This Major Golden Globes Rule Change Is A Win For Fans Of Real Comedy

One of the major controversies of this year's awards season surrounded the issue of whether Ridley Scott's The Martian should be classified as a comedy or a drama. Although common sense dictates that a movie about an astronaut whose life is in peril after he's stranded on Mars would be a drama, 20th Century Fox submitted the film in the Comedy category at the Golden Globes — and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association accepted that classification, allowing the Matt Damon vehicle to compete alongside the likes of Amy Schumer's Trainwreck and Melissa McCarthy's Spy. Fortunately, the 2017 Golden Globe rule changes will likely prevent category nuances like this from happening again in the future.

The Martian is the most recent example of a film that played fast and loose with the definition of the word "comedy," but it certainly isn't the first. In recent years, the Comedy line at the Golden Globes been blurred quite a bit to include films like The Tourist, American Hustle, Her, Nebraska, The Wolf Of Wall Street, and Birdman. Some of these nominees are arguably funnier than others, but most of them are "dramedies," at best, rather than flat-out laugh riots.

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But after the widespread ridicule that surrounded The Martian 's categorization — including some pointed jabs by host Ricky Gervais during the ceremony itself — the HFPA seems ready to crack down on this tomfoolery. Among the many rule changes made by the organization ahead of next year's Golden Globes ceremony is one that addresses this very controversy:

Motion pictures shall be entered in the category that best matches the overall tone and content of the motion picture. Thus, for example, dramas with comedic overtones should be entered as dramas.
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There's no denying that The Martian is a drama with comedic overtones. Yes, Damon's stranded astronaut Mark Watney is an optimistic guy who likes to crack jokes in the face of adversity; but the film still features him getting impaled, blown up, starving, and breaking down in despair at the thought of his impending death. Hilarious, right? The "overall tone" of The Martian is one of suspense and adventure and the "content" is a man trying to survive against impossible odds; not exactly your typical comedic ingredients. Sure, the movie isn't a "tragedy" per se, since (spoiler alert!) it has a happy ending when Mark gets rescued, but that alone isn't sufficient to qualify it as a comedy.

This rule change is a smart move on the HFPA's part, not just because it will appease those who criticized them over The Martian's placement, but because it's a good thing for the movies themselves… and isn't that the whole point? The Oscars have traditionally held a bias against "true" comedies, with films like Little Miss Sunshine being exceptions in the Best Picture race rather than the rule. Even when they're some of the best-reviewed, high-grossing movies of the year — like Bridesmaids — they still often fail to make the cut.

By drawing a line in the sand and truly allowing the Comedy category to be for comedies (and musicals, let's not forget), then the Golden Globes could really distinguish themselves from the Oscars and give a platform to audience-friendly movies that are so often ignored on the awards circuit. Really, it's a win/win for everyone.

Images: 20th Century Fox; Giphy (2)