Get Out released quietly in February, but through word of mouth and an overwhelming number of positive reviews, turned into a massive box office success. It became the highest-grossing film domestically directed by a black filmmaker and the highest-grossing film debut of an original screenplay in the history of Hollywood. The success of the movie put its themes and horrifying satire of life as a black man in a white world under bright lights, demanding to be paid attention to. There were a few laughs and quite a few jump scares, but its creeping subtexts added a Hitchcockian, thriller vibe to Jordan Peele’s feature film debut. In other words, it’s hard to categorize.
Fast forward nine months later, and Get Out has rightfully been nominated for a Golden Globe as awards season begins. Ironically, the story of rich, white families stealing black people to be their slaves in one way or another has been nominated as a comedy. Peele had an appropriate response:
Speaking with IndieWire, Peele explained his genre-defying film and took umbrage with the “comedy” classification. “The problem is, it’s not a movie that can really be put into a genre box. Originally, I set out to make a horror movie,” he said. “I ended up showing it to people and hearing, you know, it doesn’t even feel like horror. It’s in this thriller world. So it was a social thriller.”
“What the movie is about is not funny. I’ve had many black people come up to me and say, ‘man, this is the movie we’ve been talking about for a while and you did it.’ That’s a very powerful thing. For that to be put in a smaller box than it deserves is where the controversy comes from.”
Peele’s rhetorical question to whoever categorized the film (he says he didn’t play a part in the submission process) and explanation of why he called it a documentary is cutting: “The real question is, what are you laughing at? Are you laughing at the horror, the suffering? Are you disregarding what’s real about this project? That’s why I said, yeah — it’s a documentary.”
That doesn’t mean that the craft of horror and comedy doesn’t share some DNA in Peele’s eyes. He told CBS that the two genre’s share similarities: “They’re about truth. If you’re not accessing something that feels true, you’re not doing it right. You have to be very tuned into the audience and their emotion and that’s why with both forms, the technique is tension building and release.”
Whatever genre Get Out is categorized in, the expectation is that it’s going to win big this awards season.