Before you clutch your pearls—wait. Do black people own pearls? Aside from AKAs, I don’t think so, so I will revise the previous sentence. Before you clutch your Jesus piece, allow me to elaborate.
There are definitely movies with more black characters or blacker themes (Friday, Do the Right Thing, Fruitvale Station, etc.), but Jordan Peele’s keynote address to the Sundance Film Festival brought up the idea that perhaps no other mainstream film has so unapologetically exposed every facet of black people’s perceptions of racism and of white people in general.
According to Deadline, Peele gave the keynote address at the Sundance Film Festival Independent Forum on Sunday and addressed many of the themes of the film, digging in on how it differed from other mainstream films like 12 Years a Slave and Hidden Figures.
Peele pointed out that the “white savior” complex that underlies many movies often gives white audiences an out because there is always a white savior who absolves them of racism. In their thinking, there has to be at least one good, nonracist white person for the audience to identify with.
But not in Get Out. “Rose subverts that,” Peele said, speaking about the main antagonist of the movie, who masquerades as the protagonist through most of the film, adding, “Sometimes all white people are evil—sometimes—but not all the time.”
“Every white person in this movie is evil,” he told the audience. The director explained that before this one hit theaters, he couldn’t recall any mainstream movie that ends with the black character killing a white person—much less a white woman.
Peele said that he wanted to use the horror genre to address the post-racial lie of the Obama era while having black characters do things moviegoers wouldn’t normally see on-screen in a scary movie. Instead of frantically waiting for death, Chris—the main character—was intent on escaping, as the name Get Out suggests.
While the flick didn’t compromise on how it treated its white characters, Peele also wanted to make sure that white watchers could relate. His single-shot opening made white audiences experience what it feels like to be in white spaces as a black person, while translating the anxiety black people know all too well. He sought a balance between “what black audiences need” and “what white audiences will be watching.”
“Black people would recognize that fear—it’s part of the black identity and the horror of America. There are things we are cognizant of because we have to be,” Peele explained. “For white audiences, they see how it is to be a black man in a suburban neighborhood at night.”
The themes of the film, according to Peele, had less to do with the individual white characters in the movie and instead focused on the idea of how violence was inflicted on Chris and other black bodies for a singular purpose: to steal, appropriate and erase the talent and abilities of black people because of privilege and greed. “The system itself is the monster,” Peele told the onlookers.
While it may not be the blackest movie ever, I can’t think of another movie that enjoyed as much mainstream success and left black people cheering at how real it was while white people simultaneously praised the movie because it was a good “analogy.”
Besides Boo 2! A Madea Halloween, can you name another one?
Go ahead. I’ll wait.