REVIEW: Get Hard

7 04 2015

To be fair to writer/director Etan Coen, I did enter “Get Hard” with knives at the ready to draw.  I am currently enrolled in a sociology course on race and ethnic relations, and a film that appeared chock full of vast generalizations seemed like a great potential paper topic for unit focusing on explanations for enduring racial inequality.  Because of that, I perversely did not leave the movie disappointed.

“Get Hard” is not actively, avowedly racist, although Coen does perpetuate some troubling stereotypes.  He can try to hide the film under the protection of satire and exaggeration, yet those labels hardly excuses the underpinnings and assumptions that come with wading into such territory.

Not to mention, he also tries to turn topics of concern into an invitation for laughter. Making an educated guess that a black man has been to jail, as Will Ferrell’s James does, based on their disproportionate rates of incarceration is a sad truth.  It ought to inspire genuine reflection, not a quick giggle.

But the only cause for concern in “Get Hard” is gay panic.  Everyone in the film seems to be in agreement that any sort of oral or anal sex is a punishment infinitely worse than systemic racism (never mind that any heterosexual person could engage in either act).  The homophobia that runs rampant through the movie made me wonder if the script was secretly written by Dr. Ben Carson, the Republican presidential hopeful who uses prison as an example for why homosexuality is a choice.

Get Hard

I cannot say that I remained silent with indignation the entire film.  Indeed, I am a fallible human being, and the writers of “Get Hard” are not that bad of humorists.  I laughed a few times, though the sounds came from an involuntary place and were swiftly accompanied by a heap of self-loathing.  The humor of the film usually pushes retrograde stereotypes or spits in the face of some demographic category with complete irreverence.

Sadly, “Get Hard” could have been a great conversation starter in the wake of tumultuous race relations episodes in Ferguson and Staten Island.  The fact that a white collar criminal getting a harsh sentence can be the premise of a satire demands some serious thought about our legal system and societal conception of justice.  Instead, it provides an excuse to trot out some supposed pathologies of the black community, put them on parade, and essentially justify these widely-held conceptions.  Time will not be kind to this film. C2stars

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