The Golden Globe nominations are finally here and this has everyone talking about potential Oscar contenders. Of course, this also misses what might be one of the biggest (and weirdest) pieces of news from the nods, and that’s all the love for Deadpool. While they’re consistently huge moneymakers, comic book movies have never done particularly well when the time for awards rolls around. When the Academy does deign to recognize one, it’s typically in the technical categories. Notable exceptions were Heath Ledger’s well-earned win for The Dark Knight, but recognitions for acting or overall picture quality are rare, at best.
That’s one thing that seems to be shifting with the latest batch of nominees for the Golden Globes. Deadpool surprised a lot of people with its unprecedented success at the box office this year. Few could have predicted that the wise-cracking superhero would become the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time—or that Fox would give its creators the freedom to get things as right as they did. But with great risk comes great reward, and Deadpool has turned into a veritable household name.
In addition to blowing away expectations at the box office, Deadpool managed to be a critical darling. The irreverent action-comedy was the shot in the arm the bloated superhero genre desperately needed, and fans reveled in the break from the often overly serious Marvel and DC films. The movie has even been nominated to two Golden Globes (Best Musical or Comedy Motion Picture and Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for Ryan Reynolds). This is the first time a live-action comic-book movie has received a best picture nomination in the 74-year history of the awards, and the fact that it went to Deadpool has shocked critics and fans alike.
The movie faces stiff competition from La La Land, and musicals always tend to do well, so Deadpool may have to be content with merely having a seat at the table. It’s more unlikely that any of this is going to translate to an Oscar nod for the merc with a mouth. Even with the expanded categories, it’s just rare that comedies get their due. And if we’re talking Ryans, Gosling is much more likely to get a Best Actor nomination before Reynolds.
There’s a chance the film could sneak into a technical category but even there it’s likely to be overshadowed by bigger, flashier superhero movies. Speaking of, the technical awards will likely be the only positive recognition we’ll see for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, if they receive any at all. But one shoo-in for Best Visual Effects should be Captain America: Civil War. If it can pull off a win, it’ll actually be the first comic book movie to win the award in more than a decade. The last to snag that Oscar was Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 back in 2004.
At this point, superheroes seem to have been embraced by virtually every media outlet not known as the Academy. The box office numbers speak for themselves, with comic books making up five of the top-10 grossing movies of 2016. This market saturation extends far beyond the cinemas, too, because comics are just as inescapable in video games. And it’s more than just big console titles that aim at the geek demographic. The Avengers and a number of other prominent Marvel heroes are included among the games on popular online hubs, where characters from well-known comics, movies, and more cater to bigger audiences. These games are largely casual, browser-based slot titles built for mass appeal, and the inclusion of comic book characters speaks to their universal appeal. Superheroes put people in the seats, period. The sooner the Academy recognizes this, the better off it will be.
The Oscars ratings hit an eight-year low in 2016 and one of the biggest culprits may just be a disconnect with audiences. A willingness to do a better job of embracing pop-culture with more than obligatory technical awards could go a long way toward drawing in a larger, younger audience.
While it will still be some time before the Academy gives comics the credit they deserve, we’re definitely moving in the right direction from the typically stuffy fare we usually see. The Oscars finally stopped snubbing Martin Scorsese and Leo DiCaprio, so anything is possible for the future.