Beyond the Sunken Place: Get Out and the Realities Regarding the Black Body

 

 

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Chris Washington (played by Daniel Kaluuya) in the Sunken Place

 

When I heard about Jordon Peele’s Get Out in 2016, I seriously thought it was a satire.

It was natural for me to go there, considering that Peele is known for his comedy work on shows like Mad TV and the hit television series Key and Peele.  But then I begin seeing the think pieces about the film funnel through my News Feed, thought-provoking commentary dissecting every moment, character, and the symbolism interwoven throughout the storyline.  On top of being hailed as a cinematic masterpiece, Get Out seemed to have the majority of my squad shook. Its authentic illustration of Black life exacerbates a deep-seeded resentment many of us have towards White Liberalism and the colorblindness that it accompanies.

But when I finally see Get Out, I am not only shaken, but triggered by the manipulation and trauma the Armitage clan inflict upon Chris Washington (played by Daniel Kaluuya).   For nearly a week, my mind ruminates on the film’s symbolism regarding slavery and the treatment of Black people.  But I especially pay attention to how the bodies of the Black characters are treated and utilized by the White people in this unidentified neighborhood. Human trafficking, organ harvesting, and even the sexualization of the Black body is evident throughout the entire film.  In fact, I notice that:

  • Black bodies are categorized as superhuman.

Throughout the entire film, the bodies of the Black folks are characterized as superhuman.  For instance, Rose’s father Dean and brother Jeremy comment on Chris’s physical strength by not only asking about his supposed involvement in sports, but refer to him as a beast.  Jeremy actually challenges the main character to a wrestling match during dinner before attempting to place him in a head lock.  At the family’s annual gathering, the White attendees touch Chris without his consent while asking invasive questions regarding his physical state.

This behavior towards Chris is reflective of the reality Black men and women have experienced historically.  Black men and women—particularly dark-skinned ones—have been described as subhuman, animalistic, violent, uneducated, unattractive.  At the same time, their bodies are deemed physically superior to that of Whites to the point of possessing a high pain tolerance and supernatural strength.   Perhaps this is sole reason why, during the Slave era, Black Africans are considered suitable for chattel slavery by White plantation owners due to the belief that they could withstand the back-breaking labor. Even in the 21st Century, the body of Black men and women are utilized to generate profit for White capitalists. Whether it be through the sports industry or human services profession, the bodies of Black people are deemed stronger than that of White folks (“hired help” Walter and Georgina are prime examples of this).  Perhaps this is why Rose and her family target people with a darker complexion.

  • The sexualization/fetishization of Black bodies.

More than once, the bodies of the Black characters are sexualized and fetishized in some manner. Towards of the end of Get Out, viewers discover that Rose Armitage use sex and the idea of intimacy to lure her victims to her parents’ home.  As mentioned previously, Chris is inundated with inappropriate questions about his body and strength as complete strangers touch him without consent.  In one scene, an older White woman squeezes and caresses his bicep while asking him “Is it true what they say about Black men?”  She was obviously referring to his size of his genitals, insinuating that he’s “big,” so to speak.

In the real world, they not only perpetuate the stereotype that all Black men have big dicks, but that is this the main reason why many White women would even consider being intimate with them.  I don’t have enough limbs to count the many memes and comments made about that particular physical attribute on Black men—as if their worth is tucked inside their pants. This ideology is nothing new as Black men are categorized as animalistic—one of many stereotypes introduced through scientific racism. The unfortunate part is that many Black men internalized those messages about their bodies over time. At one point, Chris jokes with Rose about being regarded as a beast by her father—referring to being pleasurable in bed.

Logan King (formally known as Andre Hayworth), the young Black man who is abducted during the opening scene of Get Out, is another example of the sexualization of the Black male body.  He appears as a guest of an older White woman whose behavior towards him suggests that she is utilizing him as a sex slave.  Rod Williams, Chris’s best friend and comic relief, mentions the possibility a few times to Chris while warning him of imminent danger. The suspicion regarding Logan is nowhere near surprising:  Human trafficking of Black people—women especially—has often been a problem in the United States and internationally.  Many are either taken from their homes or leave voluntarily in hopes of obtaining better opportunities.  Unfortunately, these folks are often forced into sex, domestic, or other variations of labor.

Speaking of bodies, those belonging of Black women are often fetishized/sexualized by many White men as their perceptions of us are also skewed.  Sex with a Black woman (a dark-skinned woman especially) is considered exotic and erotic, a phenomenon that is deemed impious, yet intriguing as if our vaginas are somehow dissimilar to that of White women.  This type of mentality is steeped in the racism and colorism that tends to go unchecked even among our own people.

  • The mistreatment of the Black body/mind among many medical and mental health professionals.

Get Out highlights how the mental health and medical profession either disregards the emotional wellbeing of Black people or utilize parts of our bodies for profit.  Though there is an increasing number of us seeking professional help, there are still many of us who refuse to deal with therapists and medical doctors.  The distrust from the Black community is extremely real and stems from a history of nonconsensual medical experimentations on impoverished Black people.

In the case of Get Out, organ harvesting is the purpose behind the Armitage family’s annual gathering. Jeremy and Dean remove certain organs of Black bodies to either implant them into White bodies or steal the Black body to insert into it the brain of an Armitage family member. This again reflects reality as Black people are often abducted and murdered for organs that are then sold through the black market.  In 2014, for instance, the body of 24-year-old Ryan Singleton was found in a California desert with his organs removed.  The death of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson is hauntingly similar—his demise gruesome.  Many of these cases involving organ harvesting become cold cases that receive minimal media coverage. The entire concept of people being kidnapped and murdered for their organs is dismissed as a conspiracy theory concocted by hoteps.  However, the stories of Black bodies being violated by medical facilities is historical fact (i.e. The Tuskegee experiment, Henrietta Lacks, the creation of gynecology).  So it would not be surprising if these so-called conspiracy theories are revealed to be true.

In regards to the mental health profession, there are various reasons why the majority of Black folks decline assistance from those in the field.  Besides the stigma associated with a having a diagnosis, there is the fear of disclosing their deepest fears to a complete stranger—especially if that person is White.  Missy is a psychiatrist who uses her skill as a hypnotist to control Chris, Georgina, Walter, and Logan, robbing all four of them of their emotional/physical autonomy and ability to consent. Though Chris denies her services initially (I’m assuming it’s because he does not trust this White women with whom he has no connection), she deceives him anyway by hypnotizing him under the guise of wanting to converse with him.  Just based on his reaction to what is called the Sunken Place, however, the main character rarely discloses his deepest trauma.  Many of us do not in real life, in fear of having those same devastating experiences used to emotionally and mentally control us. Chris’s trauma is utilized as a weapon against him, his body paralyzed and controlled whenever Missy taps her spoon against a tea cup.

Yet there is the difference between Chris and the other Black characters trapped by the Armitages. While Georgina, Logan, and Walter represent the ones who remain controlled by White supremacy, Chris represents every Black person who resists it and regains regaining his physical autonomy.  Chris speaks up and is in-tuned to the racism surrounding him, taking note of the strangeness of the people.  And though bamboozled to a certain extent, he eventually regains control of his own body and mind, thus reclaiming his overall freedom.

 

 

2 thoughts on “Beyond the Sunken Place: Get Out and the Realities Regarding the Black Body

    1. Hey BehindTheSchmile! Thanks so much for the comment and kind words. Everything addressed in the movie popped out to me right away–in addition to the recent stories pertaining to possible organ harvesting. So I had to say something.

      Thank you again for the kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

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