Why "Get Out" got me thinking about cultural appropriation

By C.A. Julal 

A good thriller often has you feeling perturbed, restless, and both figuratively and literally on the edge of your seat. After watching Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, I can honestly say, I felt all of these things. What concerns me, however, is not the feelings I felt during the film, but that I continued to feel a sense of unease even after the film had finished, which has since reawakened while writing this.

To the average viewer, they might view this film in it’s most simplistic form – a white family that hypnotizes and kidnaps black people in order to create immortality for the aging white population.  I, however, viewed this film quite differently. I watched the protagonist, Chris, battle his way through the “sunken place” – a deep subconscious hole that the protagonist is trapped in for various parts of the film; with his lens of the outside world resembling that of a television. In his sunken place, Chris watches idly as the white antagonists poke, prod, and manipulate his emotions and life for their own gain. I worried while watching these scenes that the white population would view this as racist. And the fact of the matter is, unless you are a minority, you might just feel this way. I do not.

I viewed Chris’ sunken place as his disappearing identity – his blackness, if you will – being repressed by the world around him. It was these scenes in particular that left me uneasy. Why? Well, I’m mixed. And similarly to the main character, I have often felt my own identity withdrawn, and at times disappear due to the people around me. 

For the majority of my life, I have felt the need to adapt to my audience. To be more “white” amongst white people, and more “ethnic” around those of colour. However, despite how much I change, it is still never enough to make me “one of them.” I am forever in my sunken place, observing the world from the fleeting images projected on my television screen.

The only times we, the mixed and coloured, are afforded the right to be who we are is when we fit a stereotype, or are being used as a token or reference. In the film, the character of Chris is often poked, prodded and asked inappropriate questions by people who claim not to be racist - from taking every opportunity to grope Chris’ muscles without asking, or proudly mentioning their admiration for Tiger Woods. Peele does not show racism in a form we are used to seeing, such as segregation or slavery. Peele instead focuses on the everyday racism that most people of colour have experienced at some point.  It’s the looks the people give Chris. It’s the awkward and unnecessary attention they give him for simply being different. It’s the fact that his skin colour is a point of discussion in nearly every interaction. This is the reality of the mixed and coloured.

Jordan Peele’s movie evokes these sentiments more than I would have ever thought. Unlike his movie, however, we can not simply Get Out.

 

Iris SinilongComment