The recent controversy surrounding Jordan Peele’s Get Out, which will be competing as a comedy in the upcoming 2018 Golden Globe Awards, has made a lot of people understandably upset. In the context of black cinema, Get Out is a landmark. It’s a mainstream horror film that received overwhelmingly positive reviews and grossed upwards of $175 million dollars in the US alone. Jordan Peele has singlehandedly inspired hordes of young filmmakers of color to come forward with their ideas and pursue a directing career in an industry that, up until very recently, has been dominated by the white and the male.
This isn’t about pointing the finger or assigning blame. This is just an undeniable truth, one that seems to make a lot of people very uncomfortable. And while international cinema is often the place to go for more diverse, original stories, domestic studios and producers need to keep up if they have any chance of staying relevant in the next decade. While we’ve seen major studios like Marvel lead the way in terms of hiring a group of lesser-known, diverse directors who deserve to helm mainstream movies (this month’s Thor: Ragnarok is concrete proof), the reason a lot of Hollywood stories feel stale is because we’re constantly getting the same perspective.
The fact that we can list our most significant contemporary black directors on two hands is the problem. The fact that we can list our most significant contemporary female directors on two hands is the problem. The same goes for Latinx directors, directors in the LGBTQ community, and essentially every minority/marginalized group you can think of. And, in the eyes of those who were inspired by Get Out and felt validated in their experiences, seeing it compete in the comedy section of the Golden Globes seems like a slap in the face. How far have we really come when we see a film like this become such a massive hit, only for one of the more significant industry organizations – the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, who founded and votes on the Golden Globes every year – to then reclassify the film as a comedy, which it most certainly is not.
Get Out is a movie about simultaneously fetishizing black bodies while trying to actively eradicate black culture. It’s a horrifying (and horrifyingly real) film that, despite having a comedian at the helm, is not a comedy. There are some hilarious moments, to be sure. Lil Rel Howery steals every single scene he’s in with a quick wit and some gut-busting one-liners. The movie’s director is Jordan Peele, of Comedy Central’s Key & Peele, and he’s one of the funniest people alive today. But, and I feel like this should go without saying, that doesn’t inherently make the movie a comedy. If that were the case, any film with a throwaway gag can suddenly be classified as such since, in a handful of lighter moments, it tries to make you laugh. With that in mind, the controversy is completely justified. This is a significant film for a lot of people, and not because it’s funny. But here’s the thing: the Golden Globes are a joke and everybody knows it.
Have you watched the Golden Globes recently? It has devolved significantly in recent years, with a majority of time spent on drunken acceptance speeches, hoping something exciting and unplanned happens, and waiting for someone to fall while they walk up the stairs. That’s it. The Golden Globes are what you watch when you need an excuse to invite friends over and polish off a few bottles of wine. They’re what you put on when you want to watch Johnny Depp hopefully say something stupid enough to get him forcibly removed from every costume shop and Tim Burton production in Hollywood. The Golden Globes, simply put, is where art goes to die, and Hollywood indulges its worst tendencies: extravagance, vanity, and corruption.
It’s been well-documented that the HFPA can be (and has been) bought, as was the case when The Tourist – a truly dreadful spy thriller starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie – was nominated for Best Comedy after the film’s producers razzled and dazzled the HFPA with an all-expenses-paid trip to Las Vegas. To put it lightly, we’re not exactly dealing with people of integrity here. This is the same organization that – in recent years – nominated Spike Jonze’s Her and Ridley Scott’s The Martian as comedies. Now, they’ve trivialized Get Out by classifying it in that same category, and have made a stronger case for their own obsolescence than anybody could.
And you know what? On some level, I get it. Get Out is completely unclassifiable. There’s no Best Horror category. It’s too genre-y to work as a straightforward drama, and it’s definitely not funny enough to be a comedy. It’s also unapologetically black, which has historically made voters uncomfortable unless the film is a period piece about slavery or the story of a white savior with supporting characters of color. Moonlight winning Best Picture at the Oscars last year was totally unprecedented, so why did anyone at the HFPA think this would go unnoticed? Furthermore, why not throw another quasi-drama like Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri under the comedy bus? There are a hell of a lot more laughs in that movie than in Get Out.
To quote Peele himself, “what are you laughing at?”
Images: Blumhouse, Universal