As awards season rolls on, once again, we were uh… treated to the announcement of the 41st Golden Raspberry Awards. The Razzies supposedly celebrate the worst films that the entertainment industry had to offer in any given year. As always, the chosen movies were a combination dully predictable and somewhat baffling. Music, Dolittle, and basically all Adam Sandler-related titles are here. A bunch of quickly made COVID-19 themed zombie films showed up, and there were the usual moments of so-called political satire, with nominations for movies featuring Rudy Giuliani and the My Pillow Guy. We couldn't help but roll our eyes, however, at nominations like Anne Hathaway for Worst Actress in both The Witches and The Last Thing He Wanted, performances that were well-received even when the movies weren't. The notion of "awarding" Shia LaBeouf with any sort of award, even a Worst one, feels somewhat discomfiting given the accusations made against him by several women.
Getting mad at the Razzies is kind of a futile prospect. Isn’t that what they want, after all? Still, there’s something about this organization and its endeavors that leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth. It’s not that the basic objective is bad, but more that the Razzies are bad at pulling it up. For a group that frequently rags on Hollywood for being lazy, you’d think they’d try to do more than constantly take the most derivative route possible when it comes to kicking the big boys down a notch or two.
The Razzie Awards has two main routes of operation: taking the well-trodden road and aiming for the easy targets, or repeatedly attacking the same targets regardless of merit. Nobody is surprised when the Transformers films appear time and time again on their shortlists, although one has to wonder what sort of upper ground the organization gains by nicknaming the franchise with a transphobic slur. It’s predictable to see the Fifty Shades films listed as the year’s worst, but the decision to also nominate Dakota Johnson is pure laziness. Even critics who loathed the trilogy went out of their way to praise Johnson’s sparky and charming performance. Did they even watch the films? Or was here mere presence in the Worst Actress category considered too easy a joke to skip?
Take a gander through the history of the Razzies, especially when it comes to the actresses they nominate, and you’ll see a long cycle of questionable targets and straight-up misogyny. Consider 2004, when Britney Spears received the Worst Supporting Actress Award for… Fahrenheit 9/11. Yes, the Michael Moore documentary. No, Spears is not acting in that movie. She’s briefly featured in a clip. Still, why skip another chance to kick Spears when she's down, right? For the record, she was also nominated alongside "co-star" Condoleezza Rice and perennial Razzies punching bag Jennifer Lopez for Jersey Girl, a movie she's in for less than five minutes. What's the joke? What target are you trying to create here? Is it a political point? If so, why give it to Spears and not the actual Secretary of State? The more you try to reason with this nonsense, the stupider it gets, to the point where the bleak sexism of it all becomes impossible to ignore.
Truly, we could be here all day listing these sorts of examples. The very first winner of Worst Actress was Brooke Shields for The Blue Lagoon. Rather than, you know, point out the truly abhorrent practice of a film sexualizing an underage girl, the Razzies fired their darts at the adolescent in question. Linda Blair also frequently faced the smarmy wrath of the Razzies. In The Official Razzie Movie Guide, she was described as being so heavy in the film Roller Boogie that, every time her male co-star had to lift her up, "his face is frozen into an Idon'tdarebreatheorI'lldropher smile, and every time we should see him heft her over his head, they conveniently cut away... so they could bring in a crane?"
Children are frequently thrown under the bus by these supposed adults, from Jake Lloyd of Star Wars fame to Macaulay Culkin to then-10-year-old Mara Hobel from Mommie Dearest. Too many nominees for Actress categories are just men in drag.
The Razzies may be even smugger when they attempt to get political. Donald Trump has multiple Razzies for documentary appearances. At last year's awards, they had a category called Worst Reckless Disregard for Human Life and Public Property, whose nominees included Hellboy and Joker. Given the questionable concern-trolling surrounding the latter film, which was held up wrongly as an example of a film that would inspire public shootings, for the Razzies to pretend to care about such matters months after the fact is both lazy and gross.
I can already hear the smarmy cries of “But it’s a joke” in the background. Stop taking it so seriously, people say. OK, but here’s the thing: the joke’s not funny. There’s a way to punch up at Hollywood hubris, and indeed, there’s a necessity for voices to puncture the egos and unfettered corporate reign of these conglomerates that control the media we consume. It makes no sense that the wildly sexist creeps at the Razzie Awards are elevated to such a position based purely on their own marketing. There’s also no power to the joke when their targets are so tediously predictable. We all know that the Transformers movies suck. Nobody for a second thought that The Emoji Movie would be anything less than terrible. Monocles did not fly off around the world when the reboot of Baywatch ended up sucking.
At least there would be some bite behind their bark were the Razzies to go after the painfully cynical awards bait or manipulative historical rewrites that take home Oscars. Bohemian Rhapsody is an astoundingly bad film that won a slew of Academy Awards but was nowhere to be seen on the Razzies’ roster. If the organization was truly interested in taking down deserving targets, then why not go after the ineptly made piece of musical propaganda that played into the worst recesses of homophobia and allowed an accused sex offender in the director's chair to flourish? That would have been too much like hard work for them, I suppose. This year, however, they have nominated Hillbilly Elegy for a few awards, even as it remains a favorite in a number of Oscar categories. At least it’s something.
There’s also the elephant in the room with the Razzies and their voting process. Unlike, say, the Academy, wherein members are invited to join, anyone can vote in the Razzies. All you have to do is pay. Yes, this is a for-profit enterprise. Hand over a $40 entry fee and you too can vote in these prestigious awards.
So, who is this all for? Who does this benefit? When the joke is tired and the targets trite, what’s the point of the Razzies? Well, that may be the most hilariously cynical part of the entire enterprise. It turns out that the group set up to supposedly lampoon the self-serving egoism of Hollywood is just as concerned with schmoozing as the people at the big boys’ table. Not many celebrities choose to attend the Razzies to collect their award, but the group just loves to suck up to the ones who do. When Sandra Bullock won a Razzie for All About Steve, the same year she won the Oscar for The Blind Side, she attended the party and revealed that they'd let her know she was guaranteed to be victorious that evening if she turned up. See, no voting process, no vague air of democracy or showing Hollywood who's boss. The Razzies just wanted a famous person to be their friend. It’s Golden Globes levels of shameless, but at least the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has the decency to offer free booze and a slap-up meal.
It shouldn’t be hard to take on the egotistical might of Hollywood. Where’s this level of organized mockery for the Woody Allens, Bryan Singers, and Harvey Weinsteins or the world or the systemic forces that consistently quash marginalized voices? Why not tackle those big-budget tentpoles that prop up questionable politics while taking money from the Department of Defense, or the prestige biopics that cast cis men to play trans women for Oscar bait? The targets are hardly lacking and yet the Razzies, the most widely covered group of its kind, seems utterly unconcerned with such matters. Why care when you can be lazy and sexist and occasionally transphobic? Leave the Razzies behind and let’s try harder.
Kayleigh is a pop culture writer and critic based in Dundee, Scotland. Her work can be found on Pajiba, IGN, Uproxx, RogerEbert.com, SlashFilm, and WhatToWatch, among other places. She's also the creator of the newsletter The Gossip Reading Club.
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