Get Out Comedy nomination sparks controversy

Credit: Art Editor Credit: Art Editor

“It’s not a movie that can really be put into a genre box,” said Jordan Peele about his debut feature film, Get Out, released earlier this year. Though it can be argued, as Peele mentions, that no clear genre perfectly encapsulates Get Out, it seemed clear to most people that a movie about a rich white community’s systematic acquisition of mind control and dominance over the black population was certainly nothing to be laughed at or joked about. The movie is all-together unsettling, and purposefully so.

But what about Get Out is so funny? It certainly isn’t the rich white family’s business in baiting and kidnapping black people to use as servants in their communities. It can’t possibly be the dark, paranoia-stricken, Twilight Zone-esque underworld that the hostages are sucked into. For many black people and others in minority communities — including Peele who describes the film as his truthGet Out was a striking racial thriller that acted as a documentary of real-life experiences. However, to some, it still somehow lacked the seriousness necessary to be regarded as a real drama.

Consequently, Universal Studios submitted Get Out as a Comedy for the upcoming Golden Globes — a decision that unfortunately left out any input from Peele. The decision has prompted widespread visceral outrage — and rightfully so.

Defenders of the choice to push Get Out into the comedy category cite American Hustle’s same classification in 2015, suggesting that those mad at Get Out’s fate are merely overreacting and that this sort of thing happens all of the time. Though it is true that some directors and producers push their films away from the Drama category — where it is arguably easier to receive nominations and awards — this mistake seems much less trivial. The classification suggests that a story about the struggles of a young black man to free himself from the oppression of his white counterparts cannot possibly be anything but comical.

Some are crediting the narrowly established categories put forth by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for Get Out’s classification blunder, claiming that Drama is just too narrow of a category for the film to fit in. But the problem is much larger than that.

The problem instead lies with society’s view of what is compelling, thought-provoking, and empathy-worthy enough to be deemed a Drama. People view comedies and horror films in similar light. They’re entertaining, of course, but the contents and impact of the movies are largely confined to their hour and a half of screen time, serving purely as entertainment. They leaving much less impact than would a drama, whose themes and messages may stick with the audiences for a great length of time. The inability of Get Out to strike people as a drama points to the larger, more devastating issue that systematic oppression of people of color is not that important to those unoppressed.

Get Out came at a time when America was — and is — more divided than it has been in decades. People of color around the world are fighting for equality and justice, and their struggles are not being taken seriously. This film has received the same slight. Many of its themes are being brushed off as satirical and exaggerated because the general population doesn’t find this portrait of racism worthy of empathy.

Classifying the film as a Drama would mean it would be held in a higher regard and discussed as such, meaning that real conversations about largely-subconscious systematic racism and oppression of people of color in America would be thrust into the spotlight in a whole new way. These are conversations that society desperately needs — yet refuses to have. Though Peele creatively weaves his humor into some scenes and characters from Get Out, the films importance and heavy subject matter remain far from a laughing matter.