The “Post Racial Lie” and Horror Movie Expectations in Get Out

Posted by Timothy Jones on October 03, 2018 in Uncategorized tagged with , ,

By Sarah Treanor

 

Get Out (2017) has been hailed by the media as “the satirical horror movie we’ve been waiting for” (Edelstein). The fact that we’ve been waiting for it implies not only that it is something we have not seen before, but also that it has something culturally and socially necessary to say. Peele has said that he “wrote the movie primarily during the post racial lie” and, rather than perpetuate this lie, Get Out gives us the idea that “the underside of culture is blood, torture, death and horror” (Jameson, 57). This blog will discuss how the cultural necessity of this film goes hand in hand with its postmodern gothic narrative, since postmodern cinema “revolves around a fundamental shift in […] the ideological life of the country, bringing to the fore drastically altered images of social reality” (Boggs & Pollard, vii).

 

Get out is a film that defies all viewer expectations. In the conclusion of the film, when the police car arrives at the scene where Chris is covered in blood having just strangled his girlfriend, the viewer is resigned to the fact that Chris, despite his innocence, will now most likely be arrested. There is maybe even a link to be made with Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968); we expected him to have come this far, only to be gunned down just like Ben. Get Out entirely subverted this expectation, creating a new take on the standard horror movie narrative.  Our expectations arise not only from other horror movies, but from recent horrifying real life incidents and Isabel Cristina Pinedo writes that, in the contemporary horror film, “good and evil, normality and abnormality, reality and illusion become virtually indistinguishable” (85).  In Get Out, the town welcomes Chris, and they appear to love him which, initially, seems “good” yet the way they love him ultimately makes them “evil”; the ending is almost funny with Rod’s final ‘I told you so’ quip, but it is tinged with a darker, more serious truth.

 

Pinedo writes that one of the fundamental points of postmodern horror is the “refusal of narrative closure” (85) and this can be seen at the end of the film. Although it would be easy to assume that Chris has escaped the horrors of the Armitage family, we have no idea what will happen to him when the family is discovered massacred in their own home. Our fear that Rod is actually a cop coming to arrest Chris, rather than the clever, amusing twist, could in fact simply be a foreshadowing of what is to come for them once the film has finished. We don’t need the ending to show us this as it already exists in the back of a viewer’s mind.

 

The film often works by playing with our expectations of reality, so much so that it has even spawned theories that the whole movie is a nightmare that Rod, the TSA best friend, has after Chris tells him he is going to visit his white girlfriend’s parents. Maria Beville would argue that this comes under the idea of “metafictional literature which problematizes the relationship between reality and fiction” (7).  Moreover, Gothic-postmodernism “can be understood as a distinct genre by its own self-consciousness” (Beville, 16).  Rod often takes us out of the experience of the movie as he becomes almost like an audience member with us – telling Chris not to go to the house just as we might shout at the screen, and theorising throughout the film about what might really be going on. Rod seems to be already aware that he is in a horror movie; “the boundaries of any genre are slippery, but those of postmodern horror are particularly treacherous to negotiate since one of the defining features of postmodernism is the aggressive blurring of boundaries” (Pinedo, 85). Whilst this meta style is seen in many modern horror film, the self-awareness of Get Out with, in particular, Rod and Andre knowing that they are living the horror film might speak to the current African American experience in white American society. This, again, is seen at the beginning of the film when Andre notices the car and says “Not today. Not me. You know how they like to do motherfuckers out here.” (Get Out).

 

The subversion of our expectations and blurring of lines between fiction is an effective way of discussing, but not discussing, the issues at hand – much like how these issues of race are dealt with in reality. “The postmodern horror film transgresses the rules of the classically oriented horror genre, but in doing so also retains some features of the classical genre” (Pinedo, 88) and the film certainly possesses some classically gothic elements. We are given the classic mad scientist in Rose’s father who, somehow, achieves his pseudoscientific dreams (a success which, as with many Gothic narratives, will leave him dead by the end of the film) and, with grand gardens and “servants”, the suburban house becomes an almost gothic castle – the castle (in this case, the Armitage’s home) is something that will be discussed in the next blog. Overall, I will aim to discuss how Get Out not only fits into the postmodern genre of Gothic Horror, but how Peele uses this medium to explore the topic of race through horror, parody and pastiche, and how the Gothic notion of black as “other” is approached and challenged in this film.

 

Bibliography

Beville, Maria, Gothic Postmodernism: Voicing the Terrors of Postmodernity. Amsterdam – New York: Rodopi. 2009. ProQuest ebrary.

Boggs, Carl & Pollard, Tom, A World in Chaos: Social Crisis and the Rise of Postmodern Cinema. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc. 2003.

Eidelstein, David, “Jordan Peele’s Get Out Is Terrifying, Socially Conscious Horror” Vulture, 23 February, 2017, Online, sec. Movie Review. http://www.vulture.com/2017/02/movie-review-jordan-peele-get-out.html

Get out. DVD. Directed by Peele, Jordan. Universal Pictures. 2017.
Jameson, Frederic, Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/40d6/b702fa28fdd1802abfb1210e10f1fa36de42.pdf

Pinedo, Isabel Cristina, “Postmodern Elements of the Contemporary Horror Film” in The Horror Film, Edited by Prince, Stephen. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. 2004.

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