The Indignity of White Tears
(by Valerie Morales)
Jordan Peele’s racial allegory, Get Out, earned multiple Academy Award nominations on Tuesday, as it should have. Purely as a work of art, Get Out eclipsed financial expectations while it explored the somatic self. The film’s primary racial question-is white goodness fake?-and its secondary question- is it moral?-sold a lot of tickets all over the world.
Part horror, part satire, part comedy, part sadness, part queasiness, Get Out was a beautiful prologue to the Barack Obama vaccum. Daniel Kaluuya feels just as familiar as the perfectly moral 44th president we miss. Like Obama, Kaluuya’s somewhat acquiescent character, a black man named Chris, suffers from the death of his mother in transformative ways.
White women are the miscreants in Get Out and it works because they enter the film as maternal and kind, but soon you realize it is transgressive affection, a mirror with two faces. Similar to the women who voted for Obama and then switched allegiances and cast a ballot for Donald Trump, the mother and daughter in Get Out reveal the secret about their dark self: they are ruthlessly cunning in their deceit.
Their victims are who you would expect, the men who fetishize their presence, and then flatter and titivate and drool over them, and who they (white women) then control and eviscerate. There is a Jordan Peele confession here about the entropic nature of racial fetishes. They don’t just defile men, they incapacitate them too.
Race neutral black men were the hostages of Get Out. They were returned to conciousness when photographed. It woke their black brain up. They then had to fix the dam they didn’t even break, other than with their Michael Jackson heal the world racial optimism. It was easy to root for their triumph over duplicity and against the white women who the black men trusted but who brought them the expected peril.
The scenery in Get Out, a remote country house, was as traumatic as it was beautiful. Within the lush open fields there was the scent of trauma exploding. By the lake, Chris said to his girl “when there are too many white people I get nervous”. A few scenes earlier, he tolerated police prejudice with a sarcastic “I told you so”.
Milky white Rose, his oh so woke girlfriend, codifies his innate racial anxiety by being loving. But beneath the layers of manufactured innocence is her manipulation, dishonesty and violent plan.
It fits with what we know. History wise.
Literally, white women kept quiet when their husbands went on raping campaigns. They unapologetically denied black women access to suffrage parades. They peddled family planning but it was really black baby predation. They were accomplices to murder like Emmitt Till. Or, to false rape claims, like in Scottsboro. Or, to a fantastic lie, like weeping Susan Smith. They won’t convict police officers even when the evidence lay open like a guttural wound fuming and spouting blood.
Liberal white Rose embraced her transparency with a flourish.
Racial anxiety centers the film. In his first scene, Chris peppers Rose with awkward questions about being black and her family: have you told them? He accepts her nonchalance so easily it makes him, as a target, absurdly naive and predictable.
Eventually, photographer Chris realizes his white girlfriend and her mother are leering at his black skin in the same straightforward manner the cop leered at his black skin and with the same deviant objective. Then Chris, threatened with racial death, becomes aggressive and tactical, as opposed to compliant, complicit and obedient. He stuffs his ears with cotton to avoid hypnosis. It’s as if Jordan Peele wants us to know that when sensitive black men listen to white women they get tricked.
Racial archetypes are the point of Get Out and in the larger context, it is wishful group-think. A strategy to keep black men silent and marginal is to crawl into their brains without consent. It is a cruel impressionistic marriage, blackface and puppetry. Controlling black men internally is more powerful than denying them externally. It adds one more florid feature to the cherished goal whites have failed at: black obedience.
Being in a black man’s head is abstract slavery on a neurological level. You own him once again. The layered message of Get Out is that slavery, as an idea for domination rather than a vehicle for commerce, didn’t die because there was a war.
Risk-averse Chris is the hero at the end. He transforms from puppet to actor, he murders the enemy that is whiteness, he flings off his Rose, sees her as oppresssor. Even when bleeding, she says I love you and stares at him with limpid eyes. He is desensitized, immune to her tears. All of it lacks dignity now.
He saves himself with help. It’s a reminder that satisfies. Yes, we vote for our own and we teach our own and we pray with our own. Is Peele trying to imply we should love our own or face catastrophic consequences?
The hostage before Chris, Walter, was a servant, an employee of Rose’s family. Then he had the white brain transplant. Walter is the one who actually shoots Rose and then Walter shoots himself because blackness is more than a construct, it is a shimmering consciousness. You can’t have whiteness in your brain and walk around as if things are just fine, your black self diminished.
It brings to mind a line from the sensitive novella, The Little Prince. “You’re beautiful but you’re empty…One couldn’t die for you.”
Get Out has an opportunity to snag four awards: Best Picture, Best Actor (Daniel Kaluuya), Best Director (Jordan Peele), Best Original Screenplay (Jordan Peele). Win or lose, elite Hollywood has adorned it cinematically relevant, even perhaps, a think-piece. So, Get Out has climbed the hilly and often rugged Hollywood terrain of rocks and holes. Yet, its very fate as an Oscar winner is paradoxical, and perhaps, that is its greatest accuracy. The white liberals Jordan Peele deftly exposes, he needs.
Hollywood is a predatory world when you consider Brad Pitt and Quentin Tarantino and too many others to list here continued to make films with Harvey Weinstein after they knew of his violent desires. In this mostly white Hollywood culture that will hand awards out on March 4, there is denial.
It is uncomfortable when Get Out ends. Even after the emancipation of Chris, there is something stunning in the aesthetics, something striking. Rose lying in her own blood so similarly eerie to the deer that she ran over in the third scene of the movie. Visually, it recreates the language about limited consciousness and being a passenger inside your own brain.
Get Out exposes on a big screen the currency of the white liberal, how their sorrow is so accidental, rather than empathic and attached, but their aggression is so planned and expertly hidden. Everything is selfishly cathartic for them but it lacks meaning for the rest of us, similar to Rose’s tears.
There is always an alternate agenda and it makes sense now, all of the #metoo apologies and Charlottesville apologies and I voted for Trump apologies. Despite the reckless trauma that centered the details, the abusers refused accountability until forced.
Chillingly, Rose takes a rifle and stands on the doostep, a haunting and powerful figure. It is the same doorstep where Chris was introduced to Rose’s parents. Then, her father Dean said, “we are huggers” and embraced Chris in his arms. Now, her face bland, Rose tries to kill Chris from afar. When that fails and she is the one shot, she peers into his eyes as she lay mingling in blood, bleeding and vulnerable. She begs in a troubled way; it is not pure and it explains everything about her and about Get Out. The manipulation is satirical but burdened by the inside players, who eventually meet a violent demise.
There were too many endless tears this past year for Get Out not to feel like a worn photograph you just had to pull out the desk drawer. There have been too many I’m sorrys from white liberals that ring hollow and besides they don’t know what atonement means. There has been too much agitation packaged as moral outrage when they, for the first time it appears, discover an injustice that’s been present since slaves were raped in their cabins night after night: the sexual violence and harrassment of women. Enough already. Enough.
At this point, white tears are the architectural complicity of the self-absorbed. They are tiresome. Mindless. Creepy.