Get the Fuck Outta Here, the Sequel: Further Consideration of Jordan Peele’s GET OUT

[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A screen shot of Daniel Kaluuya seen looking at the camera, mouth open, crying. The meme caption reads: Get out of there! You’re a black guy in a horror movie!]

Writer and educator Law Ware and I had a conversation last week about the new film from Jordan Peele, Get Out. We discussed a gang of things, but there were still so many things left to cover.

Due to popular demand, Law and I decided to continue our dialogue and chop it up one more time for the peoples.

Needless to say, this chat contains spoilers. Proceed at your own risk.
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Robert Jones, Jr.: So Bruh. The ending. Okay, so like I said, I love this film, but I have some problems.

After that betrayal to end all betrayals; after all of the victims she lured, deceived, and fed to the lions; after her own attempts to murder him in cold blood, Chris still couldn’t bring himself to harm Rose. After all of that, he still viewed her white womanhood, in some way, too precious to destroy. Some folks have said that it was because he was still hypnotized to ensure he could never bring any harm to Rose. Which, if that’s true, yikes for the rest of his life after what we see in the movie because what the fuck? But anyway, that is the most biting critique of black men who lust/chase after white women, who seek the validation of Whiteness, that I have ever seen. Some might argue that it was a show of Chris’ humanity and loyalty, but I reject that reading for two reasons:

  1. He choose the television (propaganda distribution method) over his gut reaction/intuition regarding his mother. There are complications involved in this regarding his youth and how early anti-black indoctrination begins, and the means by which it is transmitted: television — which I think is actually the point of that scene. This is the dawning of how black men learn/are encouraged to turn away from black women — black people —in favor of white women/white people. (Another thing I haven’t seen addressed, and another biting critique of black men or perhaps of the prison industrial complex: Where is/was Chris’ father?)
  2. He had no problem killing the rest of Rose’s family.

He and Rose had only been together for four months. What could have possibly occurred in those four months that would justify such devotion? What could that scene have been other than an explicit display of how horrifically Whiteness fucked us up?

Law Ware: Sadly, that may be a flaw in the film. Peele did an interview with The Ringer’s EIC and said that while he went through many drafts, one of them being a dark ending where he kills her, he decided to end the film how he did because he wanted to preserve the humanity of the protagonist.

Chris does what he has to do before that scene to escape. The violence is always born of necessity. He said that killing would have been volitional — and he did not want that to happen.

[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A black man standing in a fighting stance. The meme caption reads: “When a white woman flirts with you after watching Get Out.”]

RJJ: I feel some type of way about that. It’s amazing how black people are expected to never to cross a particular line no matter what we suffer, no matter what we’re defending ourselves against, no matter what we’ve endured; while others cross the line by a matter of course, for the most trivial of reasons. What is seen as necessary for self-preservation for others is seen as immoral and even criminal for us. I see this partly as Christian indoctrination which, in my opinion, in this country, no matter who practices it, is always, in some way, in service to white supremacist cisheteropatriarchy. That “turn the other cheek” shit that we think makes us better than those who hunt us down. Personally, I think alive is a better philosophy than turn the other cheek when it comes down to it. We can talk about morals and all of that other shit when the playing field is actually level. To quote Sofia from The Color Purple: “Girl, you oughta bash Mister’s head open and think about heaven later!”

LW: Absolutely. It reminds me of the same impulse many of us feel to forgive white folks — no matter how vile their behavior. They say they will hang us from a tree while on their way to a fraternity gathering, we forgive. They shoot us in church, we forgive.

White folks are allowed to have vengeance — we must always be the better people. Even when that means sacrificing our humanity.

It reminds me of The Birth of A Nation, Nate Parker’s film. Black bodies are broken, but the death of white folks is largely off-screen. Even when we are morally within our rights to destroy the white body, we take great pains to not depict this on screen.

Now that there has been some distance between you and the film, what do you make of the depiction of white womanhood?

[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A scared black man is being carried by a black woman who is pointing sternly at a white woman. The meme caption reads: “Black dudes after watching Get Out.]

RJJ: When I think about white womanhood in the film, I’m brought back to the historical role white women have played in upholding and enforcing white supremacist capitalist cisheteropatriarchy while simultaneously hiding behind the marginalized identities they occupy to both justify their participation and escape implication. But beyond the depiction of white womanhood, I think the film’s central question is to black men: What the fuck is wrong with you that you lust after and cape for Becky, but treat black women like absolute shit?

More the the point, I think the film is asking black men: Why the fuck do you want to be white men? Don’t you perceive the inherent trap of such a desire? Don’t you realize the humanity that has to be sacrificed for you to make that transition? The price you will eventually have to pay? Because, you know, a price has to be paid. White people know that, too. That’s why they’re trying to lock us all up or kill us all. They realize that the universe calls for a reckoning and they’re trying to avoid it. But all they’re doing is delaying it. Justice — as white folk’s (mistakenly) favorite nig Martin Luther King, Jr. would have said — is inevitable. And while most black people don’t want vengeance — (though we would be absolutely justified if we did), while most black people just want white people to leave us the fuck alone if they can’t engage with us in healthy ways — the fabric of existence calls for a hard lesson to be learned. You and I might not be alive to see it, but history, and this film, has already shown us how this shit is going to end: in flames, from which we will be the only ones to walk away. Like Father Baldwin said: “no more water, the fire next time” — literally.

The first step is for black people to detoxify from our Whiteness addiction — and currently, there are a myriad of ways in which we continually prove that we’d rather be white than be humane.

And this isn’t about “blame.” This is about actions, irrespective of how those actions came to be. This is about undoing the damage and cutting off the source.

[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A screen shot from the film Get Out. A white woman sits in a chair stirring tea in a tea cup. She’s seen looking at a black man whose back is to the camera. The meme caption reads: “When your mental health care is ran by the same people that are the reason you need mental health care.”] Meme created by Eroc Arroyo-Montano.

On another note: I’ve noticed a lot of articles about the symbolism in the film and hidden meanings behind particular things. Are there any of these things that stand out to you? One interpretation that I find fascinating is the notion Timil Ekirika came up with, which is the deer as a manifestation of Chris’ mother’s spirit attempting to save her child. While the deer is technically male, and the most obvious reading is that of buck to black buck, as poet Keisha-Gaye Anderson noted, there’s still something deep about that alternative reading of it.

[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Tweet from @KateTheSnoFlak: “Are we all past Get Out, can I get back to dating y’all again?” Tweet from AmourAshanti: “Are y’all over racism, because I’m trying to get back to fetishizing black men?”]

LW: Regarding your earlier point, before I delve into possible symbolism, I think it just needs to be said: black men, you will never be white.

Never. Ever.

So we must focus on loving ourselves and our people and let go of chasing Whiteness, white proximity, and white approval. I think it is that chasing of Whiteness that got our protagonist into trouble and he was escaping his own mental enslavement as much as he was escaping physical bondage.

As to the symbolism, I still don’t know what to make of it all. The deer. The silver spoon. The tea. The cotton. There is so much there to interpret. And I wonder if perhaps it is supposed to be interpreted or if we are reading into a film what may not be there.

But the film is so layered that I’m sure there is, in fact, meaning to be mined.

But that deer haunts me. I need to figure that out. Especially since, if I remember correctly, he has a dream of the deer that awakens him right before he goes down stares to be hypnotized.

RJJ: I don’t believe any art could ever be read too much into. Other than to inspire us or wake us up, I think the purpose of art is to get us to analyze and look as deeply as we possibly can into just about everything. I know many people want to opposite to be true, for art to be only about escape and fantasy. And don’t get me wrong, art can also be those things. But I can’t ascribe to the notion that it should only be those things and nothing more. I think such an approach does the art, and the artist, a disservice. This is why I’m wholly enjoying the myriad of articles and essays about the various underlying meanings and symbolism in Get Out, particularly the ones by black women authors. Those are where I learned about some of the meanings behind the deer, the silver spoon, the tea, and the cotton.

Shit, I even liked the whole Froot Loops separate from the milk analysis. LOL!

LW: This is precisely the brilliance of black art: the polyvalence of interpretation.

We have survived so much that we are able to see what others cannot and in our ability to see, we can layer meaning like few others can.

So the sunken place could be symbolic of the slave ship. Or of the collective black unconscious. Or of the violence this country has visited upon black bodies. Or it could just represent the music of Milli Vanilli. All are possible.

RJJ: Wait. Points for the SAT word. LOL! And no you didn’t say Milli Vanilli. Homie, I’ma need you to go pick out a switch from the nearest tree. And you bed not bring back no small one. LOL!

Do you have any favorite pieces about Get Out? I find myself going back to “The Most Overlooked & Underrated Characters in Get Out Are Black Women” by B. Willis, “Georgina and the Insanity of the Good Black Girl” by Adiza Jibril, and “What Becky Gotta Do To Get Murked? White Womanhood In Jordan Peele’s Get Out” by Kinitra Brooks. I think I find those the most compelling because they fill in blanks that Peele simply couldn’t because of his place in the world. No one can be expected to be able to write other people’s experiences better than those people themselves. So I appreciated black women’s analyses on what was, at heart, a black male product that made black male concerns primary, while briefly touching on or alluding to the concerns of other black identities.

[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A black woman is seen in a close up. She is smiling and crying, looking to the left beyond the camera. The meme caption reads: No, no, no, no, no, no.]

LW: Oh yes. One of the joys of this film is watching it and reading the reactions. In a very real sense, Peele did it for the culture. I held a discussion at Oklahoma State University about the film and over 100 people came out to discuss it with me and Aisha Harris who Skyped in from NYC. I very much enjoyed almost everything I saw on VSB — particularly that piece by Brooks. Damon Young has a piece on Slate that went up today that I found insightful “The Disturbing Truth That Makes Get Out Depressingly Plausible,” about the number of missing black folks and Get Out. I absolutely loved Aisha Harris’s piece “The Most Terrifying Villain in Get Out Is White Womanhood” on Slate. (She is quietly becoming a cultural force to be reckoned with over at Slate. Her podcast Represent is required listening and she recently discussed the film with Jamelle Bouie.) There was also “Why ‘Get Out’, a Movie About Anti-Black Racism, Had an Asian Character” by Ranier Maningding that I enjoyed because it brought up insights from an Asian perspective that I just had not considered.

You know. It seems that white folks still love this film, though. Very similar to Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, I am asked randomly about this film by white folks. It seems this has replaced that in the culture as the go-to as a discussion starter for liberals. I find that ironic. What do you make of the success of the film?

It’s close to $90 million I believe off of a $4.5 million budget. Which is CRAZY.

RJJ: $90 million? Wow. That’s a lot for a kind of film that Hollywood claims no one would watch because the world hates black people. LOL! I do, though, want to be careful not to privilege capitalism as a measure of success, though I know that’s nearly impossible to do in a country where everything and everybody is for sale — and has a price.

If I’m not mistaken, James Baldwin (my apologies for constantly coming back to him, but he knew, and taught me, mad shit) said that the reason that white people enjoyed certain kinds of black art — particularly protest art — is because it assures them of their power. In other words, our complaints assure white folks that they are still in control, given that they are the source of the complaints and our continued complaining means that they still have the power to inflict the things about which we complain.

If that observation holds true, then the thing that would likely strike the most terror in the hearts and minds of white folk is leaving them out of it and not considering them at all. That is to say, create worlds and art and philosophy and love and movement and spirituality and whatever else, that doesn’t even so much as consider Whiteness whatsoever; treats it as a non-factor, a non-entity, as non-existent; rejects it outright, and completely centers us as though nothing else matters. And there’s evidence to suggest that this actually does terrify them: they bombed Black Wall Street when it became evident that we neither wanted nor needed them in order to survive and thrive.

[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A black woman lies in bed beside a sleeping white man. She looks at him suspiciously. The meme caption reads: “Me going to bed with my white boyfriend after watching Get Out.]

Integration has made this a much more daunting task as everything from our economies to our religions to our very own bodies are tangled up with theirs. But I think this is a question worth asking, a question that Get Out actually had me pondering: Shouldn’t the primary work be that of untangling?

And those articles that you mention: I haven’t read some of those. I’m putting them on my ever-growing reading list.

LW: Of course, I’m not saying that the box office numbers are why it is is a success, but I am surprised that it is making that kind of money. You never have to apologize for referencing Baldwin. He is, and continues, to teach us, to be relevant.

As to that question:

I think that may, in fact, be the logical answer to the questions the film raises. However, I am confident that is not what Peele intended to say — at least not a complete disentanglement. Yet, this film does show us how one can center the black experience regardless of the genre. And this is not a new observation. We have a wealth of black -entered genre entertainment. Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins mysteries, What Coates and Roxane Gay are doing with Black Panther and World of Wakanda, and, of course, the brilliant work of Octavia Butler. Black-centered genre entertainment has so much potential. I hope to see more.

This shows what can happen if only we are given the opportunity. There is so much brilliance happening right now. It feels like we are living through a moment in time that will be studied and discussed and given an academically weighty name like “the millennial black renaissance.”

RJJ: This is not surprising to me, actually. As I said a few years ago, I want some anthropologist or sociologist to research and study the impact the election of Barack Obama had on the white/non-black American psyche, non-black society, and on art/media.

These are just my anecdotal observations, but it appeared to me that when Obama was elected, black art/media suffered. I remember that at one point, not a single black artist had a number one hit on the charts for an entire year, and the only black music that was getting any shine was that performed by white artists. I remember that a slew of “white savior”/”lovable racist” films were released and most of them did very well at the box office. I remember a dearth of TV shows that focused on black people or the black experience. I had theorized that non-black people were feeling a symbolic powerlessness and loss of control with Obama’s election (even though non-black people voted for him), inverse to the symbolic inspiration black people were feeling. I thought that one of the ways they attempted to regain that control was through the domination of media and media narratives. And this seemed to be a correct analysis to me because as Obama’s second term was coming to an end, there was suddenly a renaissance of black media again, almost as if white people felt safe to let black artists/art/media back into the mainstream because the White House would once again be white. Although, Ava DuVernay had been holding it down the entire time because instead of waiting for white people to give her an opportunity, she created her own. But yeah. Someone should definitely do research on this.

And can we talk also about the music in this film? That #StayWoke song by Childish Gambino, that is inexplicably named “Red Bone,” which made it hard for me to find. LOL!

LW: Oh yes! I knew the song because I had reviewed Gambino’s album last year. But I loved how he used it Also, the use of “Run Rabbit Run” as a song that inspires horror at the beginning of the film when Andre is abducted. That song was popular during World War II, a horrifying time for black folks in America, and confirms to the message of the film: Get Out.

RJJ: And apparently, there was another song, “Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga,” which is a Swahili phrase that means, “listen to your ancestors” and the rest of the lyrics are saying, “something bad is coming. Run!” Whoa.

Additionally, I think the use of a Swahili song is, in itself, also a kind of implication. Most black Americans mistakenly believe that Swahili is the only language, other than English, spoken on the African continent — that is, those of us who know that Africa is a continent and not a country to begin with.

Let me ask you: If there was anything you could have done differently in the film, what would it have been? For me, it would have been Detective LaToya. I would have had her operate as a critique of black manhood and white womanhood in a way that was stronger, in a way that didn’t align her with Whiteness or patriarchy. And, of course, in a way that better utilized Erika Alexander’s comedic genius and timing.

LW: Certainly that scene. But also, I wrestle with if I would have preferred it end with the death of Chris. I love that he is saved by an instrument of black love, but that dark ending would have been poignant — and unsettling.

RJJ: You ever heard of the philosopher Walter Benjamin? He talked a great deal about film and its impact on the human consciousness.

LW: Oh yes. Of course.

RJJ: He believed that films with happy endings encouraged political inertia and that if you wanted to rally people to change unjust circumstances, particular films should have unhappy endings. I read somewhere that one of Peele’s alternate endings had Chris arrested and put in prison for killing Rose and her family. That ending would have devastated me, but perhaps it was the ending that should have come to pass for the reasons Benjamin cited.

Then again, there’s an argument to be made, one that writer Audrey Peterson made, that we already have that ending in real life and what could a fictional ending inspire us to do that a real-life one couldn’t?

LW: Perhaps Peterson is right. But it would have been a poetically tragic end to a horrifying movie. Yet, that note of hope is important because who else will save us? We will have to save ourselves.

[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A quadtych of Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and Rod from Get Out. The meme caption reads: You’re stuck in the middle of nowhere fighting for your life. Who are you calling?”]

RJJ: Indeed.

One final thought about the cop who asks to see Chris’ ID even though Chris wasn’t driving the car. There was a dude on Facebook who offered that perhaps the cop knew about missing black men in the area and was asking to see Chris’ ID as a way to potentially save him. The black guy was all like, “So see? Maybe he wasn’t racist!” What do you think of that reading? Because I was like, “Get the fuck outta here with that bullshit.” What white cop gives a single, solitary fuck about black men being missing in a world where cops shoot us down for holding a wallet which they mistake for a gun and then plant evidence to make it look justified, or choke us to death live on video?

[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A screen shot from the film Get Out. A black man is seen looking at another black man who’s is wearing a hat and whose back is to the camera. The meme caption reads: “When you realize not all your peoples are your peoples.] Meme created by Eroc Arroyo-Montano.

LW: In the immortal words of Oran Juice Jones: You gotta get on outta here with that. That cop was simply doing what cops do, what they have always done: policing, violating and surveilling the black body. I love how the film paints the police as they are: a threat to the person who inhabits a black body. Never, ever the solution to what ails us. That Facebook dude’s perspective sounds very much like a blue lives matter read of the film.

RJJ: And notice that the film is saying that the race or gender of the cop doesn’t matter. All cops are a threat to black people.

LW: Indeed. But I still cannot get away from the fact that a black woman was used in that way. I would have preferred a black male police officer be the butt of the joke.

RJJ: I agree. For so many reasons.

Finally, what do you make of the blind art collector who says, absurdly, that his purchase of Chris is “Not About Race”; he just wants to see with Chris’ eyes? First, making him blind might have been a little too on the nose and also incredibly ableist (as using disabilities as metaphors for ignorance is). But that mentality that many white people possess, where they feel this knee-jerk reaction to ensure that we know that whatever harm is happening to us, racism has nothing to do with it. Like, they make that much more important than the harm. For me, whenever a white person says it’s not about race, that’s how I know that it’s definitely about race.

LW: Absolutely. He, to me, represents the way other marginalized groups often engage in anti-Blackness. One can be blind, gender non-conforming, or even the recipient of racist violence — and still engage in oppressive behavior.

RJJ: Sadly, Whiteness contaminates any other identity it intersects with.

Well, homie. Again, this was fun. And just think: Peele says he has four more films planned that tackle social issues in a similar way.

LW: I cannot wait to see what he does. But I am scared. I don’t want it to be wack. We don’t need a black M. Night Shyamalan!

RJJ: SHADE! And the tea is that I find Shyamalan’s films are often steeped in anti-Blackness. Let me not even talk about Unbreakable. That’s a conversation for another time. LOL!

Thank you for another great conversation.

LW: “They call me Mr. Glass….” LOL! Peace and love my brother

[IMAGE DESCRIPTION: A black man, Rod from Get Out, is talking on his smartphone. The meme caption reads: “We all need a friend like this.]

Law Ware is a progressive writer in a conservative state. A contributor to The Root, Fusion, Slate and Dissent magazine, he is also contributing editor of NewBlackMan (in Exile) and the Democratic Left. He has been featured in the New York Times, and discussed race and politics on HuffPost Live, NPR and Public Radio International. He can be reached at law.writes@gmail.com.

Robert Jones, Jr. is a writer from Brooklyn, N.Y. He earned both his B.F.A. in creative writing and M.F.A. in fiction from Brooklyn College. His work has been featured in The New York Times, Essence, Gawker, and The Grio. He is the creator of the social justice social media community, Son of Baldwin, which can be found on Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram, Medium, Tumblr, and Twitter. His first novel is completed and is in the pitching stage, and he’s currently working on the second.