I wasn’t ready. When my wife suggested we go see Get Out this weekend, I didn’t know what to expect. Sure the movie got great Rotten Tomatoes reviews, but so have countless other movies I hated. Besides, it was a “horror film.” I gave up horror as a genre a long time ago because I felt it had no value. Two days later I’m still processing what I saw. I know one thing. It wasn’t JUST another horror movie. In fact, it wasn’t a horror movie at all.
Two Different Conversations
Here’s the strange thing. I find myself having two different conversations about the movie. One conversation is an insider’s conversation with my black friends. They get the subliminal messages. They understand the protagonist’s plight in navigating White culture. I was added to discussion threads. Friends shared memes of Crying Chris in place of Crying Jordan for March Madness upsets. We got each other. I was free to share my thoughts without fear.
The other conversation is a bit more guarded. How do you explain a movie that rails against dominant culture and the attack on Black bodies in a way that prompts White friends to go watch it? I tried. It’s a great commentary on what’s going on in our culture right now. It’s a very timely movie in light of the racial tension in our country. I went with “sunken place” answers. The safe ones.
What I really want to say? If you want to understand what it means to really be “woke”…go watch this movie. But I can’t say that. I’ve got to work past the “Well isn’t it a horror movie” question first. Then move past the “Those previews were really strange” comments. I know. Because I had the same comments before watching the movie. The conversation is tough. And I think it’s tough because I’m not sure my White friends are culturally bi-lingual.
Black people have always had to be culturally bi-lingual. We work in majority culture jobs, play sports led by majority culture owners, and shop at majority culture owned retailers. I know Black lawyers who wear Brooks Brothers by day and Yeezy’s on weekends. I can talk the development of the historical Black Church and have a discussion about the Protestant Reformation and its impact on Western culture without skipping a beat. It’s what we do. Code switching comes as natural as walking for us.
This is what makes Get Out such an uncomfortable movie. I think there’s only one thing scary about the movie. Black people aren’t sure those who aren’t culturally bi-lingual will get it.
Director Jordan Peele doesn’t care. He wants that discomfort. He wants to set two cultures on a collision course for one another and force dialogue. Dare I say that Get Out is a cultural Rosetta Stone for White people. It says what Black people want to say. “Enter our fears. See the world through our lens for an hour and a half.” So here’s a not so subtle plea to my colleagues (of all races). Get past the strange previews. Get past the genre. And get out to see this film. You’ll thank me later.