Saturday, May 06, 2017

Get Out: A "Woke" Analysis

When they [horror films] resonate, when they hit their stride, it is because there is some social.., there’s something in the zeitgeist, some real fear that the movie is playing to. You know that’s like how the torture porn genre became big in the Post 9/11 Era. You know, that was us exorcising this demon within us. We were out for blood.., in this weird way. So this one [Get Out] is less allegory and more strait up about what it is.–Jordan Peele

The opening quote is from a BUILD Series Interview in February 2017 with Get Out Writer/Director Jordan Peele and best summarizes the layers of insight I drew-up from this film. His deliberate use of the German term “zeitgeist”, meaning “spirit of the age” (zeit ‘time’ geist ‘spirit/ghost’), speaks volumes in and of itself. Get Out, dubbed a Social Thriller by Peele, was released in 2,781 theaters on Oscar Weekend, February 24th, with a production budget of 4.5 million dollars. Earning a coveted 99% Rotten Tomatoes ranking, Get Out has grossed over $170 million domestically as of today. As a Blumhouse Production, a company that’s generally known for low-budget horror films, this was highly successful for a film with a 4.5 million dollar budget. In fact, Get Out is the first film debut by a black Writer/Director to gross over $100 million dollars.

What interested me the most about Peele’s quote was the ambiguous “what it is.” While it’s obvious to the naked eye that “it” in this film can be race, there are many other layers undetected by the naked eye. When I first saw this film there were five films that specifically came to mind where I could see Peele drawing his inspiration. In viewing some of his interviews about Get Out he mentioned four of these films specifically by name or included them in the film’s dialogue. These films are as follows and should be critically examined to gain further insight into various themes Peele is strait up about in Get Out: Rosemary’s Baby, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, Eyes Wide Shut and The Stepford Wives (1975). The fifth film that I haven’t heard him speak about or imply is called Inception. While Peele is credited with writing this film, it’s clear to me that it’s much more at play behind the scenes. In music production there’s a function used called quantization that eliminates imprecision. For example, if a snare or kick drum you’re playing is a little off beat, the quantizing function will sync the snare or kick exactly on beat. Although it’s precise, sometimes it sounds too perfect, digital, mechanical and loses some of its human touch. The timing of this film, and his constant admittance that he didn’t think this film would ever be made, could not have been any more perfect. In the same interview Peele states, “Since Strait Outta Compton came out and really broke a lot of monetary boundaries that were thought, um, existed, I feel like we’re in the beginning of a Renaissance of many untapped voices to do, to get platforms to do really elevated work.” While some people believe in perfect storms, it’s also possible for perfect storms to be made. Our most recent presidential election is an obvious example of that.
Franz Friedrich Anton Mesmer

In addition to race and microaggressions, one of the other themes in Get Out was the use of mind control, hypnosis and the audit-like techniques employed by Scientologists. The fact that I haven’t seen much commentary on that I thought was very strange. As someone who has studied these sciences in great detail over the years, I can say that they’re very real and being used on the masses of people every day; often under the guises of advertisement, marketing & promotion, media and image branding. The main character Chris [Daniel Kaluuya] was hypnotized during a time known as the witching hour in occult circles; the same time certain “programming” is on the television and the point during our sleep where we’ve reached the REM stage. So I've learned not go to sleep with the television on. If you must, leave the television on something specific, or even play specific music, that you want to download into your subconscious. Keep in mind that this is also the time where certain orders, covens and etc. perform certain rituals; there is less conscious resistance to any determined idea when people are sleep. During the dinner scene where Chris laughed it off that his girlfriend Rose’s mother, a Psychiatrist/Hypnotherapist, used a watch-like pendulum to hypnotize people, it was eventually shown that this is something we shouldn’t laugh off. Hypnotism, as we seen by Missy Armitage’s use of a simple tea cup, can successfully work using various objects in place of a pendant/pendulum. To be crude about it, if nakedness, music or a treading topic can focus our attention long enough to put us to sleep then that’s just as good or better than a pocket watch. This concept is what "Law of Attraction" self-hypnosis mechanics are based upon. While many viewed the tea cup as the object Missy Armitage used to hypnotize Chris, I would argue that it was actually her silver spoon. Historically, that hypnotic symbol of wealth, and the false sense of white acceptance and promise of miscegenation, has been the death of many black people in North America.

Another theme expressed in Get Out, which echoes Peele's above comment on America's "torture porn genre", is the culture of sexual ambiguity that’s often said to exist in affluent white communities, especially Hollywood, dating all the way back to its cultural codification in ancient Greece, Rome and in many contemporary European societies. Popular examples of this are the history of Sappho in Greece, Caligula in Rome and the grotesque Sheela Na Gig carvings of naked women stretching their vulva found on churches, castles and other buildings throughout Europe, particularly in Ireland and BritainDuring a scene when Chris talked to his friend Rod [Lil Rel Howery] on the phone about his experience at Rose's parents house Rod jokingly remarked that her mother Missy Armitage is probably hypnotizing black people to be sex slaves on some serious "Eyes Wide Shut sh*t!" This theory of Rod's was a constant reference throughout the film and speaks to the general notion and conservative attitude black folks have concerning these ideals [how white folks get down], especially in a society that has historically restricted our liberty. It must be noted here that although we've seen elements of this sexual ambiguity expressed in some black and brown societies that pre-date Greece and Rome, those societies did not accept nor entertain these elements as a part of its cultural norms. For example, the word homosexual [and lesbianism] is derived from Greek and Latin [Roman]; many classical and indigenous languages didn't have a word to functionally define or support this sexual ambiguity. Even when you're looking at the Erotic Art temples of India; they are the direct result of Hindu influence whose lineage goes back to the Aryans or Indo-Europeans who invaded India. At one point Chris starts to learn something isn't right when he discovered a hidden Pandora-like box in Rose's room of her posing intimately with over a dozen young black men, including the black gardener, and one female house maid. It was the Nation of Islam co-founder, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, who often described the white woman as “the devil's last trick for the black man, and the modern day Delilah” used by the white man to thwart our progress and create enmity within the black family. In a Theology of Time lecture on July 4th 1972 Muhammad warned, “My young brothers, do not grab these blue-eyed gals of his. They are doing this today to get you away from the God of your salvation. The girl has been taught a long time, so when this day comes that she will sweet-heart with you and she will blind you to the knowledge of the time so that you won't recognize what she is doing.” 
As in any film I watch, my approach is as a social scientist and Get Out is an excellent study of America’s past, present and potential future attitude about race, relations and cultural appropriation. In an age where “Stay Woke” has become a popular generic hashtag among Millennials, our next step is to literally “Get Out.” Get Out of the mindset that coded films such as this are enough to effectively combat over a century of Hollywood propaganda that has systematically demonized, caricatured, dehumanized and co-opted the culture and identity of black people. We must all play our part in using our voice to create and control our narrative. A voice to tell our stories through all spheres of people activity, that no one else is qualified to do.

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