Get Out’s been stealing the hearts and minds of audiences all across the board from casual moviegoers to esteemed critics. It’s been hailed as groundbreaking, shocking and a great satire. Many think it’s a deep and provocative representation of prevailing systemic racism in America today. (I would have voted for Obama for a third time!). Jordan Peele’s Get Out satirizes the experience of being black in modern America, illuminating the microaggressions and materializing these fears and paranoia in a way that emphasizes the lingering and dehumanizing effect felt by Black Americans. It is a fascinating concept not without its merit. But Get Out’s third act undermines its core message. There is a certain misguided approach that makes everything too literal. Get Out goes into full science fiction mode, painting the community in question as some sort of psychopathic collective that clinically ‘dissects’ Blacks and re-appropriates their bodies and minds to their own benefit. While this is certainly a bold and uncompromising narrative choice, I think everyone has to take a step back and actually think about what its trying to say.
Yes I understand Jordan Peele’s satire. I just don’t think it works. Get Out was so unsettling mainly because it blew up the microaggressions in a way that seem disturbingly visual and personal. Chris was our vehicle for empathy. Through his excruciating facial expressions and the growing eccentricity and weirdness of the world around him, we get an inside scoop into the pains of being a black man in modern America. It is hard to ignore these microaggressions but even harder to speak against it because these microaggressions are packaged as something nice and patronizing. Harder still is the fact that these microaggressions are often made unknowingly, pointing to uneasy state of race relations in America today. Racism and slavery has been ingrained in America’s racial past that it is hard to shake off the subconscious implications. When White Americans speak to Black Americans, there is sometimes an urge to overcompensate and be patronising. And of course there is always the racist bunch who knowingly provoke with microaggressions. Peele seems to be very acute of this and does great work highlighting the ambiguity of intention behind such unknowing/knowing provocations and hostilities.
The crux of it is that such micro-aggressions and subtle derogatory remarks are so easy to miss for the person speaking and yet make life so difficult for the person hearing it. The crux of it is how it is impossible to determine the nature behind such a provocation, if it is deliberately malicious or truly unintentional, and the damaging effect this ambiguity can fester in the minds of Black Americans. The crux of it is that such microaggressions may be spoken so freely and carelessly yet Black Americans find it difficult to seek clarification or redress their White counterparts for their mistake – This, of course, is the result of the fact that Blacks are a minority (as emphasized in the film as well). It is this awkward ambiguous state of affairs that continues to rob Black Americans of being seen and talked to as a normal person. It’s a pervasive phenomenon that’s been continually swept under the rug, while Black Americans experience conversation with such growing paranoia and disdain. Black Americans are ‘objectified’ and ‘robbed’ of identity from microaggressions which are either intentionally racist or misguided carelessness. There is a pain from hearing it, of not knowing which is which and of confronting the fact that it’s so common that one has to wonder if the unintentional racism is just as scary. Modern racism in all its ambiguity, awkwardness and its ‘unintentional’ quality is the main issue here. Therefore, it is weird that Jordan Peele’s film is so literal about the evil of the White community that makes their intentions so straightforwardly vile and racist- Get Out’s concept in the third act is therefore misguided.
By marking the White American families as a collective working cohesively to lure and tear apart Black Americans physically and mentally is absurd. Modern racism is more ambiguous, subtle and just as insidious not because it outwardly objectifies Blacks but because it inwardly objectifies them. It is terrifying not because there is a collective agenda by fellow White friends and colleagues to objectify Blacks but through unintentional quips and microaggressions. It is not a concerted effort to dominate. It is the ambiguity of intention and the awkwardness of confrontation that keeps microaggressions that continues to rob Blacks of a voice; It is not because there is some clear malicious intention behind these transgressions. By painting Whites as clearly defined villains and racists, Peele’s satire doesn’t hit the nail. He loses the plot of ambiguity and awkwardness in favour of collective evil.
Get Out would have been stronger if the third act focused on the psychological damage that Chris faced. A greater emphasis on the ambiguity of such microaggressions would have nailed it for me. In the end, even if the intentions behind these microaggressions turn out to be simply harmless, the unknowing and pervasive nature of such subtle racism is justifiably damaging for Chris. The point, then, is that no matter how harmless the intention, subtle and unintentional racism is still hard to shake off and just as damaging and harmful. This might have made for a more surreal ‘psychological’ and ambiguous film that truly reflects the state of race and racism in today’s world.