When a piece of art is sold for mass consumption, whether it is film, poetry, or sculpture that piece of work is consumed by people who are interpreting that piece through the lens of their own experience. Something which one person can find joy in, another person can be reminded of past sorrow. That being said, when something comes along which large groups people strongly identify with or strongly resonates with audiences, it is only expected others want to share in this collective experience. Hence, I have joined the masses and I finally watched “Get Out.”
“Get Out” has been praised as a piece which is layered with symbolism about the Black experience, specifically in America. It has been hailed as not only being a solid horror movie, but a film which critiques the way in which Americans deal with race in a new and unprecedented way. After watching “Get Out” there were several points which I found that seriously discredit the argument that “Get Out” is a profound and nuanced critique of race in America. I am going to break it down how “Get Out” is problematic in three very damning ways.
Complacency with the status quo.
The main character Chris, never stands up for himself or what he is experiencing. There is scene after scene where the main character takes consistent onslaught from the White family members and never stands up for himself. The dinner scene with the brother is one such example. The brother of his girlfriend talks about Chris’s genetic makeup making him naturally good at sports. This is the first real instance of the main character being complicit in racism. The next real example is when the girlfriend is talking about her father saying things like “my man” and her brother being outwardly aggressive. The next is the party scene where at every turn he is subjected to racist ideas about him as a person based on his personality, and not once does he comment or say anything to defend himself, he passively lets a woman feel him like a piece of meat. Was it intentional for the character to so passively accept racism, maybe? However, if we are to talk about real commentary and true triumph of a character, how can we expect him to be completely complacent in racism. This character was in “The Sunken Place” even before he got to brain drain camp. To have a character who is supposed to represent the Black perspective within a contextualized discourse about race, to have him be utterly passive in the racism enacted upon him, almost serves to represent Black people and their complacency and unwillingness to fight back against the system. History indeed proves this theory incorrect. However, I could not help but see how this choice of writing plays not into the idea which Black Americans have about themselves however, the idea which white people within America have about black people; the often simply dismiss systematic oppression and boil down the struggles of various communities into a simple explanation: a lack of willingness of communities to confront their own problems.
The Idealization of Whiteness.
Chris, when interacting with the other Black characters who are at the house, feels unable to connect with them, and does not know why. While this plays into later plot twists, there is one thing which really bothered me about his interactions with the other Black characters, and it was the idea that what they wanted, was the prize he had, which was his White girlfriend. When Chris was talking to his girlfriend about the gardener and his weird experience, he automatically went into how this Black man had a crush on her, or liked her. He played into the idea that all Black men desire and aspire to date White women, and want them for their own. In this scene the character is now the mouthpiece for the fear which White America has constantly had for Black men, and how they believe them to be savages who lust after White women. Through a historical lens this idea coming from the Black character is particularly concerning, due to the fact that this view of Black men as beasts who have insatiable sexual appetites is what was the baseless foundation for thousands and thousands of lynchings of Black men across the south. The concern is not for the Black man and his behavior in this scene the focus is on protecting the White woman. Please tell me, where is the redemption in that? Never once does Chris question his girlfriend or her motives for bringing him up there, never once does he express any discomfort, he simply goes on behaving like a good anti-Kaepernick satisfied and comforted in the fact that White America has welcomed him with open arms.
Where is the Redemption for Black Women?
You can not have commentary about race in America and exclude how one’s sex is a lens through which stereotypes are filtered through. If this movie was supposed to encompass the experience of Black people, it sure failed to represent at least 50% of that population. The first Black female character we are introduced to is the housekeeper. Now, the housekeeper is the one who we see breaking the most from being trapped in "The Sunken Place". She was the one who was crying when she interacted with Chris however, it is not her character who breaks free, it is the grandfather who previously showed no signs of cracking what so ever. If this movie wanted to make a strong statement about the confines of race it would have acknowledged that immense struggle which Black women have to endure and had the Black female character break free. Having a Black female character break free from the hold of what is supposed to be the representation of a racist society would have sent a powerful message of how Black women are often the most attune to the oppression and suppression of the status quo, and need to fight the hardest, however alas that was not the case.
Then, we have the Black female detective. This was shown only in one scene. She was uncooperative when Chris’s friend, the TSA, officer went into the police station to report Chris missing. The female detective, is then seen mocking and making fun of him. By having this character mock Chris's friend sends a powerful message about how even in a film praised for its insights on race, Black women can still lack the positive portraits of Black women. The detective is crude and dismissive and unprofessional. As representation of Black women, this character does a piss poor job of being anywhere near progressive or having any meaningful commentary on race. Instead, you have someone who is acting as though she does not care for the plight of her fellow Black man, can we just say that scene was on some hotep shit.
When it all really hit me about how this movie might not be the great commentary on race it was praised for being is when the main character Chris at the end let his girlfriend, the one who had tricked him, lied to him, and essentially trying to lead him to his death, and did not kill her in the end. After watching all of the other offenses, this movie left off with the Black man not being able to kill the woman who was willing to sacrifice him. I could not help but see this as my own metaphor for the movie, that “Get Out” is not actually a social commentary critiquing race in America, however it is one which is filled representations of exactly with what the major problems are with race in cinema. You have a main Black character, who people see as likeable simply because he takes racism without question, until they literally try to kill him. Now, this might be a metaphor for how people need to wake up in the face of racism before it kills them however, here there is no waking up for this character, he is already in a state of accepting racism.
Chris accepted racism so much, he was unable to kill the person who represented racism in its modern form the best, his girlfriend. The main character let his girlfriend, the perfect metaphor for modern racism live. While Chris's girlfriend, could have potentially come to an end, she was left to slowly bleed out. Just as she could die, she could also be saved. Chris's girlfriend is the modern hate which American though was bleeding out. Hate and racism has resurrected, in America, just as Chris's girlfriend could, and I can't help but view "Get Out" and its praise as being a great representation for racism as how we are willing to let racism slide while masking it as progress.