Are the HFPA wrong for entering the racially-charged film into the ‘best comedy’ category of the 75th Golden Globe awards?
If pressed to name a film that was anything like Jordan Peele’s 2017 film ‘Get Out’, you would understandably struggle. The genre bending film is so bold, so nuanced, and yet so (frightfully) on the nose, it is almost impossible to define – and this is what makes it one of a kind. The film details Chris, an up-and-coming photographer, meeting the parents of his white girlfriend Rose at their stately home for a weekend getaway. Nervous about the fact Rose had not informed her parents that she is dating a black man, he turns up for the weekend apprehensive of the kind of reactions and behaviours he expects to receive. Therefore, he is not shocked to see all of Rose’s family and close friends display some kind of prejudice, or continue to fetishise and mythologise the black experience. The characters dance around how intrinsically linked racial politics is in their social interactions; the way mannerisms and gestures can so dramatically change depending on who is on the receiving end of conversation. The nuances of this do not cease however, even when the idyllic setting soon descends into chaos and some gore – at which point the satirical element of the film becomes palpable. The comedy is consistent throughout, but the moments in which the film becomes psychological and later turning into horror is what makes the film as good as it is. It thrusts the film into the present, and delves into the future of racial politics and tensions with a knowing side-eye and an uncanny feeling that the reality of future racial politics is probably not that far off from the film’s own way of dealing with it, unless the right dialogue continues to take place.
Therefore, it is completely understandable that Peele would feel that listing the film as a comedy would to some degree undermine the whole project. A comedy is naturally seen as a lot more trivial than a drama or a documentary, and makes it more expendable than a lot of other genres. To place it in the comedy category is to compartmentalise the film and over-simplify its story and significance, which is dangerous for a film that gives one of the most honest depictions of the 21st century African American experience. However, whilst I understand that there is the risk of diminishing its relevance and tackling of such a serious issue, I personally agree with it being nominated for this category. The film is satirising real events; it goes without saying that it is not really a documentary. In turn, the purpose of satire is to use humour and irony in order to criticise socio-political issues and critique, in many cases, the human condition. If its purpose is to expose topical issues, then naturally it cannot be undermined by what exactly defines its own genre. Its power lies in being able to use the humour that is consistent throughout the film to contrast the visceral imagery and the dark critique of the state of race relations. At its core it is a comedy, and this doesn’t really have any bearing on how important and revolutionary the film is; its humour only really makes it better equipped to contrast the more serious notes of the film, giving it a bigger and fuller impact.
Ultimately, its use of comedy in its social commentary is what makes it such an eerily realistic and – dare I say – relatable piece of work. Rather than minimising its relevance, it brings something new to filmmaking. There are already a great deal of dramas out there that tackle race in America, both new and old, but how many are there that have a fresh take – that aren’t just relaying history? We need all of these films, and under the circumstances they should be equally weighted in their ability to talk frankly about the state of racism at the present.
Fingers crossed Jordan Peele is recognised for such a fantastic film.