Get Out (2017)

Get Out (2017)

When the movie opens with the new Childish Gambino, I knew I was going to like this movie. I knew I was going to like it a lot. And I did. I love Childish Gambino.

“Get Out” is about a black photographer, Chris, who is visiting his white girlfriend’s parent’s house for the first time. Before they leave for the weekend, he asks Rose, the girlfriend, if she has told her parents that he is black. Rose playfully replies, “Mom and dad, my black boyfriend will be coming up this weekend.” She then reassures him that her parents are absolutely not racist. She then goes on to tell him about how her father would have voted for Obama if he could have run for a third term. Chris is still hesitant. Soon after, he is at Rose’s parents’ house and realizes that he is trapped in an inescapably deep, deep hole of suburban racism and bigotry. A true nightmare.

This movie is a very rare and beautiful combination of horror and social satire. We see so many traditional tropes of horror films. First of all, it takes place in a middle-of-nowhere suburb. As a city guy, there is absolutely no hope for Chris to find somewhere to run or someone who can help him when in danger. And there is Rose, our femme fatale. Chris plays the good, innocent man brought down by a woman who perfectly feigns her naiveté. There are also conventional themes like self-doubt, distrust, good vs. evil, and living dead (sort of?) deeply embedded in the plot. There is no doubt “Get Out” is a horror film. But with all of the racial stereotypes and discomforts that toy with our expectations at every twist and turn of the storyline, it is more than just a horror film. It is disturbingly topical and embodies so many important truths that every American needs to know. Here are a couple things that really stood out to me:

  • In horror movies, we usually have a protagonist in a new, dangerous situation where they find themselves being haunted by a killer or some sort of a monster. No one believes them and they are forced to start doubting and questioning themselves and their sanity. In “Get Out,” we see this archetype through Chris when he first arrives at the Armitage home. Thankfully, our main character Chris is woke as hell and knows what he knows. But of course, he also has to go through this phase of self-doubt. It is a horror movie after all, but it is definitely more elaborate and complex than just the horror film stereotype. After he has strange encounters with Walter and Georgina, the black servants of the home, he has a hunch that they are not their normal selves. He tells Rose that he thinks they feel some sort of deep connections to her and they are acting strangely because of it. Rose quickly brushes it off and reassures him again that there is nothing to worry about. Chris is not reassured and he is now put in a frustrating position, having to defend himself and his fear. As a woman of color, I can completely relate and empathize with Chris’ experience. I am sure all minorities can relate to the experience of having someone (usually white men from my personal experiences) tell them that they are overly concerned about certain issues, like sexism and racism, when they do not even exist. Whenever I express my concerns, I am constantly told that I am just being paranoid for absolutely no reason. I feel that I am almost trained by the society to doubt myself constantly, and this is exactly how Chris feels in the film. Jordan Peele plays on real racial fears and masterfully weaves Chris’ black narrative into the classic trope of horror.
  • It brings so much attention to microaggression (see below for definition). When Chris gets out there in the backyard full of white people, we immediately know he is just about to be bombarded with racism. We know it isn’t going to be the n-word dropping kind of racism – it is going to be the “I am really nice, but also blinded by my privileges. I am going to say something that’s not nice at all while smiling at the same time!” kind of racism. It reaches out to the black audience (or possibly, any of color) and forms a special connection with them. It is even comical to some extent, because it is just so relatable to the black, minority experience in America. This scene in particular brings so much discomfort and hyperawareness of microaggression, really giving white people some sense of what it is like to be not white in America. They are able to put themselves in Chris’ position and imagine how frightening it would be having their hair touched by random people, constantly being fetishized and sexually and physically objectified for the “unique” features. And they suddenly realize that it does not matter if the comments have well-meaning intentions behind them or are seemingly so casual and insignificant, because ultimately, this is just another form of racism that devalues the lives of people of color.

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Movies are difficult for me. I rarely have the attention span for 90 or 100 minutes or however long a typical movie is, and I usually snack so mindlessly and excessively that I hate myself by the end of it. But! I really loved “Get Out” and I think I am going to see it again and attempt to pick up on more of Jordan Peele’s brilliant subtleties. I would definitely recommend this to every single person in this country. I am so disgustingly tired of casual racism or racism in general (my least favorite is when someone says hi to me in Japanese or Chinese. Yikes.), and I hope this movie can encourage Americans to stay woke.

Wicked the Musical and Donald Trump

Wicked the Musical and Donald Trump

Defying Gravity, easily one of the most popular-lar songs from Wicked the musical, truly celebrates the female empowerment and the importance of open defiance against social norms. Having always been labeled as a weirdo, the song was one of my anthems during my teenage years. And I am extremely happy to have finally experienced Wicked live (my first Broadway show, too!) last weekend. It was simply breathtaking. I was constantly blown away by the wicked leads, the stunning costumes, the smoke-fuming dragon, and basically everything else about the show. Of course, I was not surprised by any of this. It is one of the most popular and awarded shows after all. What I was surprised by was the extreme relevance it had for today’s politics.

Almost fourteen years since its first performance, Wicked successfully remains as a political allegory and a poignant warning against social injustice. One very obvious example of this is the story of the protagonist, Elphaba. Elphaba, or the Wicked Witch of the West, is an intelligent, outspoken, kind and talented woman, who is misunderstood as bad and worthless because of her green skin that is not like that of the rest of the society. Sound familiar? She is intelligent, but she can only attend a school as a personal assistant to her disabled sister, Nessarose. She is well-spoken but everybody chooses to ignore her. Through the life of Elphaba, we experience some of the common struggles that people of color in today’s society face. Another blatant example of Wicked‘s political relevance beyond its time is the portrayal of Nessarose. Although I was disappointed by the ableist production succumbing to a cookie-cutter disabled stereotype, the show perfectly captures the negative attitudes linked to people with disability. Nessarose is constantly viewed as a human tragedy whom society must pity. Galinda sees her as utterly helpless and assumes that no one would ask her to the dance because of her disability. She then manipulates Boq, a Munchkin boy who has fallen head over heels in love with Galinda, to ask Nessarose out to the party for her. At the party, Boq terribly wants to tell Nessarose the real reason why he asked her to the dance, but he cannot bring himself to do it and lies to her instead. How could he ever dare to tell that to a girl who has already developed feelings for him, but also makes a person with disability feel worse than they already do? Through different perspectives, Wicked calls to create a more inclusive society for everybody, irrespective of their vivid green skin and disabilities.

It is simply amazing how works like this have the ability to transcend their original place and time to resurface into today’s time. Towards the end of the first act, the Wizard invents enemies by manipulating Elphaba and her special talent in magic solely in order to establish the notion of good and to unite the citizens of Oz. I am not sure if it is because I have personally been more sensitive to the constant political stress since election, but I could not stop thinking about the nationalistic, populist and dark inaugural address that Donald Trump delivered last month. Throughout his speech, he paints a portrait of an extremely dark America in a dystopian, apocalyptic tone. He vows to put an end to “American carnage” and cautiously describes our streets swarmed with drugs and disorder, our children in paralyzing poverty and our economy in crisis. He attempts to unify the citizens and closes his address by promising to, of course, “make America great again” together. It has been about a month since his inauguration, and America seems to only have grown more and more hopeless as he defends his recent executive orders and cabinet appointments. Similar to the Wizard, Trump uses fear-mongering tactics to bring the citizens, mostly his supporters, together and attempts to invent America’s new enemies: the bad hombres from Mexico, Hillary Clinton, FAKE NEWS, Meryl Streep, paid protesters, illegal voters, China, and many many more… Look at this Tweet that I just found and didn’t even realize existed!

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All things considered, the value of this musical lies in that it is both topical and timeless. It is topical, because it reflects the concerns of its time period, whatever that might have been, and it is timeless, because basic human nature and concerns remain unchanged – or worsen, sometimes – throughout time. The show holds a lot of lessons for us today and I would definitely recommend it for everybody, but especially POTUS, Vice President Mike Pence, as well as many other policy makers.

The Lobster (2015)

The Lobster (2015)

I think I can confidently say that this movie isn’t for everybody. The Lobster is perhaps the most absurd and bleak romantic comedy I have ever seen. Actually, I am not even sure if I should even call it a romantic comedy. Requiring some patience for the extremely dry script and slow pace, this film brilliantly comments on the common contemporary notions of love.

Recently divorced, David is immediately sent to a hotel that is somewhat reminiscent of the one from the Shining – isolated and beautiful. Upon his arrival to the hotel, we learn the fundamentals of this universe during his check-in process. Every guest is granted 45 days (more if you capture the single, lonely escapees a.k.a. losers) to find love. And in the event of failure, each guest is turned into an animal of their choice. David wishes to be a long-living, blue-blooded lobster.

To be compatible in this world means to simply share a unique characteristic. For instance, if two people both happen to have similar bleeding disorders, then they are compatible. Similarly, if two people do not have any unique characteristic in common, then they should not even bother trying to foster a romantic relationship. By the very nature of this rule, everybody is reduced to their one distinct feature. The man with speech impediment. The woman with nearsightedness.

Overall, this film is so special in the sense that it is spontaneously all sorts of things: funny, quirky, cute, peculiar, unexpected, cruel, violent, sad and dark. It perhaps playfully critiques the modern romance on superficial online platforms where everybody is essentially reduced to a few photos of themselves and the things they like on Facebook, or the common idea of “if you are single, you must be a loser.” I had to pause it in the middle when I first started watching it, but I am glad I fought through the dryness and eventually finished it. Good first movie of 2017.

Some extra thoughts:

The process of choosing an animal to be would be easier and more interesting if everybody consulted one of those “We can guess which animal you should be based on the color of your favorite socks” Buzzfeed quizzes. But I am sure this cruel, dystopian world doesn’t even have Buzzfeed.

I think I would introduce myself as the woman who cracks her neck every other minute and my boyfriend would definitely be that man who shakes his leg viciously to the point that it feels like an earthquake. I would also probably lie and fake the compulsive leg shaking just to be compatible with him.