Get Out of Here with That Comedy Label

Get Out, the suspenseful social commentary wrapped in the trappings of the horror genre, took the world by storm when it was released earlier this year. Audiences and critics alike were not altogether sure what to do about the blockbuster and the way it showed how reality-based horror could make an impact with movie-going audiences and on social movements. Even with the surprise critical acclaim, and uncertainty as to where the movie should exist, most viewers understood there was something special about Get Out and its message.

The Golden Globes, however, decided that something special warranted a comedy label for the movie as we enter the awards season. Accordingly, imminent pushback ensued.

This post contains possible spoilers.

Universal Pictures supported the label and other industry heavy hitters weighed in. Entertainment Weekly indicated the move may help Get Out garner more awards this season, as the other movies in the comedy group may not offer strong competition as the films labeled drama would. The idea that Get Out cannot stand on its own merit against other dramas is insulting. Not only was the movie based on the real life terror African Americans in this country experience on a daily basis, it was also shot well. Also, the soundtrack (which Jordan Peele played a large role in selecting music for) made an impact on the industry in ways that were unexpected, operating as a true background for what Chris (the main character) experienced throughout the movie. The suspense and fear Chris felt, the gore, and the idea of bodies and minds being stolen and imprisoned through nefarious scientific means sets Get Out squarely in the middle of the horror genre canon.

Excuses have already been set forth to support the comedy labeling. Jordan Peele is a brilliant comedian and has only been known for the one type of brilliance. One of the co-stars, Lil Rel Howery, is a funny guy who relayed hilarious lines with a straight face to provide comedic relief for an otherwise heavy movie. These facts given, there is still a huge difference between a movie that is purposefully humorous throughout and a movie that uses moments of comedy to break up the intensity of the subject matter. The latter is not necessarily a comedy. Placing this movie in the comedy category follows a history of using black bodies for entertainment purposes without considering the real world implications, similar to historical audiences watching lynchings and the continued dismissal of the legacy of this violence. Let me make it plain: there is nothing funny about the systemic objectification, destruction, and control of black bodies.

I agree with the many commentators who lament the comedy label as downplaying the seriousness of racism and its victims’ experiences. However, I don’t object to the movie garnering a genre category label. This isn’t an argument that comedy is a lowly genre and Get Out is above that labeling. Horror is also a genre, although awards committees rarely recognize this label, and Get Out is a horror movie. A more apt placement would have been in the existing dramatic categories, as racial tension and danger are quite dramatic. Allowing audiences and awards committees to place Get Out in a group usually set aside for a lighter approach to many subjects continues the problem of laughing at or dismissing African American complaints about lived experiences. The focus is placed on the laughs in the movie, and not the actual trauma living as an African American and experiencing racism can bring about.

The most troubling aspect of the comedy label for me is the fact that Get Out gave the world one of the first representations of a vulnerable African American male. Daniel Kaluuya brought the character of Chris to life in a way that we never get to see in film or literature. He doesn’t fit into the stereotypical mold of the orphaned little black boy who struggles with his manhood and must try to keep himself from leaning into the underworld of crime and drugs. He has trauma after his mother’s death, but Chris is well rounded and intelligent. He has a job and is a productive citizen. Chris is shown to have fears and is willing to open up to his lover, Rose, about those fears, with no violence or dishonesty. He cries real tears when he is hurting. More importantly, he is able to be hurt. This character is no thick-skinned black man who is angry at the world. Labeling this historic character as a comedic tool is a misplaced venture.

I wholeheartedly agree with Jordan Peele, that Get Out is actually a documentary, because of the truth it tells about racism in the United States. If folks could stop laughing about that reality, we might be able to do something about the problem.

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  • Lane Robins January 4, 2018 at 8:11 pm

    It’s definitely a head scratcher to have it in comedy. I don’t know enough/anything about how the awards work. Are there only so many nominees in each category?

  • Ron Edison January 5, 2018 at 12:36 pm

    Comedy??? No way! BTW, Chris Hardwick did an excellent interview with Jordan Peale on his TALKING show.

  • Shara White January 5, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    I’ve seen some sources try and justify this as saying the movie is satire, but I’m not biting. If it was truly satire, Peele would’ve said so, instead of saying it was a documentary.

  • Kelly McCarty January 8, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    On some level, I understand that horror movies don’t exactly fit the drama category, but putting in the comedy category makes no sense. I consider The Silence of the Lambs to be a horror movie and it was nominated as a drama.

  • Carey Ballard January 18, 2018 at 2:28 am

    I know by now Get Out did not win, but I heartily agree with this post. Putting Get Out in the comedy category is disappointing and a slap in the face to Jordan Peele. Sure, Peele is a veteran comedian, but this film is horrifying, and the serious undertones of the story actually elevates it to drama. Shoehorning it into comedy feels like a microaggression. (Or would that be macro, since it was national?)


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