Directors Jordan Peele and Kathryn Bigelow sent shockwaves throughout the nation with the releases of their daring and racial films Get Out and Detroit, respectively. The two groundbreaking movies both directly and obliquely emphasize the dangers of racism. While Get Out examines how racism is still prevalent today—especially by less obvious means—Detroit stresses how past acts of racial terrorism must never be overlooked.
Peele’s no-holds-barred film Get Out made $252.4 million, effectively entertaining and shocking the world. Though released Feb. 24, Get Out has left a lasting impact on consumers and critics alike.
“The number of things Peele manages to reference is stunning: the taboo of mixed relationships, eugenics, the slave trade, black men dying first in horror films, suburban racism, police brutality,” Lanre Bakare, west coast arts editor for The Guardian, said in his critical analysis of Get Out.
Rose—played by Allison Williams—takes her boyfriend Chris—a young black photographer played by Daniel Kaluuya—upstate for the weekend to meet her parents. As the weekend continues, a series of progressively disturbing events lead Chris to realize his worries and doubts about meeting her all-white family were justified.
Peele combines horror and racial tones to emphasize what it means to be black in the United States. Not only does the film explore and criticize overt racism, it more importantly reveals the all-too-true reality of liberal racism.
Liberal racism is defined by the processes of “outright or masked denial, minimization, defensiveness and guilt,” according to the University of Calgary. The villains in Get Out are not your predicted neo-Nazis, rednecks or “alt-right” individuals. Instead, they are your everyday middle-class liberals.
There are many instances of this type of racism shown in the film, such as the family’s repeated phrase of, “I would have voted for Obama for a third term if I could.” This particular phrase is ignorant and racist because it communicates that the family feels uncomfortable around Chris.
The fact that they have to let Chris know they voted for someone with the same skin color as him shows that they see both Chris and Obama as people different from them, and they are, in a sense, patting themselves on the back for accepting the both of them.
Other instances of this type of racism occur when Rose’s father Dean—played by Bradley Whitford—calls Chris “my man” right off the bat and the white guests at the garden party assure Chris how much they appreciate Tiger Woods.
Through these means, Peele emphasizes how racism is not always experienced through open acts of discrimination, but rather through the underlying bigotry that exists in everyday conversations, which makes life hard and uncomfortable for black people in modern America.
In the same vein, Bigelow’s Detroit—released Aug. 4—is based off of the real life deaths of three unarmed black teens during the 1967 Detroit riots in an annex of the Algiers motel.
In Detroit, these three black teens, Aubrey Pollard—played by Nathan Davis Jr.—Carl Cooper—portrayed by Jason Mitchell—and Fred Temple—played by Jacob Latimore—are killed while others are brutally beaten by police officers. The sound of a gunshot prompts law enforcement to search and seize the annex—which the audience is aware was just a toy gun shot set off by Carl. The intensely vivid and violent portrayal of the police brutality that took place serves as an eye opener to the injustices these men and the black community as a whole have and are still facing.
These films are intended to provide viewers with an enlightened and combative response to all forms of racism prevalent in our modern society. There were several real world displays of racism and violence that took place not long after the release of these movies.
The events in Charlottesville, Va. that took place in mid-August are a perfect example. White nationalists gathered for a “Unite the Right” rally, which was organized to protest a plan by local officials to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee. During the protests, a car driven by 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. crashed into a crowd of counter protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather D. Heyer and leaving at least 34 wounded.
As if the actions of this group of neo-Nazis and white supremacists weren’t enough, many were also very disappointed in President Donald Trump’s response to the incident. Trump described the events as “an egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” on August 12. In short, the shocking and disturbing events that took place in Charlottesville debunk the myth of a post-racial America, just as Peele aimed to portray in Get Out and Bigelow depicted in Detroit.
It is imperative that movies like Get Out and Detroit are created and recognized. Peele and Bigelow do not allow viewers to turn a blind eye to racism and injustice. Their powerful movies inspire consumers to combat and reject the harmful effects of both violent and subtle racism that are still prevailing in modern America.u