Along with being science fiction’s #1 fan, I have been a horror movie junkie since my first jump-scare at 8 years old watching “Alien” on the carpet of my childhood home. (Don’t blame my parents — cable late at night, plus remote made it accessible). I am the girl who watches first from behind a blanket, then through her fingers, then with mouth agape at the screen. I love the feel of adrenaline that courses through my veins, how my hair stands on end, how sight and sound become more acute as I find myself fearing for my life along with whatever hero or heroine is trying to stay alive on screen (at least until the credits.)
So, when I first heard about “Get Out” coming to theaters, a movie that would match both the glory of classic horror films with issues of race, all I could think was:
I was a little apprehensive though as I knew I would be taking my husband to see it. Would he actually want to see a film, cloaked in horror, but actually a pretty subversive AND direct call out to racial politics in America? To my delight, he was more than intrigued and signed us up for luxury seating and dinner at the Super Lux this weekend!
I saw the film Saturday and there’s SO MUCH to unpack I kind of feel like I came back from a two week vacation, and planned to throw everything in that luggage in the closet until I was ready for the next one. But, as “Get Out” so nicely puts in, our demons hate the darkness and they beg us to confront them or unleash them. So, here goes, boys and ghouls. By the way, if it wasn’t clear at the beginning of this review, this might apply:
So for the uninitiated, here’s the premise of “Get Out”: Young, Black man, Chris is dating his girlfriend, Rose, who is White, and must face the first “real” horror of the film together: the always dreaded first meeting of your significant other’s parents.
Now, for those of us people of color who have dated inter-racially, I can tell you I’ve experienced everything from the humorous [“Oh, [White boyfriend’s mother at the time], I didn’t know your girlfriend was black, she’s lovely”] to the not so subtle and not so nice, “Parents like you enough, but I don’t think they are comfortable with me dating someone like you.” *which is really code for I’m not comfortable dating someone “like you.” But I digress… Chris and Rose make the pilgrimage to an unnamed, rural [no one around] affluent suburbia for a weekend with Rose’s family and well, all hell breaks loose:
I’m not going to give away too much here because I really want to encourage people to see the film, but I wanted to share a few insights about the film and the watching of films like this in general:
- Watching films about racism with a multiracial audience: As many people know, I love movies, and I particularly love the experience of watching blockbuster films with audiences as I think it helps heighten the experience. One thing I noticed right away as we entered the sold out theater for this film was that it was filled with both millennials and the over-50 crowd. It was also filled with more interracial couples than I’ve seen walking the streets of Boston in a single day. It’s intriguing to think about all the car rides home that night — what kind of conversations about race would these couples now have with “Get Out” as their common language? I can say for myself that the car ride home with the husband, vibrant, eye-opening and perhaps making me love him more, hopeful. And speaking of varied perspectives…
- W.E.B. Du Bois and Frederick Douglass (you know, the guys that neither Betty DeVos, the Department of Education, or Trump could either spell their name correctly or attribute accurately to any of their MANY accomplishments), often wrote of the “double consciousness” of African American people and of the way we often will write and speak to “two” audiences at the same time: White and Black America. This film does this without even trying to hide it. From the first scene, as I told my husband on the car ride home, Peele speaks to the common occurrence of being the only person of color in a situation and knowing immediately that if your “Spidey Senses” start tingling, trust those instincts and get the heck out of Dodge. I won’t ruin the scene, but as I glanced around the darkness of the theater, I noticed White people laughing *as they should (scene was comic gold), and black people like me clutching their armrests a little too tightly. From Chris’ friend the TSA agent whose performance offers much-needed comic relief, to Chris’ attempts to connect with the house staff , to trying to explain his feelings about the house to his girlfriend, Rose, there were so many times I think the writer AND director, Jordan Peele, wanted people of color to see themselves realistically reflected back on the screen and he succeeds — often. To be able to make a film that speaks eloquently and in full fluency to two audiences — at the exact same time –is a sign of true directorial talent.
- Movies are meant to be forums of self-reflection. And this movie is going to hypnotize you and take you to the “sunken place” whether you want to go there or not. Exposed and on display are not only the direct, in your face racism that we all know of, but the lurking, ever-present, silently hostile “subtlety” of racism, which many of us experience but swallow it down whole, trying not to choke on it. You may have either participated in it, dealt it or been on the sharp end of it — either way, you will see yourself reflected on the screen and no matter where you sit it’s going to feel mighty uncomfortable. Which may be why the “horror” genre is married so well to this film — you’re already prepared to be frightened and made to feel exposed and frightened. Why not throw in a little nuanced perspective on race while you’re at?
- 4. Trust no one. Not even yourself. I think the main character, Chris, was saying this to himself all throughout the film. There’s a lot going around on the Internet about the writer/director’s feelings about interracial couples, racism or White people. I’m not going to write about that now…I think more people need to see the film themselves and then we can dig deeper on those themes (if you really want to discuss email me or IM me on Facebook ). I think what I will say is go in trusting no one (not the lead character, or anyone else for that matter) and make an effort, if you can, not to trust yourself. What I mean to say is if you can, for 2+ hours, don’t trust the short-hand, stereotypes and assumptions you may have about race when you think about it. It’s impossible to go into anything “clean slate” but I would say I’m asking you to make yourself as vulnerable as possible to seeing the world through a lens you’ve never considered before. If you do, I promise this film with not only NOT disappoint you but could — and I’m not punning here — save a life or two.
I have more to “unpack” but have you seen “Get Out?” Leave me a comment and let’s discuss!