Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” is at 100% on RT. All the time T and I were shopping “My Soul To Keep” or “The Good House” we were told again and again there was no really successful black horror. “Can we change the race of the leads?” was the most common question. “Can we remove the social subtext?” was woven into every conversation, every development process.
I gritted my teeth.
When I was 30, I knew that the world wasn’t quite ready for me. That I might have to wait another thirty years or more before America moved far enough beyond past social realities (the legacy of slavery and segregation) and demographics such that I could speak my truth to a large enough audience to make a case to Hollywood that a major film would succeed–and trust me, the only language Corporations speak is money.
Well, if “Get Out” succeeds, it is another amazing step. Like “Black Panther” and “Django Unchained” it literally fills in image systems that have been gaps in the cinematic/cultural lexicon, pointing out a path of success.
The conversation will change: “oh! It’s like `Get Out’, only with X.” Yeah, that’s it. I knew that if I could keep my heart alive, treated this as a marathon rather than a sprint, I could outlast the fear and the monsters sufficiently to find a Tribe willing to hear my songs. The only question was: would I be too tired, too beaten down to see the opportunities? Scar tissue is inflexible. Emotional scar tissue is perceptual tunnel vision.
Would I be able to see the opportunities, be so wounded by failures, defeats, betrayals and accidental slights that I wouldn’t be able to see allies, mentors, and potentials all around me? Bitterness is a poison to the soul.
So I decided to love life. To be strong enough to be soft. Embraced yoga, martial arts, meditation, and the company of people of all races and political persuasions, if they were wiling to see my humanity. Took my three years in Georgia as a chance to see that yes, the South is both wounded and anchored to its history, and eager to move beyond it, almost desperate to be forgiven and accepted as human…and to see that that “Southern Hospitality” really is a beautiful and genuine thing.
To forgive my country for not living up to its promises. To love human beings for being imperfect, and therefore be able to forgive myself for being afraid. To give myself permission to fail. To find the faith to get up again, and again, and yet again…
Knowing that this day would come. People think it absurd to be so excited about watching a black guy in a cat suit sprint through traffic. They have never stood in my shoes, never understood what it was to watch “When Worlds Collide” and see only white people saved from extinction, and know the filmmakers didn’t give a damn what it felt like to be a black kid watching that. To be able to predict that Paul Winfield would be eaten by cockroaches in “Damnation Alley” because the audience wouldn’t want to see him compete for the last woman in the world.
Countless times I’ve been told to shut up, stop talking about these things. People have tried to gaslight me. Tell me to be ashamed of being a Social Justice Warrior or even have the temerity to try to define the term to denigrate it.
I will define myself. I know who I am, better than you possibly could. And if you try to define me, I know I know myself better than you know YOURSELF. Had you any real self-knowledge, you’d lack the stupendous ego to think you can define others. Or the fear to need to.
I am not my scars. Not my disappointments, not my pain, not my fear, not my anger. As a forest is the space between the trees, I am the space in which these emotions and events have occurred. So long as I keep my ego small, I don’t crash into the obstacles, can navigate in the clear space.
I am love, not fear. Love for my own soul, my dreams, my family and friends, my community, my country, my world. THIS is why a gentle boy spent forty years learning how to kill people. To be able to offer peace to anyone who would extend a hand to me.
“Get Out” is “The Stepford Negroes”, a meditation on the fear of assimilation, fear that hatred lurks behind the smiles. Built on real concerns, it would seem (I’ve yet to see it) to do what great horror, fantasy and science fiction does: externalize our dreams and nightmares so that we can wrap our minds around them. To water the poison until it makes you dizzy rather than sick.
Jordan Peele survived, and has questions about how and why and what next. I am so proud of him. And of myself.
I survived too, dammit. I’m still here. And seeing a world that some part of me doubted I’d ever see. I managed to tamp those voices down, but they were always there. Oh yes, they were.