Support the Girls is in no way a “Black" movie. Despite Regina Hall sitting front and center as main character Lisa, and fresh off the success of Girls Trip (which is definitely a Black movie), the new dramedy is being accurately marketed as a film for all kinds of women. Set in a Hooters-inspired restaurant called Double Whammies, Lisa’s role as general manager requires her to manage a staff of young waitresses who have to use their sex appeal for tips without crossing the family-friendly line.
As Refinery29's film critic Anne Cohen mentioned in her review, Support the Girls is perfectly timed to contemporary conversations in the midst of the #MeToo movement, namely workplace harassment and whose responsibility it is to protect women from it. Lisa could have easily been played by Reese Witherspoon or Amy Adams, and no one would have batted an eyelash. After all, women’s movies (and issues) are often led by white women. Support the Girls puts a Black woman at the forefront without completely flipping the script. In doing so, the film makes a subtle but strong case for onscreen diversity.
Film and television insiders say that producers and studios shy away from casting more than a few Black characters in a project for fear of it becoming a Black “thing.” This is problematic because films and shows focused on people of color are just as entertaining and sell just as well the ones drowning in white people. But perhaps more importantly, Black people are also part of the mainstream. Support the Girls proves it. The chick flick feels uniquely all-American. The characters’ accents seem slightly Southern — or perhaps deeply Midwestern. It is firmly rooted in working/middle class struggles that define the lives of so many Americans. And the hypocrisy of Double Whammies' use of female breasts and legs to lure customers while insisting that it’s a “family place” is a direct reflection of the American habit of obsessing over women’s sexuality while shaming them for it. Support The Girls sticks a firm landing of resonation.
Producer Sam Slater pulled this off with not one important Black character, but two. Lisa’s biggest form of support at Double Whammies is Danyelle (Shayna McHayle, also known musically as Junglepussy), one of the few Black waitresses. Their friendship helps keep both of the women motivated at a job that throws more than a few curveballs at both of them. Danyelle is trying to push back on the “rainbow” policy that stipulates only one waitress of color can be scheduled per shift — because that’s true diversity, according to owner Cubby (James Le Gros). As the manager, Lisa has to mediate between the two parties. This particular subplot gently acknowledges racism and the way it impacts our lives at work; the power of Black female friendships; and assumptions about Black women’s desirability. Danyelle’s predicament doesn’t overwhelm the storyline; instead it adds color to what could have easily been an oversimplification of women’s issues.
Black people are not separate entities that operate outside of existing codes that everyone else follows, and race is more relatable than Hollywood would like to admit. There is no longer any excuse not to cast people of color in roles that don’t explicitly call for white people. Support the Girls has made it clear that people of color have stakes in the broad conversations — like sexual harassment and women’s autonomy — that grip us as a nation. In fact, we make that dialogue more interesting and intersectional. Look no further than Support the Girls for proof that the only thing that is more widely understood in America than the differential treatments and perspectives depending on race is the reality that men will use just about any excuse to look at women’s bodies.