US film review(spoilers) by C.C. Saunders

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In its contemporary context, blackness assumes a violent coupling. Filmmaker Jordan Peele (Get Out) tackles this coupling in both a literal and figerative sense with his latest release Us. Peele depicts humans as “coupled” by a being who mirrors their exteriority. In challenging the presumed singularity of identity, the coupled being obscures reality, simultanously inciting the following query: Are humans replaceable?
Well, according to the film’s doppelgängers, who wear red jumpsuits accessorised by gold scissors, the answer is yes. Viewers meet Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) as a child who goes to a mirror house and encounters a girl who looks exactly like her. After this encounter, Adelaide is never the same, and later viewers learn that Adelaide is never the same because she and her doppelganger switched places on that faithful day. Though Adelaide’s parents noticed a difference in their child, this difference, viewers learn, with therapy, could be negotiated. In no time, Adelaide resumes the nurture of her parents and becomes the girl they raised.

The original, for lack of a better word, Adelaide grows up to lead an uprising where the different or the othered, kill their counterparts. Us features a battle between those who reside behind the mirror—at society’s peripheral, and those who look into the mirror and reside at the center. Peele never makes it clear who or what these beings are. The sole reference to identity the film gives is Red’s proclamation that they too are “Americans.”
Red (or Adelaide depending on your perception), to ensure that her initial plan remains in motion, eventually kills the girl whose place she took years. Her son is the only one who knows her secret, a connection she hints at with the early line “stick with me kid and I’ll keep you safe.” Here, Adelaide foreshadows the choice her son will eventually have towards the end of the movie, to share or remain silent. Red/Adelaine’s offspring is also coupled, as he encompasses both the center and the peripheral. Thus, the secret is a gateway to his understanding of self, a gift obscured from the realities of his sister and father.
The film as a whole exhibits a coupling distinct from what it delineates in part. Peele couples black actors with their American counterparts. Specifically, the media exhibits black bodies by way of representation, but the exhibited blackness remains superficial.

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For example, though Winston Duke and Lupita Nyong’o, who occupy the film’s lead roles, encompass a physical blackness in their melanin-dominant appearance, both play roles that could easily be played by white actors. Black actors in race-less roles, marks what the western world calls progress; however, this colorblind casting depicts the violent seizure of power from black people. Colorblind casting extracts black personhood from the black body. Specifically, colorblind roles attempt to circumvent the presumed problem of race. Race in this context also functions superficially; as color is a part, not the whole, of racism. Yet, Peele’s film attempts to showcase those often eliminated from lead roles because of their complexion in a role where their complexion is merely a coicidence. Us eliminates race in a world build on this falsified concept made real in the systemic disenfranchisement it continues to afford black people.
Thus, US makes “us,” or the black person, invisible by casting melanin dominate actors as coupled with an American identity that has never truly been theirs.
US and Social Reproduction of the Invisible [Wo]Man
Though I do not think it was intentional, Peele presents a diasporic discourse with Us. Particularly, the coupled identities that dominate the film illustrate the black individual as coupled by a collective identity. The envy dynamic present between Adeline and Red illustrates the envy many blacks within the diaspora have towards the black displaced in America, or what I will call the “invisible man.” The phrasing “invisible man” alludes to the Ellison novel where a nameless protagonist struggles to see himself in a world built on his invisibility. My use of “man” does not cite gender but references “human.” This invisible man remains largely invisible to his diasporic brethren who often view him or her as a “favored child” in the disillusion of black disruption. Us, in its depiction of black persons as the invisible man, depict the coupling of the black body and personhood as crippled by disallusion.

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By the film’s end, Adeline loses her life because her diasporic doppelganger (Red, who eventually becomes Adeline) wishes to be her; so, Red assumes Adeline’s space and takes her place. This is very much the reality for black people throughout America who have witnessed the perils of racism and prejudice, perils strategically aggravated by immigration. Buried by the fantasy that is American idealism, the invisible man remains invisible to many of their diasporic brethren who are often unable see to past this veiled reality. Instead, this invisible man becomes a hyper-site for a social reproduction that affords white hegemony its violent stagnancy.
In Us, Adeline encompasses the “invisible man” ideal that her counterpart seeks to socially reproduce. Red sees the space Adeline occupies as a bridge to a better life. She (Red) deems her position in American’s peripheral as inferior to the central placement of her doppelganger (Adeline). This notion is particularly complicated by Peele’s colorblind roles, where the black actor remains in the periphery despite seemingly central placement.
Nevertheless, I digress.
Red believes that she is more deserving of the space Adeline occupies and thus would occupy said space “better.” This is often the ideology many Africans in America face with our diasporic brethren who become “model minorities” in seeking to occupy the American space “better” than their kidnapped kinfolk. America, for the being of black form, is a site of physical and mental abduction perpetuated by the continued pressure to assimilate. This assimilation, despite its societal perception, does not mark achievement but cultural compromise. Thus, it is Red’s desire to socially reproduce the invisible man that drives her sadistic and physically violent attempt to take-over an exclusive space. It is this desire to socially reproduce the invisible man that makes the mentally enslaved black predisposed to attack those who look like them and not their true oppressors. As long as the oppressed see themselves as the enemy, the narrative remains focused on the oppressors. Thus, Red/Adeline and her diasporic counterpart cannot co-exist because then the narrative runs the risk of becoming “us,” and within this global paradigm of white supremacy, it must always be about “them.”

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Peele’s colorblind casting alludes to the Duboisian notion of double consciousness in his depiction of the black person is physically split into two selves. So while viewers physically see black actors, the main role remains reserved for white cultural hegemony. What I mean here is that viewers see black actors but are forced to engage with the white space these black actors wish to occupy rather than the black actors themselves. It is the desire for American-ness, or to exist beyond blackness, that makes Us’s viewing experience a visual engagement with the invisible man. Specifically, with “Us,” black viewers witness what will become of them if espoused to an American identity. The film functions as a visual illustration of the “black American” or “African-American” concept that the abducted Africans in America must detach from as a rudimentary step in our collective liberation.

Buried under the American fantasy and entombed by the fiction of progress, there is no “us.” This fact is perhaps best illustrated when Red kills another black women to aid in a white plight to assume a space.
It is Red’s desire to socially reproduce the invisible man that drives her sadistic and physically violent attempt to take-over an exclusive space. It is this desire to socially reproduce the invisible man that makes the mentally enslaved black predisposed to attack those who look like them and not their true oppressors. As long as the oppressed see themselves as the enemy, the narrative remains focused on the oppressors. Red/Adeline and her diasporic counterpart cannot co-exist because then the narrative runs the risk of becoming “us,” and within this global paradigm of white supremacy, it must always be about “them.”
The singularity Red seeks and attains ensures that there is no “us,” if there ever was an “us.” Her actions represents the inevitable end for a group who remains disrupted. As a product of a festered disruption, the black collective, in part remains what they made of “us.” The black representation seen on-screen and throughout politics, education, and every other field, is not us and has never been us. It’s them.
Conclusively, as evidenced by his latest film venture, Jordan Peele also fails to represent us; rather, he remains vested in “them.”

Black Storytellers: Should they have a Black spouse?

I saw this trailer about a month ago.   It’s for a six-part mini-series called Guerrilla on Showtime.  It’s about an interracial couple who are activists in London during the 1970’s.  It kind of  reminds me of the Black Panthers or Black Liberation Army movements.  It stars actor Babou Ceesay and actress Freida Pinto. Actor Idris Elba also is in the series. But I thought it was strange that the film had Indian actress Freida Pinto has the lead actress.  And I saw virtually no black women in the trailer.  Black women have been fighting against racism and sexism since forever.  Is this the erasure of black women? And even if there are some black women in it…why is the lead female an Indian?  I guess some will say that it’s to show that Indian people struggle with racism as well.  But why can’t we ever show black men and women working together against their oppression?  Why can’t we see many more films of black men and women loving each other? What are we  supposed to take from films like this?  That it’s better to fight racism and oppression if you’re having sex with a  non-black person.  This is utter nonsense! And we can no longer fall for this trap. Black unity and black love  is the answer.

Freida Pinto...

Who needs Assata Shakur? Yaa Asantewaa is not needed either.  Freida Pinto will lead black people to freedom!  She is the savior for black people! This would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

John Ridley....

So after seeing the trailer I wanted to see who was the creator of this series.  I found out that the executive producer is John Ridley. Ridley is a screenwriter,novelist and director. He won an Academy award for his screenplay of 12 Years a Slave. He also is the producer of the show American Crime.  The picture(above) is of Ridley and his Asian wife Gayle.  His wife isn’t black so is this why he didn’t cast a black woman as the lead in his new series?  And why are all these men without black wives telling black stories?  And he’s not the only one. I have noticed black actors,directors and producers telling black stories without black wives.

Steve McQueen.....

This is director Steve McQueen.  McQueen grew up in London. He’s good friends with John Ridley because he directed 12 Years a Slave.  This picture(above) is McQueen and his Dutch wife Bianca.

David Oyelowo...

Actor David Oyelowo is another black British man.  He has been in films like The Butler,The Help,A United Kingdom and Jack Reacher. He even played Martin Luther King in the film Selma. Should this man be playing black historical figures?  This is a picture of him and his white wife Jessica.

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Jordan Peele....

Actor/filmmaker Jordan Peele got a lot of praise for his horror film Get Out.  It broke box office records making over $160 million.  Some say it was a great horror film.  Some say it was a film that had a much more deep psychological meaning to it.  It definitely had a lot of subliminal messages regarding racsim,occultism and organ harvesting.  But some may not know that he’s biracial.  Peele has a white mother.  And his wife Chelsea is a Zionist Jew.  So even though he told some truths in the film Get Out..will expose it all? Will he tell black people everything that racists whites are doing in Hollywood?  Is wife is a Jew so I know he has some insider information.  But the question is…who is he loyal to?

Underground...

John Legend...

The television drama Underground takes place during slavery.  It has been getting good reviews from critics.  One of the executive producers is singer/songwriter John Legend. He will even play Frederick Douglass in an upcoming episode. His wife is model Chrissy  Teigen.  Her mother is Thai and father is white.  That makes her a hapa. If you don’t know what that is go look it up.

Nate Parker....

Of course we can’t forget actor/director Nate Parker. Parker directed the controversial slave rebellion film The Birth of a Nation.  The film had some good elements and some truth in it.  But it was mostly controversial because back when he was in college Parker was accused of raping a white woman. He claims he was innocent and that people should support the film.  I’ve seen him in interviews and he seems intelligent and articulate. But he can’t be too smart because if that white woman caused him so much grief why did he go and marry a white woman.  What sense does that make??? Some negroes never learn. Anyway this is a picture of him and his ugly ass wife Sarah.Sunken Place....

I bring up this issue because I wonder can they be trusted. Can they accurately tell the black experience?  Can they express our pain and struggle?  Can they express the truth about our oppressors if they’re married to them?  Can they be about black love but not married to black women?  These are the questions that come to my mind. But I think they hire these type of men because they know they’re not about black empowerment. They will always be intellectually dishonest about the black experience.  They know that since they have non-black wives they have already been compromised. The interracial element just adds more confusion to the black psyche. We must be careful watching anything by these men. These films have a way of  distorting black consciousness. And keeping us stuck in the “sunken place”.

Get Out- Interracial/Horror Film(Hidden truths)

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Jordan Peele’s directorial debut Get Out proves a fascinating engagement with the racial truths of the contemporary world. The film centers on interracial couple Chris and Rose who are traveling to meet Rose’s parents in a New York City Suburb.

Prior to their visit, Chris asks Rose if she told her parents that he is black. Rose makes a mockery of this query, a query that encompasses the film’s many acts of foreshadow and dramatic irony. Get Out proceeds to illustrate that it is Chris’ blackness that makes him Rose’s prey. The couple’s visit to meet Rose’s parents proves a sick and calculated effort to abduct black bodies and re-appropriate them as a means to enhance the lives of a white counterpart. In short, the film’s resonance lies not in the images themselves but what lies beneath.

1.White Liberal

One of the most demonstrative illustrations in the film is its portrayal of the “white liberal.” Rose, Chris’s girlfriend not only dates a black man but defends him in the face of overt discrimination. Chris is racially profiled by a police officer on the way to meet Rose’s parents. The policeman asks Chris for his identification, to which they receive Rose’s wrath. After the incident, she states that she won’t let anyone “F%ck with her man.” But little does Chris know, Rose is merely protecting Chris the object and not Chris the person. This objectification becomes clear in the silent auction that takes place in Rose’s parent’s garden. What they disguise as “Bingo” is an auction where interested white buyers place bids for the black body Rose brings home. So questions like “Is it better?” referencing black male sexual performance, is the query of a prospective buyer desiring a worthy investment.

Rose portrays a physical embodiment to the phrase “every shut eye ain’t sleep and every goodbye ain’t gone.” An assumed ally can very well bear oppressive feelings towards a marginalized body. Assumed allies often veil self-interest in seemingly supportive gestures. Namely, Rose does not verbalize her prejudices yet is not any different or better than her parents or their “garden party” guests.

2. The Poisonous Apple

Get Out depicts Chris, a black man,  as an Eve-like figure and Rose, a white woman, as the poisonous apple that exploits his vulnerabilities and renders a series of irreversible consequences. The film intertwines physical hypnosis to induce black acquiescence to a  new identity. Rose acts as a form of hypnosis in her pursuit and pseudo-love for the black male. In seeking to consummate white acceptance and assimilation in his romantic relations with white women,  the black male body enters a vulnerable state exploited by his “prize.” Thus, Rose uses her external appeal to sink her thorns deep into the black male psyche. Just as their love seems to bloom, it is not Rose who dies, but her black lover–illustrating the measure of a rose’s beauty is the ability to distract admirers from its thorns sinking into their flesh.

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3. Science and black experimentation

The Armitage family abducts blacks, hypnotizes them, and uses the black body to improve white quality of life. The procedure leaves a small portion of the black brain but replaces the majority with a white brain. Thus, the black person becomes “a passenger” in his own body. This procedure seems synonymous to the abduction of African bodies and displacing them onto indigenous soil. This displacement renders the black body a passenger in the western experience as each generation proves more distant relationship to their African origins. While the African brain may not be physically extracted, it becomes westernized so that descendants of abducted Africans feel more American than African–making the black body a commuter in their own oppression.

Interestingly, upon first meeting, Chris and Rose disclose that they hit a deer on their way up. In response, Rose’s father remarks that they “did a service” by hitting and ultimately killing the deer. It is this same ideology that prompts the white conservative to seek out black bodies to dismember for their own personal benefit. In their minds, the Armitage family does a service to blacks abducted for their procedure, as their procedure affords the black body a purpose believed to not exist outside of serving whites. Prior to preparing Chris for the procedure, Mr. Armitage asks him “What is your purpose, Chris?” To pose this question prior to their intended procedure suggests that their use of his body incites a purpose otherwise non-existent.

It is this same ideology that prompted white doctors and scientists to use black bodies to test out medical procedures. Henrietta Lacks’ doctor felt entitled to the contents of her vagina, so much so that he did not even consult her next of kin prior to abducting her cells. The pearl-like substances that killed her would acquire purpose in the lives Lacks would come to save following her death. Thus, just as the Armitage family deems the black body purposeful in servicing whites,  Henrietta Lacks’ story similarly illustrates the black body as purposeful solely when appropriated for western motives.

Slavery and the contemporary world implement a similar ideology as the most celebrated black figures: athletes, entertainers, and actresses all serve whites. Thus, the television, radio and even the education system all act as an informal hypnosis implemented as a means to control black bodies and place them on a dead end path to white servitude.

Film Review Get Out

4. The unassumed intellect

Get Out channels Charles Chestnut’s “The Goophered Grapevine” and “Dave’s Neckliss” in illustrating the unassumed intellect in Chris’ TSA friend, Rod Williams. For those unfamiliar with Chestnut or these stories, a prevalent style of Chestnut is to implement a character who due to their vernacular speech prompts most to assume that he is intellectually deficient. The unassumed intellect uses these preconceived notions to his advantage and deceives his “intelligent” counterparts by the story’s conclusion.

Similarly, Williams provides comedic relief to audiences in his delivery. Yet the dramatic irony evokes laughter from some and frustration from others as audiences know that Williams is the sole party in the film that knows the truth. This depiction functions positively, as it evokes a caricatured black image as a means to exploit presumed western conceptualizing of black intellect. In a perfect world, caricatured imaging of blacks would disappear completely. However, it is an act of advancement to include stereotypes in a way that prompts contemplation, or that performs in a way to challenge western predilection for the compartmentalized black body.

The Final Verdict

The most resounding part of the film for me is when the black male body reappropriated as the Artimage grandfather, snaps out of his hypnosis and not only shoots Rose but shoots himself. This depiction illustrates black detachment from a controlled identity as a necessary component to disabling mental enslavement. Furthermore,  blacks not only have to rid themselves from physical obstacles but the part of ourselves that encompasses these harmful ideologies.

My least favorite component of the film was the means in which the hypnotized black body reverts back to semi-consciousness. Although the black body is held hostage by a white brain, it a flash or white light that snaps them back into consciousness. Thus, although it is a black man who physically saves himself from his pending imprisonment–it is a stroke of white light that enables his escape.

Thus, while seemingly a cautionary tale to interracial dating, or to the black body trusting whites in any capacity–the film evokes a white savior in representation rather than form. At surface level, the film seems to evoke the separatist ideology implemented by civil rights leaders like the late Malcolm X. However, the authorship of said movie makes this close reading impossible to take seriously. For this reason, Get Out reminds me a lot of Birth of Nation.

After viewing both Birth of a Nation and Get Out, I left the theater somewhat content. These feelings faded almost instantaneously as I realized that these movies while depicting the complexities of the historical and contemporary black experience can only resonate but so deeply. Namely, both Peele and Parker write and produce movies that should be revolutionary, but are not.

Jordan Peele and Nate Parker both conclude their films in the same manner. Specifically,   Birth of a Nation and Get Out end with all central white characters are murdered by blacks. While fatalities at the hands of blacks substantiate black bestiality, it also functions to depict white bodies as factors that must be eliminated to free blacks from an oppressive state. Like Birth of a Nation, Get Out is authored and directed by a black male married to a white woman. This dynamic casts said black authors as significantly less harmful and least likely to actually eliminate the white demographic because to do so would be to not only murder their wives but the mother of their children. Furthermore, with their interracial unions, the black male writer and director assumes a non-threatening stance in which the murder of fictive white characters seems an artistic choice rather than a means to uplift the black collective.

While the western world attaches a taboo labeling to interracial unions, these unions function favorably to foment white supremacy. The strongest black leaders are strong not because of what they say but because of what they do. Thus, these films are noteworthy, not revolutionary, as it is not enough to implement images that suggest an ideology disconnected from the thought and action of the author.

Writer and producer Jordan Peele also complicates the ability to take Get Out seriously with his comedic background. Thus, his depiction of a white family who abducts blacks and uses their bodies for their own benefit—becomes a well-executed joke rather than reflective of a past and present horror not limited to a New York City suburb.

Article by C.C. Saunders