The racism in Get Out is not the current threat

**Spoiler Warning**  The below discusses Get Out and has some mild spoilers so bear that in mind and maybe see the film first.

Get Out is often held up as a penetrating analysis of the politics of current racial dynamics. But its targets are not the real drivers of the current state of racial politics.  Firstly, a disclaimer – this is not one of those hot takes where someone just picks something popular and explains why you’re all wrong to like it. I loved Get Out, it was great. Genuinely funny, creepy as hell, and incredibly well-observed. I don’t have a word to say against it.

Except, maybe the way it is being discussed as a film that has so much to say about the post-Obama zeitgeist. The film is openly set the post-Obama world, and a couple of characters discuss the fact. Given the subject matter, some scenes consciously evoke the numerous incidents where white Americans – and particularly the police – have inflicted fatal violence on African Americans with impunity.

But the real target of the film’s biting critique is a form of racism that feels – at the moment – as if it has been superseded: the smug, hypocritical Boston brahmins who profess liberal views but secretly view black people as inferior – to a murderous extent in the film. Bradley Whitford’s role in particular, could be summed up as “What if Josh Lyman ran an underground slave trade?”

I’m not claiming that this is no longer a problem or that we should not object to this type of racism.  But the racial animus that has defined the last year or two is not the genteel hypocrisy so brutally exposed in Get Out.

Instead it is  the more open, and violent xenophobia, that labels all Mexicans rapists, brands MPs traitors and murders them, attempts to ban Muslims  or evokes Nazi propaganda in it’s campaign posters.

Explanations of the various political upsets that took place over the last year have been many and varied. But no one can seriously claim that they were marked by the immense confidence; the presumption of natural superiority that underlies the the hypocrisy of the Armitage family. These people are at pains to express their liberal credentials because they view the resentment and bigotry that fuelled Trump’s election campaign as below them. They are the “elite liberals” that have been the target of so much of the populist billionaire posturing we have seen in recent years. The ones so often railed at by the Daily Mail and Spiked. They don’t view the black characters as truly human, but they don’t hate and fear them for it.  Trump’s election and the referendum campaign weren’t characterised by a smug, superior condescension; one that indulges in a creepy fetishism of black bodies. Instead, they were characterised by  a simmering and often open resentment against people of colour. A  belief that society is a racial zero-sum game that whatever progress was made (or perceived to be made) by ethnic minorities came at a cost of white people.

Get Out is sharply observed, laugh out loud funny and genuinely creepy. But, it has little to say about the resentment that is really driving our current politics.

 

 

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