Get Out, released in late February, gained instant critical acclaim for its portrayal of black oppression in the face of white liberalism. Following Chris, a black male meeting his white girlfriend’s family for the first time, this film depicts a series of microaggressions, fetishizing of race and erasure of identity. Fast forward 10 months and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) is considering this same movie a comedy, but I’m not catching onto the joke.
I was just as confused and outraged as my fellow moviegoers when I heard about the decision. The film does have its comical moments, but to suggest that there is anything funny about the core of Get Out would be saying that the film’s message is not to be taken seriously. It may have its occasional laughs, but the oppression depicted in the film is anything but comedic.
According to Complex Magazine, Jordan Peele, the film’s director, has said himself that the film’s subject matter is not funny, with black people approaching him saying they can relate to what is depicted in the movie. Now, I’m not a member of the HFPA, but I think the opinions of the film’s creator should come before anyone else’s, especially above those who cannot relate to the message whatsoever (i.e. actual members of the HFPA).
This is not the first time that the HFPA has made questionable decisions when it comes to Golden Globes nominations. It was just two years ago that The Martian, a film categorized as a drama by the Internet Movie Database, won the award for Best Comedy. There were questions then about the film’s placement and the same concerns are now being raised about the serious, relevant plot of Get Out.
According to the HFPA Golden Globes Award Consideration rules, “Motion pictures shall be entered in the category that best matches the overall tone and content of the motion picture. Thus, for example, dramas with comedic overtones should be entered as dramas.” Unless you consider a few minutes of comic relief here and there to mean “comedy,” Get Out definitely should have been entered in the drama category by the Golden Globes’ own standards.
After speaking with Michael Phillips, a film critic for the Chicago Tribune, I realized that my and others outrage for the decision could be coming from the belief that comedy is inherently less important than drama. Comedy has the potential to send powerful messages, even if it is not always associated with social commentary.
Although it is wrong to discredit comedy as an influential film medium, I still believe that labeling the film as a comedy undermines the film’s significance by suggesting that there is something funny about the horrors of “living while black.”
Regardless of your race, it is important to recognize the truth in the film: the categorization of “comedy” doesn’t cut it.