- Dec 16, 2017
"A look at how Jordan Peele's Get Out makes use of fetishism, double consciousness, and white womanhood to comment on current social and racial issues."
By Portia Zuba
Photograph by: Universal Pictures
There has been outrage associated with the fact that Get Out was nominated in the comedy category at the 75th Golden Globe Awards. This outrage is justified because like one of the actors in the film noted, “there is nothing funny about racism”. However, like Jordan Peele argued, humor is one of the ways we face our demons.” Speaking for myself, I enjoyed watching Get Out even more because I was able to laugh in many potions of the otherwise, somber and scary film. I believe that Jordan Peele targeted a larger audience by using symbolic and satirical nuanced ways to portray the horrors faced by the African American population. For this piece, I want to focus on Jordan Peele’s use of fetishism, double consciousness, and the use of white womanhood in Get Out to comment on the current social and racial issues. The plot of the film focuses on Daniel Kaluuya’s character, Chris Washington, who is a black photographer with a white girlfriend called Rose. It is clear at the beginning of the film that they have strong feelings for each other and that they are aware of the challenges that they will encounter as a biracial couple. Rose feels that it is time for Chris to meet her parents at their home in the countryside and promises Chris that they will leave as soon as things become awkward. Things become awkward from the moment Chris arrives at Rose’s home, and these are some of the awkward moments that portray the purpose of this piece:
At the party in the movie, one white older woman touches Chris in a very suggestive manner and asks Rose if “it is better” with a black man. What this portrays as it has been noted by many people, is how the black body is sexualized. Touching Chris in such a sexual manner with no permission, shows the level of entitlement white people have historically had when it comes to black bodies. This can be traced back to the days of slavery, when most black women served as property and pleasure objects for their slave masters. Moreover, by choosing to specifically ask about his intimacy with Rose, this white woman was symbolizing how black people in the US are usually not seen for more than their bodies. Black features like full pink lips, shiny skin, and the kinky hair are seen as “exotic” and are applauded, but the most interesting pattern is that the owner of those features is mostly separated from them. Statements such as: “your skin is so exotic” demonstrate the way in which black skin is seen as something of worth and maybe even as an aspiration, but blackness in its entirety is not. This fetishization of black features is prevalent in current pop culture with stars like Kylie Jenner being the “face of full lips” yet multiple black women with such features are unrecognized or in some instances even criticized.
Film Preview. By Universal Pictures
When an Asian American man asks Chris “what it has been like to be an African American” in the US while the white people nearby surround Chris and form what looks like a circle within which he is inside—more or less—it highlights the way black people, or most marginalized groups, are “othered” by people in a position of privilege or in this case white people. By asking Chris that question, he demonstrated what E Dubois in his essay “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” called the double consciousness that black people have. To quote E Dubois, “this sense of always looking oneself through the eyes of the others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” By asking Chris that question, he gave Chris the ability to see himself from the eyes of the white people who were present. Chris saw himself as someone who was pitied, and probably “half devil, half child (Okay, I am having way too much fun here). He saw himself as someone who could not be like them in any possible way.
Lastly, is the use of white womanhood to shield oneself from consequences. In the last scene, Chris strangles Rose, and a police car rushes to the scene. Immediately, Rose starts croaking that she needs help while Chris raises his arms in surrender with a very hopeless look in his eyes. This particular scene reminded me of the lines Tom Robinson said when he was being falsely tried for raping a white girl in Harper Lee Collins’ “To Kill A Mockingbird”. “It weren’t safe for any nigger to be in a fix like that.” This is a representation of how black lives are vulnerable when it comes to the word of white people. With the stereotypes that have portrayed men of color as nasty, unpredictable brutes, it is very visible that Rose knew she could get away with anything on the grounds that she was a white woman who was seen with a black man. Even to this present day, some of the police officers who have been charged for killing black people, have been given light punishments on grounds that they were “defending themselves.”
As an international student and foreigner who has only been in the US for 4 months and has been largely protected from the realities of the outside world by the walls of my college, I am in the position to see these issues as surreal or comic or even exaggerated. However, that is the beauty of “Get Out.” It helps us as viewers to really face the demons the society is plagued with in a way that hasn’t been explored before. Most importantly, it teaches people like me that it is not bad to inform ourselves. I tended to see these issues as “none of my business.” I kept telling myself that I would be returning home anyway, so I didn’t need to get worked up about race issues. What Get Out taught me as a viewer was that knowledge brought about empathy. I might not have had an African American experience, and I don’t necessarily want to have one, but I can empathize. And that, dear reader, has been my biggest take away from the film. Empathy. I hope you get to watch it!
- Director: Jordan Peele
- Runtime: 1h 44min
- Genre: Thriller