Why ‘The Martian’ Shouldn’t Be Called a Comedy

The Martian - Matt Damon, 20th Century FOX
Source: 20th Century Fox

After earning rave reviews and dominating the box office in October, it should come as no surprise that The Martian has a good shot at earning a Golden Globe nod or two this award season. What’s a little more unexpected? According to new reports, the movie will reportedly be competing in the Best Comedy/Musical category.

As you probably know by now, The Martian stars Matt Damon as astronaut Mark Watney, who’s left stranded on the surface of Mars when the rest of the crew presumes him dead after a massive storm. In order to survive, he must use his wit, spirit, and the few supplies he has left to try and find a way to signal for help.

Damon gives a true movie star performance in the film and thanks to him and great co-stars like Michael Pena and Kristen Wiig, the flick definitely features its fair share of funny moments. Still, the entire premise of The Martian hardly brings the word comedy to mind — especially since the whole thing was largely marketed as an epic sci-fi adventure.

But all that doesn’t seem to make much difference to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Per The Los Angeles Times, the HFPA’s eligibility committee, which votes on Golden Globes winners, has decided to keep The Martian in the comedy category. It’s done the same with fellow 20th Century Fox production, Joy, the upcoming David O. Russell flick that stars Jennifer Lawrence as a young woman pursuing her piece of the American dream. Both movies clearly have drama-driven storylines, yet each are being categorized along with straightforward comedies like Trainwreck.

Why? In awards season, the studio enters a film into consideration in whatever manner it thinks the project has the best chance of winning. In this case, Fox reportedly lobbied to keep both films in the Comedy/Musical category, following the idea that each will stand a better chance of winning in that field rather than in the more competitive and often overcrowded Drama field. HFPA ended up agreeing, albeit reportedly only by one vote.

To be fair, this is far from the first time this has happened. In fact, it’s a fairly common practice, especially in the Golden Globes, which has become known for its somewhat random categorization. And it doesn’t just happen in the general comedy and drama categories either. Lead actors are often submitted in the Supporting Acting category, under the same pretense.

While it might happen often, it’s not exactly a well-received practice. Many critics, awards experts, and famous names in the industry have spoken out against the “flexible” method of categorization during awards seasons. Just last month, director Judd Appatow tweeted his distaste, writing, “Trying to dominate the comedy category when you are really a drama afraid of dramatic competition is a punk move.”

He’s not wrong. The Martian was a great and occasionally funny movie that deserves award season attention, but it’s not a comedy. Lumping it into that field is fraudulent and shady and often takes recognition away from other equally deserving titles that actually fit the category.

Will that be the case once again this year? Stayed tuned to find out. The Golden Globes nominations will be announced on December 10.

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