Get Out: The horrors of racism revealed on screen
In one way or another, Get Out resonates with every black male living in the Western world. Jordan Peele gave a hauntingly accurate portrayal of the social anxieties that a lot of us face. Although the circumstances within the film are obviously an exaggeration, some of the nuisances the film portrays such as the all too familiar language used by the white characters in front of the black characters, make the terror all the more real. Peele has managed to craft the racial history of America into a self-critique on modern political correctness that has an important message for both white and black audiences.
I have never seen a movie that challenges the discourse around modern racism as superbly as Get Out. The impact that the film could have on the mindsets of people of colour is profound. Slave movies, ghetto movies and movies about glorified butlers have often failed to speak to black people as a whole. I’ve never been a slave, a butler or experienced life in the ghetto. However, I have experienced what it feels like to be the only black person in a room full of white people. Furthermore, the latter experience is something that many of us struggle to articulate, thus Get Out provides us with a vessel in which to channel our subconscious thoughts and digest them. Amidst the negative backlashes that Black Lives Matter and other anti-racist groups have faced in recent times, it’s been easy for a lot of us to feel insecure about addressing our racial identity to the point where ignoring our feelings sometimes feels like the better option. Yet, Get Out has successfully legitimised the feelings of discomfort and vulnerability that people of colour experience in predominantly white settings. It is now time for us to engage with those feelings responsibly.
The failure of the protagonist’s interracial relationship isn’t the most significant message to take from the film, however, I do believe it presents us with an opportunity to dissect the context surrounding interracial relationships. In this case, Peele chose to use the relationship between a black man and a white woman. Moreover, the film’s portrayal of the white woman’s indifference to the black man’s suffering has a dangerously close reflection of reality. Throughout American history, how many white women have been complicit in the brutal violence inflicted upon black men? In the case of Emmett Till, it was the false accusations of a white woman that led to the brutal murder of a 14-year-old black boy. The Till story has a harrowing sexual undertone that dates back to the racist projections of the black male as a predatory, lust-filled rapist. Perhaps one of the more subliminal messages to take from the film is that a white person in a relationship with a black person isn’t immune to the effects of racist ideology.
For a black audience, the film is somewhat preaching to the converted. Most of us are relatively aware of systemic racism and know what it feels like when white friends praise Obama in our presence. However, the white audience’s reaction to the film is far more interesting to me. I wonder if instead of detaching from the fictional narrative, some white people actually attempt to critically engage with their own behaviours and assess whether they’re guilty of treating black people in subtly isolating ways. Have you ever asked your black friends how they feel about their identity? If you haven’t, they probably feel isolated. If the idea of the conversation makes you uncomfortable then you have to ask yourself why that might be. If it’s because race doesn’t matter to you then you’re probably part of the problem. People of colour in the West aren’t granted the privilege of ignoring their race. I encourage white people to see the importance in conversations about race and how they can bring us closer together rather than further apart. At a time when anti-immigration rhetoric is rife, parts of the developing world still starve and black people fill our prisons, your silence is an act of passive-aggression not dissimilar from the family members in Get Out.