Is Get Out a comedy? For those who have sat in awe of Jordan Peele’s masterful film, it is the question that has bounced around in their minds since it was announced that Blumhouse, the production company behind the film, submitted it to the Golden Globes for consideration in the category of Best Musical or Comedy.
Jordan Peele, who was not part of the decision of how to submit the film, commented in at a screening that “It’s not a movie that can really be put into a genre box,” and later added, “I think the issue here is that the movie subverts the idea of all genres. Call it what you want, but the movie is an expression of my truth, my experience, the experiences of a lot of black people, and minorities. Anyone who feels like “the other.” Any conversation that limits what it can be is putting it in a box.”
It’s the last sentence of Peele’s remarks that get to the heart of why people are concerned and outraged by Blumhouse’s decision. Because while the submission of the film into the comedy and musical category might give it a better chance of winning the awards it deserves, that classification runs the risk of – intentionally or unintentionally – diminishing the power and legacy of the film.
But is there any lens through which we can view Get Out as a comedy? Not as a funny film, but as comedic one? Part of the issue is how we have come to understand comedy as a genre. It is a perspective borne from filmmakers like Judd Apatow, Todd Phillips, and Adam Sandler whose films largely feature thirty-and-forty-something white man-boys stumbling irreverently through stitched-together improvisations that eventually amount to a sufficient run-time and a modicum of catharsis.
But comedy, traditionally, has been a genre of protest and resistance. It is a genre that holds the mirror up to society to display its absurdities, biases, and shortcomings. And if Get Out is a comedy, it is a comedy in this vein. It is not comedy that makes us laugh, but think. It is comedy in the same way that the best episodes of the Twilight Zone – episodes like “Eye of the Beholder” – are comedy: They shock and thrill us because they reflect our own social fears and psychosis, and because we are complicit in the horror.
When Jordan Peele, in response to the news of Get Out’s submission as a comedy, tweeted that the film is, in fact, a documentary, he was describing the film’s truth, not its basis in historical fact. And the root of comedy has always been truth. Change is painful, recognizing our personal and societal faults is horrifying—just look at the people defending the statues of confederate soldiers—and sometimes it is more effective to discuss them obliquely instead of directly. Comedy allows us to do that. And since Get Out does this better than just about any film in recent memory, if it is a comedy it is absolutely, uncategorically, one of the best.