It’s that time of year again. Time for all the “Prestige Pictures” to be showered with praise and admiration. Adaptations of critically-acclaimed novels, biopics, overlong period pieces, and bleak dramas about serious social issues: these are the types of films that tend to dominate awards season.

Of course, these are not the only kinds of movies that get nominated, and even if a film falls into one of these categories, it does not mean that it is undeserving of recognition. I’m just saying that when it comes to handing out those little gold trophies, Hollywood is clearly biased towards certain types of subject matter. Every awards season, fantastic films are overlooked simply because of their content. In particular, comedy films have a long history of getting snubbed.

No One Takes Comedy Seriously

The Oscar is the most sought-after award in American cinema. The ceremony hands out countless prizes to a wide array of movies, but when it comes to the Best Picture category, the films most likely to win are serious dramas. It is rare for comedies to be nominated, let alone win. Statistically, only 20% of all Best Picture nominees have been comedies, with a total of 98 nominations and 14 wins. Compare this to dramatic films, which make up a staggering 85% of the nominees (the combined 105% is the result of overlapping genres), with a total of 413 nominations and 74 wins. While the Oscars may be the most prestigious awards show, it certainly isn’t the only ceremony to frequently snub comedic films. Even the Golden Globes are guilty of this crime.

To be fair, at least the Golden Globes try to give comedy films a fair shake. Unlike the Oscars, this ceremony divides its nominees into two categories: “Drama” and “Comedy OR Musical.” But this approach is incredibly flawed. First off, why does Drama get its own category while Comedy is forced to share? Secondly, the argument could be made that Comedy and Drama are not actual genres. A film genre is a group of movies linked by similar narrative conventions, settings, themes, topics and/or stylistic qualities, such as horror, sci-fi, western, musicals, etc.

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But there is no uniform style or narrative conventions that strictly apply to comedies or dramas. A film is funny or it is serious: that’s the only signifier. Any movie, regardless of genre, can be comedic or dramatic or somewhere in between. The same goes for musicals—the only thing that LES MISERABLES and HAIRSPRAY have in common is that there’s a whole lot of singing—and they should not be confined to a single category. Even if you do consider comedy to be its own genre, this pairing still doesn’t make sense. It would be like having an award for “Best Western or Horror Film.” These are two distinct genres that require different means of evaluation.

The incredibly dour, Golden Globe-winning musical, LES MISERABLES.

Furthermore, the Golden Globes seem to have a very loose definition of “comedy.” In fact, many dramatic films have managed to squeeze into this category simply because the characters tell a couple jokes. Remember THE MARTIAN? That hilarious tale about a man stranded on Mars who almost starves to death? Well, last year it won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy. It was a well-made film that offered a couple chuckles, but in no way would I (nor many others) consider it a comedy. Another not-so-funny winner was 2010’s THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT. Sure, it was a fine movie, but I found it to be more depressing than humorous.

So What’s With The Favoritism?

It seems clear that awards shows favor drama over comedy. But why? Well, there are many factors that need to be considered. First and foremost, comedy is incredibly subjective. Your opinion of a comedy film is almost entirely dependent on whether or not you think it is funny. You can’t control what makes you laugh, and everyone’s taste is different. Remember, awards shows are decided by people, and if they do not think a comedy is funny, they are unlikely to vote for it.

Also, humor is not the only element of film making. Direction, writing, editing, sound, acting: there are so many aspects to consider when judging a film’s quality. A movie may be hilarious, but that does not necessarily mean that it is a great film. Honestly, a good chunk of comedies feature bland cinematography and boring camerawork. No matter how much it makes you laugh, a film with mediocre direction should not be considered for the Best Picture category, and in that sense, dramas have the edge. Also, there is a huge trend among Hollywood comedies for an increased focus on improvisation. If a good portion of the film’s dialogue is improvised, then that film should not receive a Best Screenplay nomination, either.

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Of course, this is not the case for all comedies. Take a look at the films of Edgar Wright (THE CORNETTO TRILOGY and SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD). Even if you don’t think his movies are funny (how could you not?!), it cannot be denied that his scripts are intricately structured and well-plotted. He is also a fantastic director, imbuing each of his films with a unique style and effectively telling the story through imagery (you know, something you’d expect from a visual medium). Regardless of this, Wright has not received any recognition from the Oscars or the Golden Globes. And what about James Gunn’s hilarious and entertaining space opera, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY? That film had a great sense of humor with mass appeal and a fantastic script worthy of an Oscar nomination. But it too was snubbed.

Edgar Wright’s fantastic CORNETTO TRILOGY

Even in this current awards season, some great comedies have been given the cold shoulder. Heck, just look at this year’s Golden Globe nominees. Of the five films that were nominated, only DEADPOOL is a pure comedy, not a musical or a dramatic-comedy. Meanwhile, comedies like THE NICE GUYS, THE LOBSTER or HUNT FOR THE WILDER PEOPLE (the three funniest films I saw all year) were left out entirely. You could argue that all of these movies could have just had the bad luck of coming out during an incredibly competitive year, and there is certainly some truth to that, but I believe that there is more to this issue.

An Elitist Attitude

It is no surprise that Hollywood tends to take itself rather seriously. Just watch any one of the “important” political acceptance speeches that are given at every show. Many of the individuals who have a say in these ceremonies view them as serious awards to be given to serious films. It’s the reason why so many comedies and mainstream movies are snubbed every year.  Most of the “comedies” that actually manage to make the cut tend to have a sophisticated, highbrow sense of humor, or they are indie dramedies (which seem to have more drama than comedy).  I have nothing against these movies. I have a problem with the notion that serious subject matter = higher quality.

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Art does not need to be serious in order to be taken seriously. This misconception disregards all that the medium is capable of and limits the scope of possibilities. A movie can transport you to an endless number of worlds. The only limit is the depth of our imagination. Cinema is such a rich medium, and awards shows should celebrate its diversity. Not just comedies, but all the films that are often overlooked: Horror, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Action, all of it. A celebration of film is not complete unless it celebrates everything that this medium has to offer.

You may be wondering if there is a way to fix this issue. Well, unless you’re part of the film industry, you don’t have much of a say. But I will leave you with this: Do not let your taste be controlled by awards show nominations or Rotten Tomato scores. Watch what you want and don’t feel ashamed for enjoying something just because others look down on it. The most important thing a film can do is make you feel. That’s the whole point. It’s why we are so willing to devote hours of our time, silently sitting in a dark room full of strangers. Movies can make us feel happy, sad, excited, or scared. They can touch upon the entire spectrum of human emotions. That is the magic of movies.

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