Georgina and Walter: Get Out’s complex characters that no one is talking about
Everyone’s talking about Jordan Peele’s fictional-horror movie, Get Out. Employing ingenious comedy and unexpected thrill, director Jordan Peele uses this film to highlight race relations amongst whites and blacks in twentieth century America. The movie exudes a genius not seen before. Using a mostly white cast, Peele gives viewers a clear perspective of the many different characters that play a role in “post-racial” America. Though many of the messages and representations in Get Out are obvious, there’s much left to interpret, and that’s why everyone is talking. But, no one is talking about the complexities of Georgina and Walter.
Each character in the film is a multifaceted depiction of race in America. The white allies, the black culture lovers, the skeptics, and even a non black person of color (NBPOC) make appearances in the movie. But two of the most complex characters, whose real-life parallels are less apparent in the film, are Georgina and Walter (G&W). Correlations to Georgina and Walter may not be as easy to draw because they seem to be the biggest display of the blurred lines of race and racism. Peele shows you race in America through the lens of blacks and whites in his characters, Georgina and Walter.
G&W representing the past in the present
Georgina and Walter are introduced to the main character, Chris, as servant employees of the Armitage home. At face value, they are the obedient black servants to a wealthy, Obama supporting, white family. Chris witnesses their submissive actions and quiet presence. After seeing Georgina follow the commands of Mrs. Armitage when serving them outside, Chris describes Georgina and Walter, to his friend back home, as having “missed the movement.” In these moments, Georgina and Walter represent the complacent blacks. The black men and women who go through life always knowing to stay in their place. They do not fight systems of oppression, they simply go with the flow of the way the world has been laid out.
Later we find out that Georgina and Walter are Mr. Armitage’s parents whom “they just couldn’t seem to let go of.” Through hypnosis and brain surgery, the Armitages have kept the elders alive. This seems to be the most subtle message in the movie. “Holding on” to the parents can easily represent the lingering of white, racist ideologies into this very day. The inability for some whites to let go of the things that were taught (consciously and subconsciously) by previous generations. For those that say that racism is over and that the actions and beliefs of America’s forefathers are a part of the past and only the past, the subtle message here is that some of the past remains alive today. Just like the preservation of the Armitage elders, racism hovers and some of it is indeed intentional.
If Roman Armitage never got over his loss to Jesse Owens, what sort of resentment towards “strong, athletic, unhuman” blacks may he have passed on to his family? More simply, in his days as a white man, Roman Armitage was a brain surgeon who had been a part of the cult that Chris is almost defeated by. As a brain surgeon, Mr. Armitage, has clearly followed in the footsteps of his father. What other actions that our fellow whites take today derive from some of their prejudiced ancestors? Where and when was the solid line drawn, and the racist past left to the past?
The complexities of Georgina
Before Chris is aware that he is in danger of being stuck in the sunken place forever, he is almost warned by Georgina. In the scene where Chris accuses Georgina of removing his “cellular device” from the charger, Georgina apologizes and goes on to give Chris a loaded stare. During their staring match, a tear drops from Georgina’s face and viewers can’t help but wonder, “what is she trying to tell him?” Georgina goes on to reassure Chris that she and Walter are a part of the Armitage family and that they do not feel like outcasts in a house and town full of white people. Everyone knows that there was something that Georgina wishes she could get out; some sort of warning. Some agree that this scene represents the strong black woman making an attempt to save the black man. The black woman who recognizes the powers that be, who knows what is in store for the black man in America, but who is paralyzed by her inability to save him before danger hits. What I also see in this scene is the “color-blind” blacks. The co-worker who “understands” and thinks it’s a good thing when Liberal whites say “I don’t see color.” These are the blacks that agree that “racism in America is over.” Even though, from time-to-time, they feel trapped and want to speak up about it, they can’t; after-all, racism is over.
Then there’s Georgina’s closing scene. When Chris is making his great escape and he finds Georgina on the side of the road. Although most viewers were hoping he didn’t try to play super-save-a-ho, once we realized “he’s going to stop,” we were hopeful that Georgina had been long awaiting her way out too. I actually thought I saw something in her eyes that said, “Finally!!!” But I was wrong. She was on their side. Fighting against her own, with the inability to see the danger that her ‘“brotha” was in. She was unable to see both his and her need to escape. It was this moment that made me think of the words of Harriet Tubman, “I could have freed a thousand more, if only they knew they were slaves.” As conflicted as Georgina seemed in earlier scenes, and as hopeful as the viewer is for her freedom, she is fine where she is at. In fact, she tries to fight Chris in order to hold on to the life provided to her by the Armitages.
Does it make you think of your black “All Lives Matter” Facebook friends or that friend who argues that “everyone has the same opportunities?” Or maybe that family member who is so sold on European standards that they can’t even see the root of HBCUs and BET. Some will say, that in this scene it is the white Armitage grandmother fighting back, not the black person trapped in the sunken place, but that’s what is genius about what Jordan Peele did with this film. Where does the black sunken place stop and the white consciousness begin? Even to my partially and fully woke folk, which of your core beliefs and ideals fall in the grey area?
Who Walter represents?
Chris’s encounters with Walter are equally as complex as those with Georgina. But, arguably, the most impacting encounter is Walter’s last appearance in the movie, when he takes a shotgun to his chin and kills himself. Just after being “awaken” by the flash of Chris’s phone, Walter commits this finite act. What Walter’s suicide can easily represent is the black who would rather die than live a life in the sunken place. Seemingly, the everyday battle of the “woke” black. Though we might not all be suicidal, there’s the recurring thoughts of just giving up. James Baldwin said it like this, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” It can be tiresome. I’d rather be asleep and unaware, than awake and aware in a world in which I feel hopeless, is the true and relatable feeling I get from Walter’s suicide.
But what about the “not so woke” black? The young careless black boys and men in America? Those who seem to live suicidal lives. Breaking the law day in and day out, killing each other, thus, killing themselves. Clearly not making an effort to be a part of “normal” society. If Walter too represents this black, then is it now easier for us to understand how living in a hopeless world can lead to carelessness about themselves and others? They might not put the trigger to their face, but living such dangerous lifestyles, where they line themselves up for either prison or death, is suicidal indeed. Like Walter, would they rather live carelessly risking their lives and freedom, than subject themselves to life in the sunken place? The sunken place: a place where someone else is in real control, you can see what’s going on and even feel, but there is nothing you can do about it; trapped.
Black, white and other: we all are complex. Each of us is represented by one or more of Get Out’s characters. Jordan Peele’s genius is his ability to exemplify the complexity of racism in individuals and society. And he should certainly be recognized for his ability to do it while making us laugh. What Peele may have done for you, with Georgina and Walter, is help you to recognize the complexities of racism, even within yourself. Racism is not “over” and it’s more than lingering today.
If you haven’t seen Get Out’…get out! If you have, talk about it, go see it again and don’t forget to ask yourself: Is racism lingering inside of you or just the people and systems around you?