Getting the most out of “Get Out”

As a professional wrestling fan, I have been a participant in more than a few raucous wrestling crowds. The average pro wrestling crowd is a true cross section of America and, through years of observing the art form, I’ve come to recognize what kind of storytelling earns those crowd reactions. There are certain veins of the human experience wrestling easily taps into. Think about the saga of Stone Cold Steve Austin, the blue collar, unfiltered every-man, and his billionaire nemesis, Mr. McMahon.

The beats of this story were familiar to a wide audience. Who hasn’t had a bad experience with a boss? Who hasn’t felt bullied by someone to the breaking point? For months and months at a time Mr. McMahon would use his vast resources to keep Austin under his thumb. Then in the big matches…Austin would have his day and the crowd would go wild! The performers take the emotional stress and trauma many have experienced and supply a release of that pressure. When Austin punches McMahon, we all get the feeling of punching the evils in our life we can only dream of fighting back. It’s exhilarating and therapeutic. I love a good crowd reaction, but when similar cheers rang out from the audience at my viewing of Get Out, I couldn’t help but feel heartbreak.

get-out-6

Get Out is a horror movie, written and directed by comedian Jordan Peele (Key & Peele). I’m no stranger to the horror genre so it’s easy for me to recognize the familiar tropes. What Peele does so beautifully is turn those tropes on their head and showcase the horror of the everyday experience of many people of color. Take away the wild twists, turns, and horror violence of the movie and there is still plenty of tension and horror. “[It] was to say there’s a monster lurking underneath this country. And even though you don’t always see it, it’s there, and a lot of us know it’s there,” Peele told Ebony magazine of the film’s real monster, racism.

Naturally, when the topic of race is approached in any medium, a flood of political backlash soon follows and this has already been the case with this movie. Get Out’s perfect 100% Rotten Tomatoes score was tarnished by a review from a right leaning website, a review that not only gets simple details wrong, it incorrectly categorizes the film as a comedy saying it doesn’t stand up against “classic” comedies such as the critical and financial flop Norbit. What is particularly difficult about reviews like this, is that, by reacting far too quickly and harshly, it misses the heart of what Get Out is saying.

get-out-3

The story isn’t asking for political action. It’s not asking for widespread, big government intervention into issues of race. It’s not asking for the impeachment of the current president. It’s the cries of a biracial artist in America, from his celebrity platform, pleading for the majority culture to listen and immerse themselves in the horrors of everyday life for the minority. My viewing was so heartbreaking because it was clear this was the experience of many of the people I shared a theater with. Their cheers at the film’s climax were voices joining in to the cries of the filmmaker.

get-out-4

Get Out is a gift, it’s a window into the life of our fellow human. My prayer is that viewers might be able to listen to the cries, to fight back the initial urge to react, and join in on the experience. While the film isn’t asking for political action, it is asking for the feelings and experiences of people of color in America to be validated. You might not immediately understand what is going on in every scene, but what an invitation to ask why you don’t or to see the movie with a friend of color. “That’s the nicest thing you can hear from a white person sometimes: ‘I don’t know,’” Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya told Vulture.

As much as this film is fun to examine (there are tons of small details pointing to the history of race in our country), Peele is also asking you to examine your reaction to each scene, particularly throughout the final act. This herculean, first-time directing effort manages to cover incredible ground touching on relationships between races, genders, cultures, and within races, genders, and cultures. Sometimes the movie features humor you’d expect from Peele while at other times it features situations akin to academic studies on race. The narrative you enter with Get Out is complicated but so is experiencing its themes in the everyday.

get-out-1

“When I watched it, I was like, ‘This is how racism feels.’ You get really paranoid, and you internalize it, and you get really weird around people that are close to you, and you don’t understand it. You don’t know if you’ve got the right to be angry, and then it all goes f****** ape sh**, because you have this release of rage, because you’re not around people that you can talk about it with. The rage suits the genre. Like I said, there’s nothing more horrifying in life than racism,” Kaluuya says later in the Vulture interview.

If you are willing to ask some hard questions of the film and yourself, here are some I’d offer. *SPOILER WARNING* Some of these questions carry mild spoilers for the film.

– Rose’s father says a lot during the tour of the house…his relative was defeated by Jesse Owens, he would have voted for Obama for a third term, he feels bad about having people of color as servants…why might any or all of these situations make Chris uncomfortable?

– Even though the party scene is exaggerated, do you believe people of color often encounter conversations like these in real life (ex: a woman asks Rose if “being” with a black guy is better)?

– Once it’s revealed what is really going on at the Armitage home, what does it say about views of the black body through history? Have you or anyone you’ve known ever harbored anger or jealousy of the physical abilities of a person of color?

– Once it is revealed what is going on with Georgina and Walter, what does that tell you about the awkwardness of the interactions between them and Chris previously in the film? Why were these interactions so awkward?

– By the end of the movie you might realize there is actually more going on in the scene with the police officer at the beginning. Why might Rose have so adamantly jumped to Chris’s defense?

– Have you ever watched a slasher or horror movie before? They often feature a white female protagonist. Was your experience with the final villain showdowns in those movies the same or different than with Get Out? Particularly, when Chris has the film’s final villain in his grasp, do you feel differently than you might if the roles were reversed? Why?

This is a rated R film, so you may also want to take that into consideration before watching it.

Advertisements

From the “Inside Out”

The moment when a captive Mr. Incredible hears his super family fall over the radio and he loses his will to live. Our innocent romantic, Wall-E reaches out and finally holds Eve’s sleek blade of a hand. Facing the furnace of their demise, Andy’s favorite toys join hands to ride into the sunset together. Carl, tickets to their grand adventure in hand, watches Ellie struggle up their favorite hill only to fall to her knees. Over the years, Disney/Pixar has always brought the feels. So it’s only fitting that their newest offering is a story all about emotion, Inside Out.

Riley's Emotions

How do our modern day master minstrels of heart strings do with a movie all about our emotional insides? It’s complicated. And by that I mean Inside Out is perfect because it’s as complicated as our emotions tend to be. Our heroine is Riley, a pre-teen rink rat from Minnesota, right on the verge of an emotional awakening. To this point in her life, her emotions have been simple, sorted into five distinct categories. The movie is her journey towards a higher plain of self actualization.

Riley and her best friend

We join Riley shortly before a pivotal event in her life, an event that is hard for her to understand. Her emotions, though, have an even harder time placing this event into their normal categories. This sends Joy, voiced energetically by Amy Poehler, into overdrive trying to make sure Riley has “perfect days” to get her through this life transition. This puts her in direct competition with Sadness for control of Riley. Providing the melancholy melody of Sadness is the outstandingly cast, Phyllis Smith, who most will know from NBC’s The Office.

Naturally, their tug of war over Riley’s behaviors ends with both of them being launched into the deepest parts of Riley’s consciousness needing to fight their way back to her emotional control room. The movie is fun and will more than likely supply teaching clips for Psychology 101 professors across the nation for years to come. I laughed, I cried, I gasped coming face to face with my own full spectrum of emotions as I related to Riley. Most of us will. Most of us have faced times in our lives when we fail to reconcile our feelings.

Joy and Sadness

It is only after reminiscing about our favorite jokes that the conviction of the film really set in. Are we afraid to feel our feelings? Joy is given incentive to take control when Riley’s mom affirms her for being her “happy girl” through this trying time. How can she even let Sadness in a little bit after that? Isn’t that so true to life, particularly the Christian life?

You are the light of the world. If you believe what we believe how can you possibly ever show a single tear to those around you? How are you sharing the best news in the world with those around you if you can’t even hold it together? So we try to push it down and as we do this pieces of our personality, of who we are and what we feel fade away. We are afraid to let our sadness diminish our witness. But God is not afraid nor is he surprised by our emotions.

Fear!

Throughout the Bible we see God get emotional. He shows us how to express righteous anger, he gives us space to weep. We have a communal shoulder to cry on atop the Body of Christ. When released into community, our emotions can draw others to us. They invite God to draw near to us as well.

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
    my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy hill. – Psalm 3:3-4

Inside Out is, perhaps, the story of Riley’s first lament, the layered expression that acts as the main character of the majority of the Psalms. Lament is a frantic mixture of grief, anger, sadness, fear, disgust, and every variation of the lot. This is a story not just for own emotional health, helping us think of the times we hid or stifled our emotions in a moment of deep distress, but it can also shed light on how we relate to those around us. In your church, small group, Bible study, ministry, do you provide space for your community to feel?

Riley Holding Back

As we watch the events in Charleston, SC unfold, as churches all over the country fall to their knees to share the lament of Emanuel AME, our hope is that their grief will fade, that our cries will open the door for God’s peace to come, a peace that passes all understanding, a peace born out of steadfast love, a peace that is everlasting.

Everlasting, your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, your glory goes beyond all fame
And the cry of my heart is to bring you praise
From the inside out
Lord my soul cries out