as an Oscar Contender

The ‘Girls Trip’ breakout just won her first critics’ award for her dazzling turn. In a year with precious few ‘contenders’ of color, the South Central native may be our only hope.

Universal Pictures

The Tiffany Haddish moment is real.

After the success of Girls Trip this summer, online fans (and some critics) began to push Haddish for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination—a Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny moment, if you will. It’d be an anomaly because the Oscars rarely respect comedic performances, but Haddish is so great in Girls Trip that it seemed like it could be a thing. Now, it actually is a thing thanks to her win at the the New York Film Critics Circle Awards for Best Supporting Actress.

Yes, Haddish is officially in the awards season game and we’re all the better for it.

Haddish’s competition was steep—the current Oscar frontrunners are most certainly Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird and Allison Janney in I, Tonya, with a few dark horses like Holly Hunter in The Big Sick. While there’s been some discussion of Mary J. Blige garnering a nomination for Mudbound, Octavia Spencer for The Shape of Water, or Hong Chau for Downsizing, there’s no denying that most of the categories this season are completely devoid of non-white competitors. Unless Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.) or Idris Elba (Molly’s Game) pull in surprise nominations in the acting categories, you can probably expect that the sole person of color leading the conversation this year will be Haddish.

Once again, we seem to be heading toward an #OscarsSoWhite situation, where Haddish’s chances are increased by the blinding whiteness of her competitors—which isn’t to say she’s not worthy of a win. Everyone pulling for her since seeing Girls Trip, a film she absolutely dominates, is not wrong to want a win for her. But now she’s the Obi-Wan Kenobi of non-white nominees: she may be our only hope.

Jordan Peele’s Get Out won Best First Film at the NYFCC Awards, but its chances for breaking into the actual Oscars are still up in the air. It will certainly get a nomination at the Golden Globes, thanks to its entry in Best Comedy/Musical (which I’m fine with because it’s a satire, but that’s an exhausting discussion for another time), so hopefully that bolsters its Oscars chances. Then there’s Mudbound, which took home Best Cinematography at the NYFCC Awards—and no no other wins for Dee Rees’ arresting, extremely important film.

It’s a year where being outside the parameters of Oscar bait might prove an awards burden for non-white artists this year. Rees made a film that deals heavily with America’s racial sins, but it’s not a slavery movie and it’s also being distributed by Netflix. If it weren’t a Netflix film—that is, streaming online—it might be in higher contention for many of the awards it no doubt deserves, but as of now, the film is operating on the fringes. The same can be said for Get Out, which is garnering some attention but is also a satire and a horror film. Very few horror films gain awards recognition, unless they’re prestige offerings like Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs.

Which is why Haddish is the safer bet this awards season. Yes, comedic performances are typically under-recognized, but they can on occasion break through (see: Melissa McCarthy for Bridesmaids), and Haddish deserves every bit of the attention she’s garnering for this performance. It’s also a reminder that non-traditional performances like this can be championed by critics in order to push awards voters who might otherwise ignore something because it doesn’t seem like their type of film. Haddish’s profile has been raised by appearances on Saturday Night Live, but has she actually been invited into the “inner circle?”

Once again, it’s noteworthy that the awards roundtable of actresses featured in a recent issue of The Hollywood Reporter were all white—save for Mary J. Blige. Because how do you not include Queen Mary on a cover when she turns it out for Oscar season? Her inclusion, however, seems like it was done for the novelty of it, rather than an actual desire to push non-white actresses to the forefront. Haddish should’ve earned a place on the cover alongside Mary, but instead the R&B diva was featured with Janney, Saoirse Ronan, Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain, and Emma Stone. Ronan is getting plenty of awards attention for Lady Bird, but let’s be honest: Lawrence in Mother!, Chastain in Molly’s Game, and Stone in Battle of the Sexes haven’t really been part of the conversation (until that THR cover, that is.)

At a certain point, we need to look at how the media drives awards consideration and the kind of actresses we laud as important. Much like how political coverage can drive a non-candidate into becoming President of the United States, entertainment media has much more power than it acknowledges when it comes to who gets attention in Hollywood, from roles to awards. Haddish already has two studio films lined up and a NYFCC win as Best Supporting Actress. Can we take her seriously now, please?