Sunday, February 26, 2017

GET OUT


Interracial relationships on the big screen seem to be a “thing” right now. Loving, a solid film that went a little unnoticed & under the radar, came out a few months ago and A United Kingdom, the true story about the relationship between an African King & his British wife, is set to be released in the near future. But Get Out is kind of the “anti-Loving” or “anti-United Kingdom” in that it isn’t trying to pull at any heart strings (which Loving did in a natural & organic way) or win awards (sorry, but United Kingdom looks like misfired oscar bait).

Full disclosure – I’m Black and my fiancée is White. We’re also from parts of Massachusetts that are more tolerant of interracial relationships than say…parts of Alabama or Bensonhurst Brooklyn (she’s from Cambridge and I’m from Amherst). Seeing this movie was kind of a fun “event” for us. The lightly twisted humor that we sometimes share with each other (I wont get in to specifics) plays off of some of the stuff in this movie so it only makes sense that we would go see Get Out opening weekend (we’re also both fans of Key & Peele). But I sometimes wonder if seeing Get Out was more of an event for us or more for me. I’ve always felt an above-average connection to director/comedian Jordan Peele. We both have a light fascination with The Shining (see the continental breakfast skit from Key & Peele), we both have a love for cats (I’m a cat parent and he co-starred in last year’s cat-themed Keanu), we’re both Black men in relationships with white women (an obvious source of inspiration for Get Out), and I’ve been told on more than one occasion in my life so far that I “talk white” (an ongoing subject that comes up in Jordan Peele’s work).

And putting aside all the racial/interracial stuff for a second - I was incredibly excited for this film because the art of mixing genuine horror with comedy is damn near non-existent in movies these days (some of you may not find Get Out funny but in my opinion there is a thin layer of humor that laminates the entire movie from start to finish).

Parents

For those of you that don’t know, Bob Balaban’s underrated/underappreciated Parents is one of my all-time all-time favorite movies and the perfect example of what I feel a horror-comedy should be (something that’s just as funny as it is creepy & unsettling). And, in my opinion, Get Out invoked the spirit of Parents because it’s just as funny (in a dark & twisted way) as it is scary (the tone, ambiance, music, etc). In fact, there are some strong yet basic similarities between the execution of Parents & Get Out. While Get Out is a film that plays off of the modern Black man's fears, Parents is a film that plays off of the fear that children have of adults. Both movies contain real social commentary hidden under a seemingly entertaining popcorn movie. Jordan Peele really understands the traditional tropes & pacing that makes a horror movie work. Sure there are predictable jolts & jump scares in Get Out but he also takes his time in certain parts and doesnt rush the story along (the movie takes place over the course of a weekend). And based on certain Key & Peele skits ("Baby Forest Whitaker", "Make-A-Wish" & the final moments of "Continental Breakfast") it’s almost like Jordan Peele was working towards Get Out for quite some time.

This isn’t the first movie to do what it did (convey a message concerning race & racism through horror), but it’s definitely the first (good) movie to do it in quite some time (plus the science fiction behind everything is pretty clever).
I put Get Out in the same lane of “social horror” films as White Dog, Candyman, Tales From The Hood, People Under The Stairs and, most importantly, The Night Of The Living Dead. I'm sorry but no matter how much George Romero has denied this, I am absolutely convinced that race was a factor in that film. Do you really expect us to believe a movie made in the 1960’s that ends with an innocent Black man being murdered by a mob of old white men has nothing to do with race??

Just look at the final moments of Night Of The Living Dead (left) alongside this photo of a real lynching…


Get Out is a success in my eyes because everything about it is so on the nose & obvious yet it still cuts deep and gets its point across. For those that don’t know, Get Out is the story of a young Black man going to meet his white girlfriend’s family for the first time and, as you’ve all seen in the trailer at this point, things don’t go well (one of my few criticisms surrounding this movie is that the trailer gives away too much and doesn’t leave anything for the imagination going in). On the surface that sounds like such a predictable & overused storyline. An updated/warped reworking of Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. But Get Out touches on that elephant in the room that a lot of people don’t want to deal with or genuinely cant see (there are people who really think that because we had two terms of Barak Obama that we’re in a post-racial society which couldn’t be further from the truth). This film touches on the fear that some Black men have living in this country (the opening scene really hammers this home). But, generally speaking, Black men on film are often big, strong, tough and/or stoic (Idris Elba, Mike Colter, The Rock, Denzel Washington, etc). None of these are characteristics associated with fear or weakness. But Black men get scared from time to time.
A (dark) source of inspiration for Jordan Peele in writing Get Out was the Trayvon Martin murder. Based on this country’s history with Black people, it’s understandable why we (Black American males) tense up when a cop car pulls up behind us or beside us. I’ve been in situations before where I’ve literally done nothing wrong and have nothing to feel guilty about but the feeling of a cop near me just made me feel guilty. As a matter of fact, the cops "escorted" me to my friend's house in Beverly Mass not too long ago (by escorted I mean I was literally tailed by a cop car for a good 10 minutes until I got to my destination).


I spent a lot of time in Boston and surrounding Boston suburbs for work for the last three months (I practically lived there during the work week between the months of November, December & January) and I did a little bit of house-sitting for two of my finacee’s sisters while they went away on vacation. I seriously feel like I asked them or their husbands to please let their neighbors know that I would be staying there an excessive number of times. I don’t know if any of you have ever been to Reading, Mass & Woburn Mass but there aren’t a lot of Black people in either of those towns. And that’s fine. That's not a criticism. But an unfamiliar large Black guy coming in & out of a house is going to set of some red flags to neighbors. An unfamiliar person of any race coming in & out of a house that isn’t theirs is going to draw some curiosity & suspicion but it is my personal belief (based on personal experiences) that a big Black guy like myself is going to set off even more red flags & curiosity.

But Get Out is in no way a representation of the first time I met my fiancee’s family either (not only is her family awesome but long before I came in to the picture her immediate family was already very racially diverse). Now…my fiancée & I have certainly had the kind of minor examples of silly intolerance that one might expect a modern-day interracial couple to experience from time to time (strange yet transparent looks from both Black people & White people), but nothing too crazy (I don’t want to present this as a sob story or anything). I’m also a large Black man so I sometimes draw attention to myself – depending on the setting – just by existing or entering a room. So, depending on the situation, a large Black man with a white girlfriend/fiancée/wife can bring on a potential double-take or a quick stare. And that stuff has certainly happened to us but I find that stuff more funny than I do upsetting. I’m too busy being in a relationship with the love of my life to worry about what someone I don’t know/care about thinks.

And there’s a flip side to the negativity that can sometimes come along with interracial intolerance. There’s this strange immediate/on-site comradery that comes up between interracial couples. Trust me it’s real and I’ve experienced it more than once. On two separate occasions – at two different jobs – pictures that I have up of my (white) fiancee have brought on other coworkers to show off their bi-racial children or Black husband which makes me smile. It’s like there’s a secret society of interracial relationships out there that have each other’s back. Actually that kind of sounds like a skit that Jordan Peele would have come up with for the Key & Peele show…

I don't know if I'd give Get Out a 100% rating (there are a few joke moments that validate the stereotype that Black men are easily attracted to white women simply because they're white and I found Caleb Landry Jones' performance as the brother a little annoying). I also dont think a well executed movie about race can ever be "perfect" or even almost perfect because race is a messy subject (I'm sure Jordan Peele is aware of this). But it's definitely a fulfilling movie-going experience at the end of the day

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