Okay, let me start by saying that in an age where for Anglo America, Beyoncé is their closest black friend, I probably shouldn’t be so hard on films like Get Out. But. To be completely honest, Tyler Perry’s character, Madea (which even he’s sick of), has been more progressive re: the Black American experience than Get Out.
The problem with films like this is that it’s emotional pornography. It doesn’t add anything new to the conversation and then it makes you feel all the feels with nothing to do with that information except capitalize on the self-flagellation of white liberal guilt for two hours and then everyone goes home. We get it. White agenda bad. Black naïveté good. Temptress. Seduction. The horror. Narrow escape. Rinse repeat. We’ve lived this story for hundreds of years. What else y’all got?
These filmmakers need to all be sitting front row in somebody’s classroom ASAP. They’re running out of material (and craft) but are equipped with millions of dollars for their budget to keep repackaging the same story where yet again Black women’s voices are still almost completely left out. It’s the cultural equivalent of giving the keys to a semi to a toddler. All that power and we can’t even reach the pedal. No one in Hollywood knows how to write for Black women either. No idea what we think, so how they gonna give us something to say apart from what they’ve already heard in....wait for it...the movies.
I think Hurston’s Moses, Man of the Mountain is still so prophetic in that allegorically, Miriam is effectively silenced by the same man she helped bring to power. In a tragic case of life imitating art, like Miriam, Hurston died alone and anonymously while Wright and Ellison and Hughes and Baldwin (all skeptical of her work btw) were heralded as the fathers of the New Negro Renaissance. Similarly, Butler’s work is JUST now getting some attention thanks to a few dedicated scholars like Dr. Gregory Jerome Hampton, but again. Y’all late. (And I wish people would teach something other than just Kindred or Parable of the Sower. Mix it up! Try Dawn or Wildseed!)
When we continue to trot out the same old story trussed up in more dazzling effects, contemporary audiences will continue to be lulled back into a false sense of security that we are empowering Black voices and artistry. And like any true hypnosis, all the teller needs is a willing participant. You technically cannot hypnotize someone against their will. So...I would argue that Americans may say they want new stories but in reality, they keep pushing the snooze button because too much change is too uncomfortable. As much noise as folks make about #45, he hasn’t gone anywhere, okay, and! He didn’t come from under no cabbage leaf. He was made in America. He’s also a useful distraction, his Twitter feed just one more mode of entertainment tossed into the crib where a Baby Huey sized America is still throwing tantrums and calling for its pacifier.
Our stories in this country are stunted, so our emotions and adaptive quotient are too. It’s just so frustrating as a storyteller and a teacher that the good material is so hard to find and largely inaccessible. If we keep financing and endorsing films like Get Out and billing them as brilliant without alternatives except, say, Black Panther, no wonder we are all still stuck in the sunken place.