I watched Jordan Peele’s Get Out tonight. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to write, but I do know it needs to go behind a cut. There will be spoilers.
My husband and I loved the comedy sketch show Key and Peele. I appreciated almost every sketch, but I especially enjoyed the horror comedy ones. It was like Key and Peele had been watching every horror movie I’d ever watched with me … and then they’d joined me afterward, and laughed with me at how I jumped at shadows.
A few months after watching the show’s last episode, I rewatched it. “The new season can’t begin soon enough!” I told my husband, who gave me a funny look.
“Wait, you didn’t know?”
“They’re moving on to direct … horror.”
“Nooooooooo!” I replied. “No!” Moments later, I grumbled, “Well, damn. At least they’ll be making horror. It’s gonna be smart.”
Fast forward more than a year, to right now. Anthony watched Get Out last week. Tonight was my turn. I enjoyed both the movie itself, and how the audience around me reacted to it. Folks were living the movie with its protagonist.
My husband and two little boys picked me up soon after I left the theater. “Holy shit,” or similar, I murmured softly enough that I hoped my little boys wouldn’t hear me.
We discussed the movie quietly but animatedly the whole way home. While some are calling the movie anti-white “propaganda,” one of Anthony’s favorite things about the movie is how well it would stand up no matter its protagonist’s background. (All the same, Anthony loved getting to experience a movie in which a Black man was a Final Girl.)
I’ve been devouring politics the last several months, going from apolitical to devoted and invested. Because of this, I watched the movie as both a horror fan and the newly political white wife of a Black man.
“You know what was mind-blowing to me?” I asked. “Seeing how the white people were such raging dicks, but … also how they’re kind-of victims of white supremacy, too. Each generation lived their parents’ realities, taking for granted that it’s … Just How the World Is. So even though they sucked, they also had been manipulated and indoctrinated into being these sad, scary shadow people.” With my mind so oriented toward opportunity costs recently, I was staggered by the thought of who they all might have been in other circumstances, living a “neutral” reality not so detrimental to so many other people.
“And you know what really sticks with me, from the whole movie? This one line: ‘It’s not what he said, but–‘”
“‘–how he said it,'” continued Anthony.
“Yep. It made me wish again that more people would listen to the folks around them and trust what they’re saying.”
I wrote something similar in July 2013: “Race & the willingness to see, or: ‘Don’t be Bob.‘” When I wrote it, I was still baffled and bemused how many people would not listen to and hear others’ descriptions of hardships they’d endured. Having not yet begun trying to speak politics, I didn’t understand that this was itself a small violence situated within a system full of lethal violence.
In the post, my husband, Anthony, played “Zack.” my brother-in-law, Nick, played well meaning but frequently hurtful “Bob.” I modeled a bunch of exchanges between the two, one of which pertains exactly to this post.
I’ve read thousands of pages of politics over the last few months. I’ve got stacks of such books piled high to read in the coming months. The more I read, the more I understand how this failure to hear is fed by and feeds a system that’s been destructive for at least hundreds of years.
And yet, for all I’ve read, somehow … somehow, nothing sums up the pains of bearing systemic burdens quite so well as hearing a good man pleading, quite simply, to really be heard through the skepticism of those who demand incontrovertible evidence to believe: “It’s not what he said. It’s how he said it.”
Non-fiction is necessary to reveal aspects of the truth, but fiction–even horror, as Get Out reveals–plays an important role in fleshing it out so that it can be understood.
Need a chuckle after that? Sure! Here are my three favorite Key & Peele sketches:
3. Pirate Chantey
2. Crispy Socks
1. Aerobics Meltdown (“which is, in itself, its own psychological thriller” — Anthony)