NYU Black Renaissance Noire Volume 18 Issue 3 - Fall 2018 - Page 42

SEEI NG TH ROUGH TH E LENS OF DOU B LE CONSC IOUSN ESS Chris’s engagement with the ex-professional golfer is another superficial conversation about race. His selective praise, “I know Tiger [Woods]” is a segue to query Chris about his golf skills. This celebration of Blackness might be a complimentary and honest admiration for one of the greatest golfers of all time; however, the speaker is actually appraising Chris in anticipation of the auction block: “How is your swing?” The subversive intention of his conversation is in pursuit of Chris’s golfing talents. Chris’s polite response is, “I’m not that good.” Conversely, the blind art dealer, Jim Hudson (Stephen Root), appears to be more enlightened than the other White guests. He says to Chris, “They’re ignorant … all of them.” He knows Chris Washington by his reputation as a photographer, and conversely, Chris knows Hudson as a gallery owner. Chris marvels at Hudson’s ability to run one of the most prestigious galleries in New York despite his disability. Hudson’s character could represent intelligence and insight, as his comments and blindness could also be perceived as an inner vision that renders a deeper consciousness. Hudson’s admiration for Chris’s talent, however, is the reason Hudson is present at the event. He desires Chris’s eyes, so he can regain his sight and acquire “the eye” of an exceptional photographer and talent he never possessed. Unlike the other guests, Hudson is not motivated by the loss of his sexuality or failed skill in sports, which are largely related to physical attributes steeped in racial stereotypes about African Americans. Hudson wants to be a great artist. “Shit ain’t fair,” an ambiguous double entendre that Chris and Hudson both say and agree. While Chris is commenting on Hudson’s condition; Hudson is musing about his intention to usurp his circumstances by taking over Chris’s eyes. Photography is an essential element in the progression of plot, and in the main character’s identity and survival. In the film, the camera is used as an instrument that documents, extends and expands sight, and it also informs thematic context. When Chris resorts to photography, it reveals truth underneath the pretense of the characters, and it provides visual cues related to the conspiracy to enslave him. As a photographer, he intuitively begins to notice irregularities at the Armitage home, especially when he encounters Black people, helping him to understand what is happening to and around him. The camera provides a second sight that penetrates illusions, such as observing Georgina through the camera lens, admiring her reflection in the mirror, revealing a curious wonderment about her image. After enduring, inappropriate and taxing comments about his Blackness, Chris arms himself with his camera, which is a retreat to his own consciousness, separating him from the intrusion of White people. But then, another Black person comes into his view. Unbeknownst to Chris, he is the Black man abducted in the opening sequence of the film. In order to “stay woke,” Chris rushes up to him for confirmation, saying, “It’s good to see another brother here,” offering a fist bump that is received like a handshake. Instead of a “brother,” Chris encounters the behavior and speech of an old White man dressed in young Black skin. A much older White woman disrupts this interaction, and “the brother” introduces himself as “Logan King.” Stilted speech patterns and stiff movements don’t match his apparent age or any Black cultural indicators, but they do match the irregularities observed in Georgina and Walter. After retreating from this awkward encounter, Chris observes Logan on display for some White people. Subsequently, Chris is asked by an elderly Japanese man, “How do you find the African American experience in the modern world?” Chris dodges the question by passing it off to Logan, who says it’s fine, but more recently he has been confining most of his time to his chores, which again reiterates the menial aspects of Black identity. Chris takes aim with his cell phone camera, and the flash startles “Logan” out of “The Sunken Place.” He rushes Chris, shouting: “Get Out!” This double entendre is a warning to Chris and Logan’s desire to escape being Logan. WH ITE ROSE AN D AMB IGUOUS SYMB OLISM Almost every aspect of Get Out is laden with dual and ambiguous symbolism. The image of a rose is usually associated as a “red rose,” a romantic symbol for love, which appears to be Rose’s relationship to Chris. During the dinner scene, a decorative deer head appears above Rose’s head, identifying her role in the entrapment of black bucks. Red is also the symbolic color of danger and blood. Rose drives a red car that kills a deer, an incident that reminds Chris of his mother’s death in a hit-and-run car accident and foreshadows Georgina’s fate. Rose is White, which inverts into “white Rose,” which is her racial identity. A white rose can be symbolically interpreted as innocence or death, depending on the context, which does reflect the dual behavior of Rose Armitage. Her initial actions constantly reassure Chris and the audience of her innocence and that she is not like other White people, including her parents, who she later admits “are so white.” She defends Chris against the intrusion of Whiteness, such as the White police officer who asks to see Chris’s identification at the scene of the deer accident, which appears to be supportive, even radical. In anticipation of his subsequent abduction, however, documentation by authorities could prove problematic. Rose also defends Chris against her family’s rude behavior, including her inebriated brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), who tries to goad Chris into a fighting match at the dinner table. Rose’s comments for and against her family convey that her neoliberal parents appall her, and that she “stands by her man.” Despite all of Chris’s suspicions about everything that has transpired, he still wants Rose to leave with him. Even the discovery of the red box behind the white door filled with amorous photos of Rose with several Black men, which is concrete, photographic evidence that implicates Rose, or at least contradicts her carefully crafted performance. But, Chris does not confront her. Perhaps, because the more urgent matter at this point is for her to find the car keys, so he can, “Get Out.” After Chris is captured, Rose’s Whiteness is unambiguously presented. Dressed in a white turtleneck, drinking white milk, munching on Fruit Loops, while trolling the internet for more Black, male victims, Rose’s image is cold and her gaze is deadly. Framed photos of her previous victims hang above her bed, like hunting trophies. COAGU L A AN D TH E MATR IX Chris is captured and strapped to a brown leather chair in the basement. A deer head is mounted on the wall in front of him, above an antique television set. A video appears, featuring Grandpa Armitage explaining “coagula,” and then a second one with Jim Hudson explaining the importance of “our common understanding of the three stages of the process: 1. Hypnotism, 2. Mental Preparation, and 3. Partial Transplantation of the Brain. Chris’s brain will still be connected to the nervous system for physiological functions, but when the two brains fuse, a double consciousness is formed, but the White brain is in total control. The brain of the Black host is suspended in The Sunken Place, an inner space without light or gravity, and without free will. Chris asks: “Why Black people?” Hudson’s reply is ironic in lieu of the exploitation and admiration of Black people and reflects answers to the strange questions and statements heard earlier: “Who knows? People want to change — be stronger, faster, cooler. I want your eye. I want those things you see through.” The following day, a processional of black limousines arrives for an “annual event” that Grandpa started at the Armitage Estate. Walter greets a stream of wealthy, elderly, and predominantly White guests dressed in black, white, gray and/or red. The imagery in this sequence is suggestive of a funeral, and their insensitive comments about Chris are spoken to and about him, as if he is deceased or absent from the conversation. Laden with innuendos about Black male hyper-sexuality, a White woman queries Rose about Chris: “So handsome. Is it as good as they say,” she says, while caressing Chris’s bicep. An elderly White man comments: “Fair skin has been in favor for the past couple of hundred years, but the pendulum has swung back. Black is back in fashion.” This strange and awkward compliment says more about the speaker’s aspirations to assume that image than it does about Chris’s racial circumstances. As a Black guest in a White house, Chris endures these and other insults, while his double consciousness filters these words and actions as indicative of the condition of White privilege. TH E B I NGO GAME