Have you watched Get Out already? If not it’s already time to. The new comedy-horror hybrid by Jordan Peele hit cinemas in the beginning of March. The film strikes at the core of racism, discrimination and serves up a full plate of horror.
I really hate horror movies, they give me the cringe. You’ll probably find me sitting with my hands in front of my eyes about 60% of the movie, I just can’t deal with the typical “you-know-something’s-gonna-happen-now-wait-for-it jump-scare” principal. But with ‘Get Out’ introducing a new movie genre, I was too curious to skip it.
What I knew so far was that the movie had racism at its core, respectively a lot of it. So if you’re following Trump’s daily agenda and his “right-wing” trolls from the beginning, you’re up-to-date with diversity issues and the “White” House and you’ll get the hang of the movie real quick; What’s it like to be black and being surrounded by white people with racial prejudices. Given nowadays events around the globe, the movie couldn’t have had a better timing for its release.
In case you haven’t watched it yet I suggest to stop reading now – SPOILER ALERT.
‘Get Out’ – The White Family
Being white “secures a position of power” with “white people creat(ing) the dominant images of the world” (Dyer in Rothenberg, 2005). Akin the classic Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, the film follows Chris and his girlfriend Rose, an interracial couple who is about to visit Rose’s white family for the first time in Alabama. Chris having his doubts about her parents not knowing that he’s black is assured by Rose that they are liberate minded. The storyline goes down the route of the classic movie but with a twist; Chris is welcomed with open arms by her family and in total euphoria. White stereotypes are what we get at an early stage of the movie when he is introduced to the family members; Her father, a successful surgeon and demanding husband and her mother, the understanding and happily smiling psychotherapist. Suddenly two super white tv series come to my mind: Leave it to Beaver and 7th Heaven.
Following the warm fake hugs, Chris gets a house tour with Dean and is immediately introduced to the family tree – not to mention that everyone’s white – and the tale of each member. Dean emphases his father and his athletic career, who gave up because of losing out to a black runner: “You can’t beat em’ right?” That’s the point when you realise that the countdown’s on…
Chris has had some creepy moments at the house already – a black late night sprinting gardener and a creepy black maid standing at the window – and the day of the big family event is finally here. Rose gets to introduce Chris to friends and neighbours and gets bombarded with typical interracial questions “How is it? I heard it’s better?” – referring to the large black peacock in Chris trousers.
I don’t think I need to mention that we’re dealing here with more than one issue. Let’s dive into this a bit further.
Get Out uses racism as a tool to terrify its audience, but it is important to say that the movie demonstrates nowadays struggles that interracial couples have to face. I recall the scene, where Chris and Rose sit in the living room and her father says, “How long has this *pointing two fingers* been going on?” This is just an example of a long list of stupid questions of a long list. Not to mention the classic one, “You must want mixed kids”. Pfff…
Talking of Hollywood, I can’t remember a mixed-couple movie hitting the screens last year. It seems like they had been erased from the agenda for quite a while. Even better that Loving and Get Out have tackled this topic on different grounds. The film is rolling roughly 20 mins and we’re already confronted with racism at the size of an ostrich egg; there’s the glancing all-white family, the black servants, interracial couple shaming and a good portion of racist prejudice.
When Chris is confronted with comments about his black body, people refer to his frame, body physique and skin of “being in fashion”. While pointing out how different he is they make it quite clear that he doesn’t belong here. Slowly we come to understand that the movie actually strikes at the core of liberal racism.
So what the heck is liberal racism? In an interview with Tony Brown in 1998, newspaper columnist Jim Sleeper defined it as: “lowering the bar so much that you deny (…) black folks and other non-whites (…) the satisfaction of really feeling that they earned it.” Sleeper is referring here to the Piscataway case in New Jersey when a white teacher was laid off school and the black teacher retained in order to maintain a certain racial diversity at the school. Therefore a liberal racist identifies itself as a person that labels black people and non-whites and reduces them to their skin colour.
The point I’m trying to make is that Chris experiences the exact same. Although it’s been clear since the beginning that he’s a remarkable photographer, people don’t see him this way. As someone who’s different because of his skin colour, he, therefore, does not belong to their society. Wait there’s one exception; the blind guy he meets, who outs himself as a fan of his photography but who’s clearly jealous of Chris’s visual eye. Basically, it all comes down to one thing; white folks being jealous of black folks on different levels.
Peele’s movie cuts into three different cakes, which makes it a bummer for me. He raised questions about racism and discrimination and had taken whiteness to a whole new level. Sometimes to extremes to be true. Wait for the cereal + milk scene and you’ll know what I mean.
I have been impressed by the way ‘Get Out’ had turned out but also shocked by some people’s reaction to the movie. Many were laughing at the interracial couple jokes, some dropped F-bombs across the room. It felt like two groups had formed during the movie, but I didn’t get why. However, I understand the fact that movies are made to entertain us, but they are also made to educate us in certain points. Take that as a lesson I’ll take it as my quote of the day.