This past February, comedian/actor Jordan Peele made his directorial debut with Get Out. The social thriller was met with mountains of praise from critics and a $253 million worldwide box office total against its $4.5 million budget. A success such as this is an excellent thing for a variety of reasons and as awards season revs up, Get Out is now in a position to garner even further acclaim by way of various nominations and possibly some fancy statues.
Whether or not Get Out receives any other notable Oscar consideration beyond its almost surefire lock for a Best Original Screenplay nom, another development has arrived and seemingly shocked many. Universal Studios has officially submitted Get Out to the Golden Globes under the Comedy/Musical category. With word having spread, many are calling this placement into question; with comparisons being made to The Martian, 2015’s Golden Globe winner for Best Picture – Comedy/Musical. The thing is, though, this decision is precisely the right one.
It’s not just a matter of Universal feeling more confident in a possible Golden Globe win by heading this direction (although it will face tough competition from Three Billboards and Lady Bird). The fact is, Get Out is a comedy. The film is a sharp-edged satire with some clear and relevant implications that some audience members may be uncomfortable having to deal with, but that doesn’t make it any less of a comedic feature. Get Out bends the realm of genres by crossing its humor with satire and a horror concept, but unless you see the Golden Globes adding “Best Horror Movie” to its trivial ceremony, Best Comedy/Musical is where the film belongs.
No doubt there are intense moments to be found in the film. As you may recall, Get Out follows a young black man (Daniel Kaluuya) and his white girlfriend (Allison Williams) heading to the New York countryside for a weekend with her parents, only to uncover a conspiracy involving the kidnapping and…er transformation of black people. All of that in mind, Peele’s efforts to make the film at its most effective revolve around the awkwardness of social interaction between different races. Lil Rel Howery may have a wonderfully hilarious turn as Kaluuya’s best friend Rod, but there is plenty of humor stemming from Peele’s choice to make a film about white liberals who claim to be allies in the movement against racism, only to be awful in their own way and bring new meaning to the term “appropriation.”
The Daily Beast’s Ira Madison brings up a point via Twitter that shows further concern:
White people are REALLY insistent today that calling GET OUT a comedy somehow trivializes it. It makes me realizes they didn’t understand it and they also look down on comedy as a genre.
— Ira Madison III (@ira) November 15, 2017
He’s making it specific by pointing the finger at “white people,” which speaks to a different topic about which writers seemingly have the most say in what film belongs where, but let’s keep something else in mind – the comedy genre includes all sorts of films. Get Out is as much as a comedy as The LEGO Batman Movie and The Big Sick from this year alone. If we look to some classics, Some Like It Hot and Dr. Strangelove are most certainly in the same genre, with the latter being a very dark look at how close the world was to destroying itself (times haven’t really changed either). Those films are respectable classics, and yet we are still looking at the term “comedy” as some frivolous label. Why?
Not that there is a problem with comedy that merely seeks to make the audience laugh, but this is an area that flourishes because of how many ways something can be comedic. Pairing down the word “comedy” to only fit a specific type of film is nonsense and unhelpful to both the films that aspire to have a joke-a-minute and others relying on subtlety or other qualities.
Genre films, in general, are primarily given a mere pat on the back when it comes time for awards season. Sure, there are the critic lists that provide a high placement for The Witch or The LEGO Movie, but the all-too-important awards guilds only have so much to offer these sorts of features. Never mind how subversive different genres are when it comes to delivering a sobering critique on the politics of the day or some ingenious handle on societal commentary, these sorts of films don’t seem to match up to the regular crop of dramas dealing with some historical person overcoming adversity.
It’s also not about taking away from what the default prestige films have to offer but embracing a larger spectrum. The great news is that Get Out is still being remembered nine months after its release. All movie fans could benefit from seeing great films at all times of the year And having them be remembered when it comes to the year’s end round of picking the best stuff for awards (let alone making these films easily available). As it so happens, one of the year’s most acclaimed films is a comedic thriller. It has a lot going on, but calling it a “comedy” should hardly be something to take issue with.
(Note: For more personal thoughts on the film itself, I was happy to speak about it on the podcast I co-host, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, with Abraham Moua and guest Terence Johnson. There was also a bonus conversation I had about the film with my mother. You can find those episodes HERE and HERE.)
And in case you wanted to read Peele’s thoughts on this news:
‘Get Out’ is a documentary.
— Jordan Peele (@JordanPeele) November 15, 2017