A short, slightly spoilery, and pretty personal Get Out response
The following contains some spoilers for one movie you should see and another you shouldn’t. Proceed with Caution.
Before last night, the most recent horror movie I saw in theaters was Don’t Breathe. A movie that ranged from repetitive to reductive to revolting but never really reached scary. Three house robbing white kids in Detroit picked an old equally white blind veteran as their target. The whole thing reeked of ableism and white washing, but you know, cute trade can convince a sister to do a lot.
At the end, there was less ableism, more reheated semen, and about as much whitewashing as I expected. Don’t Breathe felt more like a milquetoast Bad Girls Club than The Shining. I was rooting for everyone and no one. I knew which character I hated most but ultimately didn’t care who won. I left the theater that day feeling certain horror–or at least the American branch–was dead. Get Out is the film the genre has been waiting for.
Heretofore American horror movies have been the white man’s ghost story machine. The tales were focused on homeowners scared of losing their spoils to the angry ancestors of rightful owners or campers worried that those poor people in the words really are the cannibalistic heathens that capitalism says they are. The racism of the writer’s room and green lighting processes have kept people of color from sharing what keeps us up at night. With this project, Jordan Peele changes all that. Get Out was a manicured and disconcerting dissertation on the terror of blackness in white spaces.
From the first scene, I was crawling up my seat. A black male character walked alone in the white suburbs. He was me from ages 10 to 18 living in middle class neighborhoods that strove for more and saw me as proof of their failures. On screen, a car slowed next to the same character, and I was sent back to 14 getting searched by cops on my way home from school. I was suddenly 20 getting followed home from work on the Northside of Chicago by an unidentified car.
Next, Daniel Kaluuya’s character, Chris, was shown getting ready for his trip in his upscale apartment decorated with his own artwork. He had a cute dog and nice girlfriend. He’s an educated artist who was no stranger to middle class life. This, like all respectability, did not save him from white people who felt entitled to do with him as they pleased.
A later party scene cut quickly through the myriad of typical “compliments” and comments affluent white folk will shower upon black people in their space. As a nightlife performer, I have experienced well-meaning women compliment my skin as if they could wear it, listened as impressed gay man discuss my butt as though it was separate from me, and been fondled by non-paying strangers more than I can count (all white people). As a youth, I was pressured to exhibit my intellectual abilities to entertain white collegiate party guests.
Every moment in this film was fraught with tension because for me–and so many of the people of color watching–it was overflowing with personal experience. The horrifying events that unfold throughout the increasingly tense film each began with interactions that are common for POC to experience and end in our worst nightmares being shown on film. Respectability, white, educated manipulators, and internalized oppression were all expertly called out through an intricate plot that actually manages to surprise.
Get Out delivers a precise and haunting lens for those who don’t know the terrors of white suburbia. It gets you into the mind of black men as they are cornered and hunted. It forces you to reevaluate the whole supremacist system by the end. Jordan Peele has created a tour de force of what the horror genre is capable of.
Volumes have been written espousing the desperate need for diverse voices behind the camera. Get Out is the perfect example of why. Jordan Peele has forged a new tone (and hopefully sub genre) of social horror films. Rumor has it that he’s got more such scripts in the wings!
Go see Get Out. Support new art. Support black art and get scared out of your mind!