MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo: Universal Pictures
Directed by Jordan Peele. Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams
Watching Get Out, I was reminded of what a great job genre films can do when they choose to comment on society. In the 1950s such sci-fi classics as The Day the Earth Stood Still and Invasion of the Body Snatchers commented on warfare and McCarthyism in a way that continues to make them significant touchstones for these ethical issues. The zombie films of George Romero were intentional in their satirical targets. His 1978 film Dawn of the Dead made fun of consumerism by having his living dead romp through a shopping mall. And sometimes people forget that Romero’s 1968 Night of the Living Dead used the theme of racism for its final shock.
Writer-director Jordan Peele (from the great Comedy Central sketch show Key & Peele) boldly creates a horror film that uses all of the scary/creepy/cringe-worthy/funny things about race that can be packed into it hybrid Meet the Parents/Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner storyline. Chris (Kaluuya) is a talented photographer whose new girlfriend Rose (Williams) is taking him home to her suburban country estate to meet her parents. Chris happens to be a person of color, so he asks Rose if she’s mentioned to her folks yet that he’s black. Well, no, not yet, but he has nothing to worry about; her dad would have voted for Obama for a third time if he could have.
They are greeted at the door by Dean and Missy Armitage (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener), Rose’s neurosurgeon dad and psychotherapist mom. Chris also meets the household’s black servants Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and Walter (Marcus Henderson), which is a bit unnerving. Everyone is a little too polite.
And things get even weirder after that.
The film is in no hurry to reveal its hand as it sets the table for it’s shocking final act, although fans of horror movies may be a few steps ahead of the game. While Get Out has been talked about as a horror-comedy, I was glad to see that it takes the idea of horror seriously enough to make most of its humorous points satirically.
After all, racism is a grim part of our common conversation, attached to a multitude of other sins, including mass incarcerations, racial profiling, hate crimes, and voting rights. The pre-credits sequence in Get Out creates its sense of menace by showing us a black man trying to find an address in white suburbia while being followed by a potential assailant. Our neighborhoods throughout America continue to be defined by race and class, with fear existing as the common divide.
The violence and language of Get Out will likely offend viewers who haven’t been to the movies in a while, but it just may connect with its horror movie target audience – young adults and youth – and create a conversational starting point that could move things forward.
One could only hope for a world in which all people could coexist and thrive. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and Night of the Walking Dead are both 50 years old and we’re not there yet.
Three halos: A thought-provoking horror comedy.
Three pitchforks: Pervasive swearing; frank sex talk; extreme violence; racism, overt and covert.
It saddens me that we Christians are often so quick to dismiss the world and attack one another. If you haven't seen the movie, consider whether your viewpoint adds to the conversation about the movie before making it. The conversation is a valid and useful one; we could be discussing the merit of pop culture and how to teach people (especially youth and young adults) how to find God everywhere they can, rather than dismissing out of hand what makes us uncomfortable or disagrees with our own values.
I haven't seen the movie yet, but have heard the many comparisons to "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner", including from the director who was inspired by it. He has given some interesting interviews about this movie, his intentions and inspiration in making it that are thought-provoking. I hope that those who are made uncomfortable by the idea of the movie will challenge themselves to see it before commenting, and then decide what value it does or does not have in the race conversation. I personally can't wait to see it and am hungry for anything that might help better inform me when engaging with my youth on this topic. I think we can learn even from what we disagree with, and are only better for knowing and hearing all the sides of a conversation.
Christine Martin, Winona United Methodist Church, youth director
I have not seen the movie, but simply want to make some general comments. Personally, I have an extremely difficult time with filthy language being used both in the movies and on television today. I wonder why we Christians would bother going to sit through and hear such language as Bruce indicated was in this movie. In fact, I have walked out of movies after a short viewing just because of that. Such language adds nothing positive. It also seems to me that there are those who pass judgment on certain segments of the population as a whole rather than considering the individual regardless of their race, color, or creed. White American males, for instance, are often portrayed as the root of all our problems when it comes to race relations. Guilty until proven innocent. We certainly have our problems with race relations and have a ways yet to go. However, as I recall, Dr. Martin Luther King longed for the day when all persons would be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Perhaps I was foolish, but I always thought that meant me, a white male, as well. There are many good movies out there that will touch your heart and cause you to really think. One in particular is "Hidden Figures." A movie well worth your time to see. Our country and our church is deeply divided, and that my friends in not a good thing. It is time we talk about the real causes of our divisions and not depend on the slanted viewpoints of a movie, a book, or a political party to direct and control our thoughts and actions about race relations. Movies and books do not resolve problems. Just as the Annual Conference cannot solve all the problems of a local church, neither can a government solve all our problems. In the end it is up to each of us to listen, share, pray, and act. People coming together with sincere hearts willing to listen and share can be a great start. Maybe I'm just out of touch, but common sense tells me I am not. Forgive my ramblings. File 13 is always readily available.
Pastor Gary Fitzgerald
Are you kidding me? You see a movie whose premise is the persecution of black people, as hopeful with regard to having a conversation about race relations in America? You put this movie on par with Sidney Poitier and Spencer Tracy’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Tell me your post was an early April fool’s joke. Just the premise of “Get Out” should be patently offensive to anyone who has even a hint of concern for social justice. A storyline that depicts black people as prey for the white power structure, even fictionally is beyond offensive to those of us who want to move past racial stereotypes. This movie is careless, and crass, and it does a disservice to films like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, which was courageous, and tackled race relations head-on at a time when it was not popular to do so. This movie toys with a serious issue that America is still grieving over.
I’m appalled by your review. Shame on you and the movie producers for looking so frivolously at such a grave American disease.
Pastor Marc Tibbs, North Coast District, East Ohio Conference
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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