The MTV Movie & TV Awards has a history of giving fans what they want. Given that the ceremony really feeds into the fervor of pop culture enthusiasm, celebrities usually show up at least a little in character. At the very minimum, they are expected to feed into the character they play on whatever hot TV show or movie they're being recognized for. This was certainly the case for Allison Williams, who put viewers through more than one awkward moment in acknowledgment of her villainous role in Jordan Peele’s hit film, Get Out.
She ruffled feathers on Twitter when, while presenting the award for Best Kiss, she joked with her cast mate Lil Rel Howery about how to get back in the good graces of Black men after Get Out. The general consensus seemed to be that Williams’ comments were at best unfunny, and at worst, racist. I took the jokes with a grain of salt simply because it was so obvious that they were scripted, meaning that Williams was leaning into the faux-compassion that Rose exhibited in Get Out. However, that doesn’t mean that a history of racism wasn’t at play in the crash and burn of Williams’ jokes.
Through this caricatured version of her “real” self, Williams made the mistake of assuming that she was ever in the good graces of Black men in the first place. Sure, Get Out was groundbreaking in its honest appraisal of white women’s role in racism. But as a concept, that’s not new information. If we’re keeping it 100, Get Out is a commentary on the historically problematic relationship between Black men and white women — one in which Black men have always had to be skeptical of engaging with them intimately because of the potentially negative consequences. Viewers of Get Out still remember why and how Emmett Till died.
And then there was the fact that the entire staged interaction rested on the premise of Williams being able to kiss Howery. If she dangled the right pop culture gem in front of him, he would give in. Black men’s sexual availability to white women is not the penultimate victory on the road to equality. Williams basically recycled the same sense of entitlement and privilege that Rose used to lure victims to her family home in the movie.
Williams’ best bet would have been to either play all the way into being the bad guy, or let Howery lead the charge on the racial commentary.