Ugly cousin to The Oscars: necessary steps for The Razzies!
The Razzies! nominations came out last Monday, February 8, leaving me with an impossible question: why should I care about The Razzies!?
The Golden Raspberry Awards, better known as The Razzies!, are an annual parody awards show, where, instead of awarding the best movies of the year, they award the worst movies of the year. Categories include Worst Picture, Worst Remake, Sequel, or Rip-Off, and Worst Screen Couple, as well as the occasional special award, like this year, where the category Worst Performance was awarded to Bruce Willis in one of his 2021 movies.
The awards were started in 1980, when John Wilson, a copy writer and publicist, saw a double-feature of “Can’t Stop the Music” and “Xanadu” and was so disgusted that he began holding an awards ceremony for the worst films of the year in his apartment. By the time that the fourth ceremony arrived, CNN was covering it. These days, The Razzies! have become an established phenomenon.
At the time, this was one of the only ways someone like Wilson could respond to the Hollywood system. He managed to get some press for his awards, and Hollywood took notice. Bill Cosby was the first star to actually ask for his award in 1988. Halle Berry showed up to collect her Razzie in 2004, Oscar in hand as an extra joke, as did Sandra Bullock in 2010, who collected her award for “All About Steve” the day before she won the Oscar for “The Blindside.”
Yet, despite their established nature, these days The Razzies! feel less like a fun way of getting back at the Hollywood system for their bad moviemaking, and more like an event in place solely to kick projects that were already down.
The most nominated movie this year was the filmed version of a musical about Princess Diana that aired on Netflix, aptly called “Diana the Musical.” “Diana the Musical” was bad—I have and am still willing to acknowledge that—but the film was there largely to promote the Broadway show, which is now regarded as a critical and financial failure. What is the fun in nominating a project for nine “worst” awards that has already failed in every way possible? It’s not fun or funny to say that something that was universally regarded as bad was bad. It’s stating the obvious.
Half of the issue stems from social media, which gives people the ability to make fun of projects like “Diana the Musical” right when they come out. By the time The Razzies! get to the film it’s already been thoroughly trounced. The Razzies! don’t add anything to the conversation and are made less funny because social media users have been making better and smarter jokes for months.
The other issue is that The Razzies! don’t have much to say anyway. There are always going to be awards and nominees that age poorly (Shelley Duvall’s nomination for Worst Actress for her work in “The Shining,” and “The Blair Witch Project” winning Worst Picture stand out in the history of The Razzies!), but if you’re going to parody, you should at least have something to say about what you’re parodying.
For example, in recent years, two separate far-right political films have won Worst Picture: “Absolute Proof” in 2020 and “Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party” in 2016. These wins don’t say anything other than “there are bad movies made by misinformed far-right extremists, and I’m smarter than them.” Which, sure. But if the sum total of your parody boils down to “I’m smart and this person is dumb,” then you probably don’t have much to say.
Additionally, putting these dangerous, extremist “documentaries” on the same level as something like a failed filmed production of “Diana the Musical” shows a lack of perspective on the process. These films are not similar to each other, and the reasons for failure span entirely different categories—that inconsistency ruins any chance of the joke landing. Furthermore, simply saying these films are bad has no interesting critique of Hollywood, Broadway, or politics. It feels like a personification of middle school boy humor, pointing and laughing because “thing bad and dumb.”
Parodying Hollywood and award show pomp and circumstance is not a dry well for humor or critique. Hollywood is still cranking out bad, rote movies that are nothing more than paint-by-numbers money makers with no real thought (four Marvel movies all following the exact same structure came out this year alone), and The Oscars, which The Razzies! are supposed to be the evil twin of, have been critiqued for their pretentiousness, racism, and out-of-touch nature. But if The Razzies! want to progress beyond “thing bad” level critique, they’re going to have to gain a point of view.