(Disclaimer: Major *SPOILERS* ahead. Proceed at your own risk.)
It has been two weeks since the premier of Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, and each day I’ve been engaged in dialogue about the film and its many themes. I can’t think of another horror flick (in my lifetime at least) that has garnered so much social commentary, which makes sense. This isn’t a half-man, half-demon haunting your dreams with corny jokes and knives for fingers. The scariest thing about this movie is that it represents a very real horror that black people face every day.
Even so, with all the commentary and analysis, nobody seems to be discussing the characters that I’ve been thinking about the most since walking out of the theater: Chris’ mother, Detective Latoya, and Georgina i.e. the black women.
Granted, of the three black women in the story, two are actually visible on-screen and we only see one of them for about three minutes. So, I’m not surprised that not many people are talking about them. I also know that experiencing this film as a black woman affects — or perhaps, enhances — my perspective. However, the roles of these characters are more profound than what meets the eye.
Let’s get into it:
Although we never see her on screen, and she is barely mentioned, Chris’ mother is just as central to the plot as Chris and the Armitages. Specifically, her death is the catalyst for the whole movie.
Her death, as a matter of fact, is the gateway to Chris’ “sunken place.” It is the chink in Chris’ mental armor, the weak spot that Missy exploits to lay the foundation of his demise. It’s fitting in this movie, which is a giant metaphor for how white supremacy harms black people, that Chris’ enslavement is indirectly caused by the sustained mental trauma of a broken familial bond.
It’s then easy to argue ― and the character Jim Hudson actually alludes to this ― that had Chris’ mother been alive, he would’ve been mentally fortified enough for hypnosis to not have worked; Jeremy would’ve had to step in and break him down physically. This sounds too familiar…
“There is an old African proverb that one should never forget: Black women be knowing."”
Speaking of Chris’ mother hypothetically being alive, I’m 99.9998 percent sure that she would’ve warned him about Rose five minutes after meeting her or within a month if Chris never brought her around. It was great to have Rod as the comedic voice of reason throughout the movie, but he clearly lacked the intuition that seems to be hardwired in every black mama. Rose’s evil spirit would have been exposed from the onset, or she would’ve been interrogated enough that she’d move on to her next black victim. There is an old African proverb that one should never forget: Black women be knowing.
Finally, Chris’ involvement (or lack thereof) in his mother’s death foreshadows his complicity in his almost-death. We learn that Chris’ mother is the victim of a hit and run accident. While she lay dying in the street, Chris doesn’t call for help or even worry about where his mother is or that she’s not home on time.
Now, I wouldn’t go so far to say that Chris is responsible for his mother’s death, but it’s his indifference that’s incriminating. His obliviousness and inaction, at the very least, prolonged his mother’s suffering. We see this same indifference to the strangeness of a Black woman’s behavior later in the film, except in that instance, it leads to Chris’ own suffering.
On the surface, Detective Latoya’s importance in this movie is simple. She has the authority (even more so than the cop at the beginning of the film) and the wherewithal to stop the Armitages and save Chris. But that authority is rendered useless by her mocking and disbelief in Rod’s story of kidnapped black men being used as sex slaves.
Which brings me to something less obvious: Detective Latoya’s scene represents a deviation from the ancient tradition of black women saving black men. Here, we have a black woman not only positioned to be the hero, but to be the barrier between life and death for a black man. Yet, she puts her cape down and steps out of the way. Why?
In a film discussion/review of Get Out with Law Ware, Son of Baldwin asks: “Was that Peele’s way of saying that black women are tired of being everyone’s mule? Or does he simply lack insight into the plight/perspectives of black women?”
It’s a mixture of both.
Peele’s blind spot seems to be both black and white women. Specifically, this is in his inability to give nuance to black women characters, and his failure to condemn white women for their role in white supremacy. (Dr. Kinitra Brooks explains the latter in a hilariously titled piece, What Becky Gotta Do to Get Murked?)
Detective Latoya doesn’t even bother to do basic police work by filing a missing person’s report or at least probing further to see why Rod would approach her with such an outlandish tale. Add the fact that her scene was relegated to comic relief and one could argue that Peele has yet to understand the lens through which black women view the world.
Though having seen the film and letting this scene marinate in my mind, I have to ask: Why would Peele have a black woman save Chris when there’s already one trying to save him (Georgina) and he was incapable of saving another (his mother)?
Black women will always have black men’s backs but Detective Latoya is a symbol (maybe accidentally on Peele’s part) of the weariness and reluctance of black women showing up for black men who don’t always show up for them.
Last but not least, there’s Georgina. She is the most visible black woman on screen but also the most heartbreaking character. Before we get into that though, I want to talk about those damn pictures.
During the climax of “Get Out,” Chris finds photos of all of Rose’s black victims in a small closet of her bedroom. Georgina being the only woman in a sea of men made me think two things:
- Black women know better. We know better than black men and we don’t trust white women as easily. I was not surprised that Rose was only able to capture one black woman for every twenty black men because as I said above, black women be knowing.
- Despite us knowing better, we are STILL vulnerable. We’re still out here trying to survive. We have the same foot on our necks that’s on that of our brothers. And the *most* vulnerable of us are queer black women.
Going back to the heartbreak, there are two scenes with Georgina that are embedded in my brain. The first comes right after Chris arrives at the Armitages’ house and they decide to have iced tea on the porch. As Georgina is pouring tea in Chris’ glass, she flinches and goes into a daze before being dismissed by Missy to go rest.
Then, when Chris finds out his phone has been unplugged and suspects Georgina is the culprit, she confronts him in an effort to apologize. Her apology/confrontation not awkward enough, random tears fall down Georgina’s stoic face when Chris mentions he gets uncomfortable around too many white people. “No, no, no, no, no,” she repeats with a vacant smile but still inexplicably crying.
What I hadn’t realized while watching these two scenes in the theater was that unlike Logan and Walter, who apparently needed a camera’s flash to “wake up,” Georgina was the only one whose black consciousness broke through without an external trigger. She also seemed to have the greatest internal struggle when she was in close proximity to Chris. Which means she was fighting the hardest but it wasn’t even for herself. That is what’s heartbreaking.
I’m not sure that Peele did this intentionally, but Georgina is the embodiment of the two-edged sword that is the “strong black woman” stereotype. It’s this idea that Black women can’t be broken, that we don’t crack under pressure, that we make the best of our circumstances, or that we don’t need support. While this stereotype is founded in some truth (black women are some of the most magical and persevering beings I know), it also builds up a myth about black women and our ability to maneuver through life. We can be broken. Wedo crack under pressure. Sometimes, our circumstances get the best of us. And no matter how stable we are, we ALWAYS need support.
So, Georgina is every black woman that has lived up to this stereotype while simultaneously being cut down by it. She is every black woman who has fought or is fighting despite being constantly pushed down. She is every black woman who becomes wearier after each push and desperately needs someone to help pull her up. She is every black woman trying to save black men from their own demise only to be met with suspicion and distrust. She is every black woman who has to sustain whiteness for survival while struggling to protect and maintain her black womanhood.
Georgina is all of us.
This piece was originally published on Medium.