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Best Original Screenplay of 2017… GET OUT! One of the most intense, poignant films of the year, so of course we had to dig deeper into it.
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The Story Geeks’ blogger Ashley Pauls responds with her own take on the questions discussed in the podcast.
It’s Scary Movie Month on The Story Geeks podcast, and one thing we’re asking as we dig deeper into these films is: “What makes ‘Get Out’ scary?”
For the most part, “Get Out” isn’t overly gory or graphic, at least compared to certain other horror films. But it IS terrifying, because it taps into some very serious real-life concerns.
I personally feel that the scariest films are the ones that use a slow-burn strategy; they don’t seek to shock you right away, but let you know right off the bat that something is “off.” We feel more and more uneasy as the film goes on, and the sense of dread keeps increasing until we realize just how scared we really are.
“Get Out” is frightening because the director knows exactly how to slowly dial up that sense of dread and panic. It’s also scary because racism in real life is scary; it’s a real threat that impacts real people every day. “Get Out” forces us to think about underlying racism that we might not notice, and how even people who think they are progressive may actually still be prejudiced.
One of the most artful things in “Get Out” is the way the storytellers deal with conversations that deal with race. Here are some of the examples of how the story introduces the issues with race:
• Chris asks Rose if her parents know that he’s black.
• Rose tells Chris that her dad, “Would have voted for Obama a third time if he could.”
• Rod tells Chris not to go to a white girl’s parents’ house.
• Dean Armitage, Rose’s dad says, “It’s such a privilege to experience other people’s cultures.” He also asks Chris what his “sport” is. Dean actually says a lot, one of the more subtle ones, I thought, was: “Turns out people up here are just as messed up as they are in the city.”
• And then Rose’s brother brings up Chris’s genetics as well.
• And of course we’ll get into the “party scene” and the implications of that later.
My question, though, is: Why is it important for these things to occur in the film? What about these racially-charged statements becomes meaningful to the story?
These comments tie back into that idea of the film’s slowly increasing sense of dread. I knew something was wrong with the Armitage family from the second they showed up, and the film gradually reveals just how awful they are. The Armitage family’s subtly racist comments keep building and building, piling on top of each other until you realize that these statements were never really subtle at all and the family has some deep-seated and devastatingly racist attitudes.
It’s sad because I hear comments like the ones from the Armitage family all the time — or, more commonly, see them popping up online. These people might not be as aggressively malicious as the film reveals the Armitage family to be. They may not even realize they are being racist with their comments, but they end up saying things that are an awful lot like the comments from Rose’s family. And whether these comments are intentional or not, they keep perpetuating racism in society.
It’s also important to take note of the fact that Chris is nervous about whether Rose’s family knows he’s black; his past negative experiences have made him feel like he needs to be cautious. Of course, in a better world Chris wouldn’t need to feel nervous, because the color of your significant other’s skin shouldn’t matter. Sadly, that’s not always the sort of world we live in, although we should strive for a color blind reality.
Since watching this film, I have tried to take a really hard look at the things I say and evaluate how they might be interpreted. I also try to keep in mind the limits of my own perspective. I may not see racism happening on a daily basis, but it is most certainly still out there.
When Chris sits down with Rose’s mother, Missy, she tells him that the hypnotism causes “heightened suggestibility.” It’s such an interesting choice of words. How are we hypnotized by race in the Western world and what does “heightened suggestibility” look like in our lives?
As humans, we’re more susceptible to suggestion than we’d sometimes like to admit. We tend to adopt the same beliefs and patterns of behavior as those around us. Some people may not even realize they are saying or doing racist things, if their family or peers are also doing those things, and they’ve grown up in that environment.
That’s why it’s important to make sure we get out of our own social circles and talk to people who act and think differently than we do. It’s easy to get trapped in an echo chamber, and it’s always good to view our own thoughts and actions through a fresh lens.
Also, we should be aware of our own “suggestibility” and keep ourselves accountable. We should think over what we’re doing or saying; it’s also good to have trustworthy friends who aren’t afraid to call us out if they see us behaving in a way that we shouldn’t.
As Chris becomes hypnotized, he falls into the Sunken Place. What is the Sunken Place? Does it have spiritual significance?
So, I had to cheat a little bit on this one. When I watched “Get Out,” I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the Sunken Place, except that it — and Rose’s mother — were super creepy. I looked up an article online explaining what writer-director Jordan Peele was going for, and it sounds like Peele sees the Sunken Place as a metaphor for marginalized people who try to speak up but are silenced.
When I look at it like that, it’s a really powerful symbol. Imagine trying so hard to get someone to see that you’re suffering, but no one notices you, and you feel like you’re trapped forever. I think it’s an important call to action, for us to look around and see others who may be trapped in a “Sunken Place.” We should listen to their problems and try to help them, rather than ignoring them.
As a Christ follower, I believe that God hears people who are crying out from their own metaphorical “Sunken Place” and wants us to help them get out. Jesus was someone who made a point of going around and giving a voice to marginalized people; Jesus also criticized the more privileged people who were abusing their power rather than using it to help those in need.
Let’s talk about the Party Scene. It’s probably one of the most powerful scenes in the film. What stands out to you about the Party Scene and what does it tell you about our own experiences?
On the surface, the party scene might seem innocuous to an outside viewer. Just some friends gathering and drinking wine on the lawn, right? However, the film does a great job showing this event from Chris’s perspective, and it’s an exceedingly uncomfortable experience. Sometimes we may not realize how much racism still exists, if that type of behavior has never been directed at us. Although there aren’t real-life “body snatchers” like the people at the party, condescending racism definitely does happen in real life, similar to what happens to Chris.
While my own experiences are different than Chris’s, I have been to social gatherings before where I felt like I didn’t really belong. I felt awkward and uncomfortable, like everyone was evaluating me and I didn’t quite measure up. Most of the time I was there, I just wanted to go home. We’ve probably all experienced that — the feeling of walking in on a group that we’re not a member of and may not be invited to join. It’s a good reminder for when we’re at an event where we do feel comfortable, to keep an eye out for people that may be feeling lonely or awkward and to make sure they feel like they belong.
Dean reveals his spiritual perspective later in the film. He turns to Chris and says, “What’s your purpose, Chris? What is your purpose in life?” What do you believe the purpose of life is? What significance does that question have in the context of the film?
At the simplest and most basic level, I believe the purpose of life is to look for ways to grow as a person and also to help others. We may apply that purpose in different ways. Some people may practice so they can become better musicians; others may want to learn more about science and make discoveries that improve our lives. Still others may become doctors or nurses or teachers or any number of professions. At the heart of it — or should be, at least — is a desire to keep growing personally and to make the world a better place for others.
The problem with Dean (well, he actually has MANY problems), but in the context of this question, his main issue is that he sees Chris merely as a tool or a means to an end. He doesn’t respect Chris as a person, or the fact that Chris has his own purpose and talents he can use in the world. We should never exploit other people in order to achieve our own goals.
The science fiction in the film is fascinating. The family follows this “order of Coagula.” And they transfer consciousness from one body to another. Which brings up multiple questions: (1) Science doesn’t fully understand consciousness. What do you think consciousness is? (2) What does this science fiction scenario speak to in our experience of the world around us?
I haven’t fully decided how I feel about the film’s sci-fi twist; part of me wishes they’d gone for something a *little* more grounded. Nevertheless, the concept is fascinating, and downright creepy, and provides plenty of material for discussion.
Consciousness is a difficult concept to wrap our minds around. As I’m sitting here, writing this blog post, I know I’m conscious. Thoughts are running through my head, and I’m processing them into sentences as I type on my computer’s keyboard. But where does this “consciousness” reside? It’s not something physical you can measure, per se. Rather, it’s the collection of thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that together make up who I am and how I view and interact with the world. Consciousness stretches beyond just nerves firing or atoms spinning. It’s even more fascinating when you think about when consciousness goes dormant, like when we sleep or if we were in a coma. Although even then, our “consciousness” keeps going through dreaming, a process we have less control over than our waking thoughts.
We can relate to Chris’s fear in this movie, because obviously, none of us would want to lose consciousness and cease to be who we once were. I think the idea of another person taking over our body and reducing us to just a shadow of our former selves is absolutely terrifying. It’s like we would become a mute observer as someone else hijacks our lives.
This film wants to scare us with that concept, because it wants us to think about how it would feel to lose ourselves and the power to make our own decisions. Thankfully, the consciousness-transferring procedure depicted in this movie isn’t actually possible, but throughout human history, certain groups have tried to silence other groups and treat them as though they have less value. If we ever see this happening, we should do everything in our power to stop it.
Have you seen the alternate ending, and if so, what are your thoughts about it?
So as I was watching “Get Out,” the scene that ended up being the alternate ending was actually what I feared was going to happen. Chris finally escapes from Rose’s psychotic family, and then you see lights flashing in the distance. I thought it was going to be the police, and I was afraid that they would arrest Chris and not believe him when he tried to explain what was happening.
That would have been a more chilling ending, and I can see why they considered it, because it would have been a powerful, dramatic moment and added to the overall discussion surrounding the film.
But after all the terrible things that happened to Chris, I’m glad he was able to escape and that the film ends with the promise of him getting to go on and hopefully experience a better future. He definitely deserves a happier ending.