Get Out – for the right reasons

At the theater after my initial reflections on the immensely important work of Get Out, directed and written by Jordan Peele, my first thought was that I hope it is popular for the right reasons. While clearly there are people who are aware of what this film means and knowledgeable about why it is–again I use the word “important”–after my friend and film scholar Mary Dalton (I always rise up and listen closer when she uses that word), I also know that it is making a lot of money and a lot of people are seeing it, especially young people. So my hope is that it is popular for the right reasons with every single person who views it.

This is a movie from the perspective of a young African American man. And it is about how we experience life in a white world–in other words, how we experience everyday life in America. The film portrays the strangeness of the experience of feeling like you are on display. Being asked to speak on behalf of “all African Americans,” dealing with life as an African American football player who your “fans” see as not human but as an animal they would deem useless if you could no longer entertain with beyond-human physical talent (listen to this story from Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger), and otherwise having people treat you as an exotic when you are simply living your life are not even reaching half the iceberg. This strangeness of navigating life in America is exactly what Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) experiences. The outer layer of forced attempts at false normalcy that cannot be contained for very long is what gaslights so many of us into believing that we are the ones who are misconstruing situations when we are not and have never been the problem.

The world of Get Out is the result of the inability of many white people to deal with their deep-rooted feelings of uneasiness around us, and the racist leanings they cannot or do not acknowledge. The longer those notions go unchecked the worse they become. Do not ignore the extremity of the plot line and dismiss it as fiction. What happens is more real than most are willing to admit. Because it can be dismissed as “mere fiction,” what happens takes forms that seem less treacherous and less dangerous, but it is treacherous and dangerous. There are events in the film that are symbolic but also very literal in the mind games and the gaslighting and the devaluing and underestimation of the abilities, hopes, aspirations, and very humanity of African Americans. And it is all rooted in what is termed the original sin of this country. We see the teachery and danger in American life in the ways African American people and immigrants and anyone deemed the “other” are treated. But those not directly affected (and many who are affected) must open their eyes to see it. I hope Get Out is popular for the right reasons for every single person who sees it. If it is, it has opened many, many eyes. It is a masterful film, and its existence makes the landscape so much better and more real.

I feel as I did when I saw Moonlight in the respect that this is a story and a concept that was so overdue. We need to see life from the eyes of African Americans, and the stories need to be truthful.

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director Jordan Peele with artwork inspired by the motion picture http://www.getoutfilm.com/gallery/

TV – The Wonder Years Episode 608 – “Kevin Delivers”

Kevin Delivers

I love those episodes that focus on one character doing one specific task or facing one particular problem. They provide unique insights, and the narrow scope really makes for rewarding character development and, for the viewer, an opportunity for introspection right along with the one or two characters who do the same. These episodes are also a surprise because they are a departure from the typical episodes that involve all or most of the cast having their typical conversations, interactions, fights, and reconciliations.

All of this was the case when I was watching The Wonder Years (1988-1993) tonight. I am re-watching the series on Netflix and have arrived at the final season. The second of two episodes I watched back to back was “Kevin Delivers” (25 Nov. 1992 – wri. Frank Renzulli, dir. Arthur Albert). After a “typical” episode involving Kevin’s 18-year-old brother, Wayne, meeting and moving in with a woman, I had that pleasant surprise (and a reminder because I didn’t remember) of an episode that focuses exclusively on one of Kevin’s nights out on his job delivering Chinese food. We all order delivery, but only a few of us have actually had a job as a delivery person. I love this show because I love the way it tells stories, so I appreciate the opportunity to see a typical night from the delivery person’s perspective. And in this case it is from Kevin Arnold’s viewpoint. It is the typical night, and he encounters the typical people—and deals with his “difficult” boss—all while trying to get to the end of the night so that he can take his money and go be with Winnie.

But, of course, there are obstacles. Kevin Arnold is a magnet for frustrating (and hilarious) setbacks. Even he frequently laughs at himself. And then there is the ending—the moment that reminded me why I love this show and makes me feel optimism in spite of every obstacle. It made me smile and really appreciate these episodes—the ones what focus on one or two characters on some quest, in the span of a day or a night—because they are a much-needed departure—an opportunity to slow down and be introspective along with the characters—and to learn something.