Breaking Down What Watching 'Get Out' Meant to Me as a White American
One of the most talked about films of the year is 'Get Out,' a film highlighting race issues going on in our country.
(MAJOR SPOILERS FOR 'GET OUT' WILL FOLLOW)
Over the weekend I went to see one of the most talked about films of the year in Get Out. I had seen the trailer, heard the buzz, and knew the gist. I knew this was going to be a film highlighting the race issues going on in our country.
I was hesitant to go see the film, because I knew as a white American there were going to be certain aspects of the film that would make me feel bad about myself simply for being white, but I went anyway. As I watched the film I soon realized I was right I felt terrible watching the way the main character Chris was treated, but I also had a realization that I should feel bad.
Highlighting the race issues and white peoples contributions to those issues was the main point of the movie. So ignoring it would only make me guilty of essentially what has caused these issues to begin with. Racism was something that laid dormant for years, because we as Americans just ignored the issue - we knew it was there, but we proceeded with our lives in ignorant bliss until it finally arose in everyday life and revealed it's hideous nature.
Now we finally have groups like Black Lives Matter and many others that are fighting to end racism. While I don't speak for every white person I think one thing holding this back is that most white Americans are doing what i almost did with Get Out and ignoring these issues to save themselves from heart ache which is a natural human reaction.
I hope I haven't already lost readers, so if your still with me I want to let you know that I'm not writing this just to call out white people and say they're racists and deplorable people. Im writing this to try and help people look at things from a different perspective. I'm not a guy trying to be looked at as one of the "good white people," because the fact of the matter is I've been guilty of the same things.
I think in order to understand where I'm coming from you need to know a little more about me and the ideals I grew up with, but I promise I'll be quick.
I'm born and raised in North Carolina and more specifically in a rural town that is actually known for being a redneck wasteland. Rival schools would dress up like hillbillies to our High School football games. So, I've grown up around individuals with questionable morals when comes to race and people who are just purely racist.
Imagine sitting next to Merle Dixon everyday in class, that was a majority of my high school.
I know girls whose parent have claimed they would disown them if they brought a black man home and I've heard the "N word" thrown around with malicious intent many more times then I'm comfortable with.
I grew up having questionable opinions on race. I can remember riding in the car with one of my friends and them being cut off by a black person and then saying the sentence "that's not a black man that's a [N-word]!" Obviously they actually used the real word.. That painted a picture in my head for a long time that there are good black people and bad black people. I soon learned the true ignorance behind that thinking though.
When I met my girlfriend Amy who is very passionate when it comes to diversity issues I had never even heard of the term white privilege. It was never taught to me and I had never heard anyone else mention it. When she taught me what it meant my initial thought was "I don't receive any privileged," and I wrote it off. As me and Amy got further in our relationship though she continued to teach me these lessons and I started to understand what that term really meant and that the horrible lessons I had been taught in my life were wrong.
Watching Get Out was like seeing a culmination of all these issues broken down and fed to me in a amazingly entertaining and frightful way. I'm going to take these pivotal moments and explain what I mean.
How Rose Handled the Cop
This scene was at the beginning of the film and it's a classic racist cop scene where he asks for the black guys I.D. when he wasn't even the one driving. Rose then goes off to insult the cop and call him out for being racist.
While this was a great way of Rose sticking up for her man I also saw an obvious case of white privilege here and Rose used hers to shut down the cop. We've seen plenty of videos and heard stories where a black man or woman would attempt to do the same thing Rose did and end up being arrested. Instead of forcing the issue here though the cop let it go.
My Grandfather, Uncle, and Cousin are all police officers so I have always been raised that you listen to an officer and do exactly as you've been told and I still believe this is true, but the director Jordan Peele showed us how powerful white privilege can be in situations like this.
The Armitage's Initial Reaction to Chris
When Rose brings Chris home to meet her parents for the first time he is immediately greeted with warm hugs and affection. The Armitage's make it well known that they wanted to make him feel welcome, but they went too far.
We see Mr. Armitage make many awkward comments trying to show Chris how okay he is with him being black. Things like saying he doesn't want Chris to get the wrong idea about them having black ground keepers and thinking they're slaves and saying "I would've voted for Obama a third term, best president in my generation. Those are only two, but they both had no context and it was obvious he was going out of his way to make himself look like one of the "good white people." It's just like saying I have a black friend or I dated a black girl, it doesn't give you a get out of jail free card when it comes to being racist.
Instead of just treating Chris like any other person, he went above and beyond to try and impress him with how okay he is with his daughters boyfriend being black. This was there to show how some white people tend to act towards black people to try and be one of the "good white people," but this shouldn't even be on white peoples mind to begin with.
There is no such thing as good white people and bad white people and no such thing as good black people and bad black people. To categorize something like that is wrong.
The Armitage's Plan for Chris
This is where if you haven't seen the film yet I suggest you stop reading as this is to reveal the giant twist in the film. When we find out what the whole film has lead up to, we see that the Armitage's plan to use sell Chris' body off to the highest bidder and use it as a vessel for that said buyer.
They wanted to use black people for their bodies. This was Peele calling out the stereotype of black people being more athletic then white people. This reminded me so much of former NBA owner Donald Sterling comment that came out in 2014. When he was recorded essentially referring to the players on his team as tools for his teams success.
While I don't think the Armitage's plan was made with solely because of Sterling's comments, I think that it shows that there are people in America who only view black people as tools. Whether this be for sports, work, or sexually. There was a scene in the film where a woman asks Rose if the rumors are true that black men are more well-endowed than white men - this woman had the intent to put her husbands brain in Chris' body for sexual purposes.
The Cops Arrive at the End of the Movie
At the very end of the film we have Chris choking out Rose as she has betrayed him and a cop arrives on the scene. In that moment everyone in the theater assumed that this cop was going to think that Chris was murdering a helpless white woman and his side of the story would be thrown out the window. Jordan Peele did an amazing job of playing this scene out, because it played into what every viewers worst thought was. Even the character Chris thought this would be the case, he put his hands up prepared for his inevitable loss.
While it turned out to be Chris' friend Rod coming to save him, it fulfilled its purpose in reminding everyone just how far Americans have to go. The director played on our stereotypes and it was a realization for me just how often this does happen.
When you have a room of one hundred people assuming the end of the movie just based off a cop pulling up it should be evident that we have a problem in this country with the police force. As I said above I have a lot of family that are police officers, but I look past my own bias and see the problems surrounding it all.
This was an incredible film that if you have yet to see it I plead that you do. Maybe your like me and don't want to be constantly reminded that you might have a problem, but in the end the whole point of this article is to try and convince those who may be hesitant to see the film that it is worth it.
This is one of the rare times that we get to see a major film from a black mans perspective. Hollywood rarely has a film lead by black actors and actresses and whenever they are they usually don't pull on the social issues quite like this and if they do the people that should be watching it -white people - won't go because it'll be labeled a "black movie."
Jordan Peele is a genius because he took this social issue and masked it with a thrilling horror that will entice a diverse audience to come and watch it. I think when it's all said and done this film can become iconic, but Americans need to be paying attention to not just the entertaining story, but the true message behind it.
Not only should you see it, but be open to its message and try and look at things from different perspectives, I know how hard that can be. It's human nature to not admit when your're wrong. For example, Yesterday a woman pulled right out in front of my car and I honked my horn at her and instead of them waving apologetically or just letting it go, they instead honked back at me. It made me so angry because I didn't understand what would make her think it's okay to honk at me when she was obviously wrong and she has to know shes wrong. I think watching this film and looking at everything I've learned in my life have helped me understand why she did this just like how some white people fail to see the other side of the coin.
That woman hated the fact that she was wrong and more so she hated that I was calling her out for being wrong. It upset her so much that she ignorantly honked her horn at me just out of spite. I think that some white peoples refusal to look at things from a black persons perspective comes from being constantly told they're the problem that they ARE wrong.
America will never grow as long as this keeps happening though. Change has to start with white Americans (including myself) admitiing that yes we are the problem. We must take responsibility for the privledge we have just for being white and at least try to understand how much harder life might be for someone whose skin is shades darker than us. For some white Americans I think it sounds silly that life for African Americans can be so much more difficult, but look at the facts. People dont protest and riot in the streets for nothing. Don't you think they'd rather be sitting on the couch and watching TV? But they feel like they need to be out there fighting for their rights.
White priviledge, categorizing, and stereotyping are all things that I a white american am guilty of. It hurts to admit it, but it's true. To understand though you have to be willing to look at the other opinions and even admit that your whole way of thinking might be wrong. If a white boy born and raised in the middle of a county ass town can overcome the misteachings he has learned and admit his own faults then I don't see how why anybody else couldn't.
As cliche as it sounds it starts by looking in the mirror and wondering what you can do to fix the problem. I will never understand the pain and suffering that African Americans go through, but I want to look back on my life and at least say I tried to help find the answer.