There are no good white people in director Jordan Peele's social thriller Get Out (2017). And that's just the way it should be.
Of course, there will be the legions of deep-in-denial detractors, those who brand the movie as benightedly bigoted against Caucasian culture. But I ask: Is it bigoted to portray reality? I think not.
Sure, the white people in the movie are sinister. Does this mean that the aim of the movie is to suggest that all white people are sinister? Or could it be that the movie is a take-down of white supremacist culture?
That, I believe, is a distinction that should be mightily mused upon. After all, white supremacy can be reinforced by anyone of any racial or ethnic group (Ben Carson, anyone?). Not all white people are evil, to be sure, but the white supremacist ethos that guides political policy and societal behavior is malevolent to the core.
Get Out is a devastating and savvy satirical indictment of the prevailing pathological white supremacy that lurks in all corners of society. The movie's bold metaphorical mockery of white appropriation of black culture is so painfully pointed as to be brutally depressing. I barely found any entertainment value in the movie, even as I could recognize objectively that it has entertaining elements. What the movie did exceptionally well is dredge up my not-so-latent white guilt complex and bring it to the forefront. I suspect it did this with many conscientious Caucasians.
I suppose it's redundant to reiterate how ingenious it was for director Peele to select the vehicle of a horror/thriller to transport racially existential themes. In hindsight, it's an obvious, intuitive genre to use. But it turns out that Peele had the foresight to pinpoint the horrors of white supremacy and elaborate on them in a stylized cinematic way.
Genre gimmicks abound in Get Out - zombified characters, caricatured archetypes, suspenseful plot points, carefully calculated missteps, violent crescendo, trick ending. There is a Hitchcockian sense of suspense and tension throughout the movie, but also nods and allusions to B movies, slasher films, 80s teen horror flicks--and yet the movie never seems cheap or derivative. Rather, it's an elevated and cerebral psychological horror on par with Poe. It takes the thriller genre to a new zenith by infusing a plausible plot and refusing to showcase gratuitous gore. Rather, aggressive actions arise organically and are legitimized by context.
All elements germane to the genre work in service to propel the plot of Get Out in an imaginative, if terrifying way.
For what we are dealing with in Get Out is an evocation of modern-day slavery via hypnosis and a vicious eugenics. Peele is urging us to see how all we are all subtly but forcefully mesmerized by white supremacy and its myriad connotations and reverberations. He is laying bare all of our preposterous "post-racial" claims and turning them inside out to reveal a seedy, sleazy underside.
I have long wrangled with the dilemma of how American society can disentangle itself from the dastardly web it's spun itself into regarding racial relations. And Jordan Peele's movie seems to reinforce my fears--that we are so deeply enmeshed in the maze of racial dysfunctions that we're better off just cutting loose from the labyrinth and starting over completely.
But how do we dismantle white supremacy? By eradicating Caucasians? Obviously that's not possible or desirable. By further segregating the races? That's already happening. We've been regressing for quite some time, as neighborhoods and schools self-segregate along racial lines. It would almost be justifiable if the situation did not always result in further suffering by people of color.
The situation is urgent. Jordan Peele's movie is a clarion call (a cacophonous clarion call) to action. His movie suggests that we should be more aware of our own deep-seeded prejudices and the actions we take that might be loaded with sinister intention, even if superficially we think we are acting from an impetus of self-awareness and benevolence.
For example, we might think that the justice system will ultimately "rehabilitate" the staggering number of black men caught up in it, without realizing that it's the system itself that caters to a white supremacist philosophy that deliberately thwarts black ascendancy.
Lynching is no longer necessary when you have prison cages that will stifle the soul. The KKK's fashion apparel is rendered anachronistic because the enforcers of Anglo authoritarianism now wear plain clothes and operate in the light of day. Burning crosses in lawns, setting fire to churches, devising nooses, using whips and chains--these tools of repression have been replaced by laws that perpetuate poverty and injustice. A society hypnotized by the system that stymies are the unwitting servants of such putrid policies.
Does it matter that the Oscars snubbed this grim gem of a movie for Best Picture award, honoring instead the much safer pick, "Shape of Water"? Maybe, maybe not. In one way, it defies concern because the Oscars are just a popularity contest, an ego wank, and often it's the mediocre fare that triumphs.
But on the other hand, it matters greatly because the Oscars have long been emblematic of Euro-centrism--and really, American society needs to Get Out of its lethal Euro-centric ideology and fight the zombies of hateful hegemony.
Clockwise Cat publisher and editor, Alison Ross, pioneered the genre of Zen-Surrealism and uses that as her guiding aesthetic. She also practices the tenets of Zen-Surrealist Socialism. Alison believes that "poetic intuition" knifes through the murk of the mundane and mutates mediocrity into a Utopia of the Dynamic. Recently, Alison was a featured poet at Surreal Poetics. In addition, she has three chapbooks - two from Fowlpox Press and one from dancing girl press - and has published reviews and editorials in various publications, including Literary Orphans, Fear of Monkeys, and Pop Matters.