I haven’t seen Get Out. I know. I know. Everyone was talking about it and by the time I knew it, I’d already figured out what it was all about.
I don’t mind spoilers, per sé. I’m not that person. So after the dust had cleared and I’d seen all the memes I figured I’d waddle up to a theater in the middle of the day somewhere in Los Angeles, plop down in a seat and do my due diligence. I haven’t. But, even to me, 2017 has obviously been a year about hypnosis, showmanship, manipulation and lies. Right? That’s kind of obvious, yeah? That’s also, for the most part, what Get Out has meant to white people. To Black people, it’s meant something altogether different. It’s as though someone has reflected the world of white people back to them, and they are discovering its horror for the first time.
Social horror has long been a thing. Director Jordan Peele himself said on The New York Times’ Still Processing podcast that he modeled Get Out after films like Rosemary’s Baby and The People Under The Stairs. He’s brilliant. And Get Out is a taut, smart take on the ontology of whiteness. That is to say, the point of whiteness is to spirit you away. We’ve seen it more recently with academics writing work no one needs for people who already think what their saying is true. Bruce Gilley, a professor at Portland State University, wrote a screed called The Case For Colonialism in Third World Quarterly that rehashes the kinds of narratives that Peele allows to come alive in the film. It’s the absurdist notion that people were meant to be ruled, that some civilizations are simply superior to others. And that those thoughts are simply shared by the whites who stare blankly back at you in lynching photos, but by liberal, “good whites.” It’s nonsense, of course. Just ask the person with the boot on their neck. But the point of empire is to never have to talk about it. Simply doing that can bring a system to its knees.
It’s as though someone has reflected the world of white people back to them, and they are discovering its horror for the first time.
So the idea of a film like Get Out is revolutionary in our society. You can tell by how it’s being categorized by award shows. The Golden Globes labeled it a “Comedy.” A gaffe to which Peele replied with a tweet that said, “Get Out is a documentary.” All the more damning because it’s true.
It’s truth is in how it tackles just how brazy this moment we’re living in really is. Post-Obama, lilting liberals used to look at me in the face and ask me what there was to be angry about. That a Black man was president, so how bad could things be? Well, it turns out things could be pretty bad. In 2017, a future seems possible that includes nuclear war, amongst other things. Republican representatives have just voted in a very unpopular tax overhaul. All around us, we hear phones pinging with updates on who or what will no longer be allowed in the United States— all while bemoaning the very media giving us those updates. Also, let’s not forget about Russia hijacking our election! And Get Out could just as easily be grafted onto the lives of other invisible identities. As we’ve all watched, the #MeToo movement is finally forcing men to awaken to the reality that sexual harassment and rape is a constant in women’s lives. Well, that or deny the thing entirely.
Of course, the most insidious part of the sexual violence fallout is that it includes men you wouldn’t suspect. And that’s really the point of the film, isn’t it? These narratives around good and evil in our world aren’t true. They never have been. The colonialists will tell you that you need them now more than ever. Men will tell you nothing at all out of the ordinary is happening. Financiers will tell you that they weren’t the ones responsible for the housing crash. And white supremacists will tell you they aren’t racist at all. It’s the denial of these realities that have created a space for questioning of all reality. A space that Get Out deconstructed through the most perilous lense of all: that of the oppressed.
At the end of this year, when the police inevitably show up, what will happen to us all?