My Unconquerable Soul: Thoughts on GET OUT
First, a warning...
*BELOW, THAR BE SPOILERS*
The most surprising thing about Jordan Peele's directorial debut wasn't that it was good. Or even that it was a money-maker. What surprised me the most about Get Out was how no one in my theater laughed as hard or as loudly as my best friend (also a Black woman) and I did when a certain collection of NBA draft picks made their appearance on-screen.
For those who have seen the movie, the moment comes when Allison Williams's character, Rose, comfortable in knowing that her boyfriend Chris has been "handled" by her family, goes on the hunt for more victims. It's a short scene -- one that had many people talking about the (not-so) hidden symbolism of a bowl of dry Froot Loops and a glass of milk -- but one that resonated with the two of us... Probably the only Black women in the theater at the time.
When that image of Rose scrolling through full-color photos of her prey popped up, there were likely some smirks from the audience, and I definitely remember hearing an ill-at-ease groan or two nearby... but the sound of full-throated laughter only came from our mouths.
In that moment, these words sprang to mind: "Of course." Because who doesn't want a baller? But my reaction came from a place much deeper than that.
As I watched Rose coldly assess the stats of her quarry, it reminded me that the Black physique has often been viewed by the non-Black majority in a detached manner (especially Black male physiques). Athletes in particular are frequently the recipients of this type of gaze -- the state of their bodies is fundamental to their value -- so Rose's third-act Google search for more Black bodies to claim felt pre-ordained. Appraisal, in fact, was the method through which the Black body was established in the New World. For millions, our bodies were, indeed, not our own.
This is the central theme of Get Out -- the theft of the body and denial of the soul, despite all evidence to the contrary. The primary conflict, Chris's internal fight to wrest control of his body after its possession by the Armitage family shows us in horrifying detail how one's consciousness can be sequestered no matter how hard he fights. Silent auctions and night-time sprints aside, the presence of the Black body in the world of the Armitages is seen as little more than an instrument to make their dreams come true. The people born inside the bodies never earn a second thought.
I think back to the moment when Georgina, struggling repeatedly to tamp down the living presence inside of her that is screaming for control, repeats the word "no" and barely notices the single, involuntary tear that falls despite her fixed, obeisant smile. The purest distillation of America's original sin in 30 seconds.