“Get Out,” film by Jordan Peele, 2017
This is the modern version of the film, “Guess Whose Coming to Dinner,” except now, 50 years later, black people are no longer sure they want to be invited. This is how ‘race relations’ are progressing many years later – going nowhere or worse. Of course, there are no such thing as different human races, but we reference the vernacular used by unscientific journalists, liberals and conservatives.
An upper-middle class and clueless young white woman romances a young black photographer, Chris, and invites him to meet her parents at their upstate and upscale New York home. This event would be fraught, even if both partners were white. She doesn’t tell the parents he’s black and he’s bothered by this omission. But ‘it’s all good’ he says a number of times – a phrase that is perhaps too optimistic for the circumstances.
From a romance to a comedy to a horror show, this film progresses into the predictable depths. The parents are odd – a neuro-surgeon that can’t quit with over-familiar comments; a psychologist mother that practices hypnotism related to cigarette-smoking; a nasty drunk brother that physically challenges Chris. Oddest of all are two black servants that work for the parents – a cook and a gardener, who both seem like hypnotized robots. Yeah, you know what is coming.
Mary Shelley’s socialist parable “Frankenstein” was about a human monster composed of body parts from other people. As detailed in the book, “Monster of the Market,” working class relatives of hung or dead people during Shelley’s time had to fight the hospitals and the state for their husbands’ or brothers’ bodies. Doctors were using the bodies for various purposes, including dissection in medical colleges. Present African parables describe kidnapped children abducted by the rich for their body parts. Current vampire tales borrow the same psychology. In many parts of the modern world like India, body parts from exploited populations like the Dalits are part of a brisk trade. Kidneys for sale! Vulnerable working-class bodies have been turned into commodities by capitalism - they are not merely flesh machines worn-out during the production process, but useful beyond that.
Partial Spoiler Alert
This film brings that story home to the U.S. The mother meets Chris as he wanders around late at night for a smoke, and hypnotizes him with a clinking tea cup. He is shaken by this, but tries to discount it. Chris observes one black man who is a companion to a much older white woman during a suspiciously unsuspected lawn party full of creepy white suburbanites. The black man seems oddly familiar, but he’s also robotic. Chris takes a flash picture of him and the flash of the camera seems to shake the man out of a stupor. The man physically attacks Chris in what might be a warning, yelling “Get Out.”
Chris sends the picture to his buddy Lil Rel, who works for TSA, and his buddy recognizes the man as a guy from the old neighborhood in the Bronx who disappeared. Over the phone, Lil Rel conjectures that the white folks are kidnapping black people and turning them into sex slaves or some other kind of slaves. Chris doesn’t buy this absurd story. Lit Rel brings this story to the police after Chris won’t answer his phone. The cops laugh at him too. I won’t tell you the rest.
What is striking about this film is that liberal white Obama supporters have been turned into their opposite. They are not Klansman or Republicans or any of the other stock racists. And only the most cynical black attitude actually reflects reality. Even cute, monied white girls come in for suspicion – as they should. The film reflects black distrust writ large, through a funhouse horror mirror. It was written by a black comedian. Is it a comedy? Not quite.
“Monsters of the Market,” reviewed below.
July 7, 2017