Technically, I wasn’t late to see Get Out. Like my all-time favorite movie Fight Club, in the months leading up to its release, Get Out was somewhere in the back of my mind where I knew very little about it other than that the teaser images looked very, very good, very intriguing. So, as I happened to with Fight Club, I saw Get Out on opening night. And then again later that week. What!?
My favorite thing about Get Out is the way that it taints the “Good ThingsTM“. It questions – as we should – the provenance, purpose, maintenance, and significance of leafy suburbs, interest in Black lives, and everything (milk and cereal, tea services, slacks, basements, hats, TV sets, law enforcement, the UNCF slogan…) in between.
Although I take them at face value in the world of the movie, in our world, where I live, the manifestation of two things in Get Out bug me. The first irritation is the role of Black women in the life of the main character, Chris. Chris’s Black1 mother is dead, and, in her absence, he is emotionally crippled. In the scene where Chris describes the night of her death, Daniel Kaluuya’s nuanced performance drives home the dread, the helplessness, the loneliness, the powerlessness that Chris felt as he waited motionless for his mother to return home.
Missing mothers aren’t as frequent a trope in Black storytelling as are deadbeat dads, but when moms do vanish, the empty space doesn’t enrage, it haunts.
The Black woman police officer that his buddy Rod goes to to report Chris’s disappearance treats the specific details of Rod’s concern like an absurdity – which in our world, it most certainly ought to be. But, for me, that ridicule at the hands of a Black woman smarts.
Finally, as the movie reaches its conclusion, that Chris’s decision to save Georgina works against him, is, again, one of those things that works perfectly in the world of the movie, Betty Gabriel’s Georgina is both tragic and terrifying, but feels like a slap in the world where I live.
As played by Lil Rel Howery, it is Rod’s intrepid devotion that saves Chris from both actively insidious white destruction and passively devastating Black female absence/indifference/self-interest. Socially, culturally, this is a thing that requires deeper reflection in our world if not in the world of the film; I mean, not one woman – Black or otherwise – in the film can be trusted to have Chris’s best interests at heart.
The other thing that gets to me about Get Out (ha!) is the visual construction of The Sunken Place. Let me begin by saying that, holy, Get Out looks amazing! The cinematography is perfection. Toby Oliver presents all of the characters in their visual fullness. The movie looks like now, like this moment’s most sophisticated version in terms of range of tones, shifting white balance, and depth of field.
But, I had to suspend my annoyance with the visuals meant to represent the experience of The Sunken Place: gaping, bottomless, silent, starry, black space.
This is my personal problem, and although the root of it is widely understood, my particular approach is at odds with The Sunken Place in the movie. ‘Black’ has a negative connotation in English and in many Western languages. Thus, because it is applied to us, many African diasporic people have tried to reclaim it, rethink and reshape it. For me, that has meant reconceptualizing darkness – shadows, night, voids – as cooling or warm, safe, private, infinite and dynamic. And all the movie does, for me specifically, not anyone else, is turn my safe Space into a place of hopelessness and paralysis. Damn. Get Out even warps the actual parameters of my construction of Space. I have zero interest in traveling beyond Earth’s atmosphere. For me, space exploration is dumb, a tragic waste of time and resources when there’s so much right here that needs attention. Space, for me, is the deepest recess of my own mind.2
But, then again, Get Out is a horror movie (despite what we’re hearing). And, in truth, for me, a world without supportive Black women and where white people have infiltrated the darkest places in our minds (and continue their history of the medical and social exploitation of Black people) is, indeed, a horror. The horror! The horror!!!3
- we assume
- The closest I’ve come to seeing this version of my Space (heh) in pop culture is Troy and Abed’s in-house Dreamatorium in Community.
- Wilhelm Scream