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Why wasn’t Get Out considered for Best Picture?

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What makes a film Oscar-worthy? Put scene composition aside, because, as it turns out, it might just be the inherent bias that runs deep within the Academy. The only qualifier that seems to stand between cinema and movies are the scattered opinions of an institution that holds a long-standing reputation of exclusivity. In this era of revolutionary representation of historically ignored demographics, it’d be unfair to not call the kettle exactly by its name. The Academy is dominated by old white men, screaming conservative, subjectively boring opinions into the cavernous, echoing chamber that they’ve turned the voting room into. Award-worthy films are slighted year after year at the hands of this same voting body, and nine decades later, no change has been brought. Among the many casualties of that night, Jordan Peele leaving without the award for best picture remains the most prominent.

There were plenty of good, diverse picks this year up for awards– good and diverse in the sense that their quality and their diversity were utterly intertwined. In spite of that, though, the Academy has managed to almost thoroughly disappoint. The Shape of Water. Lady Bird. The Florida Project. Get Out. A room full of the leaders of this generation’s new attitude on inclusivity, and they hand the awards to the recycled, chewed-up, spit-back-out war movie with a plot that we’ve seen countless times, in the hands of numerous directors, or the conservative fantasy, fraught with misguided social commentary and three counts of pointless, tasteless character arcs in Ebbing, Missouri. It never gets any better. History repeats itself. But some of the people in that room had been working tirelessly the past few years to alter our current course on it, and sadly, many of them walked away with very little to show for it. Why formally recognize something new and innovative when you could reward the backwashed portrayal of Winston Churchill– a figure so thoroughly, exhaustively discussed that, at this point, there couldn’t possibly be anything new to say about him?

2017 seemed to show itself as the year of having difficult conversations— conversations we simply weren’t ready to have before. It’s the year that gave us Get Out; a thought-provoking commentary on the microaggressions still inherent in the black experience, and the history of racism that brought us to this point. Just a few months prior, such a thing wouldn’t have even been considered as possible. Wrapped in a neat package of psychological horror, Jordan Peele forced his audience to consider the deeper implications underlying the interactions of black and white Americans. Unsurprisingly, it provoked some backlash. Some Oscar voters rejected the message, while others outright refused to see the film at all.

“It’s a good B-movie and I enjoyed it,” one longtime Oscar voter says of the film, “but what bothered me afterwards was that instead of focusing on the fact that this was an entertaining little horror movie that made quite a bit of money, they started trying to suggest it had deeper meaning than it does. . . as far as I’m concerned, they played the race card, and that really turned me off. In fact. . . the lead actor [Daniel Kaluuya], who is not from the United States [he’s British], was giving us a lecture on racism in America and how black lives matter, and I thought, ‘What does this have to do with Get Out? They’re trying to make me think that if I don’t vote for this movie, I’m a racist.’ I was really offended,” she said, cementing her final decision about the film, and of the apparently confusing undertones belying it.

It’s almost inconceivable that a movie about the struggles of fitting into a certain demographic could be so wildly misconstrued. How could the viewer twist the message about race— one that has been clearly, obviously outlined both in the context of the film and the words of the director himself— in such a way that makes them out to be a victim in a situation that presents no aggressors, and doesn’t require any subsequent victims of such? The answer is actually relatively simple. It was even an introduced theme in Get Out— right down to the self-victimization the minute things start to go awry for the antagonist. White privilege. The sense of white entitlement is absolutely integral to the movie. White people feel entitled to their profiteering and benefiting of black bodies on the screen, as do they feel entitled to their right to remain ignorant to the critical themes of the movie in their seats. They have the luxury of ignoring the conversation the movie ignites, even outside of the theater.

Get Out served to be ground zero for cultural realization this year, but unfortunately, while it did hit hard with general audiences, it just seems to be missing the mark with those that might need this realization most. Again, though, it’s not from a lack of trying— the target is just being continuously shifted. This is most evident in the record of awards given from the ceremony on March fourth, littered with safe choices amongst those that caused uproars within the status quo. Get Out did not walk away with the award for best picture. It was doomed from the start, sent to an early grave by the same monochromatic palette that has been touted as having the last word on cinematographic excellence; the one that has been making leading pop-cultural decisions for about ninety years.

As it appears, though, we aren’t entirely without hope. New voters are ushered in every year, offering a more current, relevant perspective.

“I looked at the history of membership, which is mostly older white males,” said one new voter, a woman of color, in an interview with the Huffington Post. “I don’t think they are going to make any positive change. I’m not going to vote like them; I don’t want to think like them. They don’t represent me or the community of artists that is important to me.”

The Academy is behind in the pattern of inclusivity; it’s no secret that the bias it collectively holds grows more and more outdated with each Get Out and every Love, Simon that hits theaters. As unfortunate as it sounds, change might just have to come the way change always does— with the death of those that refuse to embrace it.

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