Saturday, August 12, 2017

a brief review of the movie "Get Out!"

In his directorial debut, Jordan Peele has a little somethin' for all y'all now...Wow!

Peele (a comedian of Key and Peele fame) neatly pokes and skewers a number of targets: "liberal" condescension; "conservative" racism; Progressivism on science, eugenics, and its implicit pursuit of godhood; racism among the police; rationalizations of the use of force on others to benefit me and society; wrestling with what does it mean to "be/act black"; and so on. In a word, the movie has been described as "horror-satire".

The movie is crass in terms of sexual content-- although it's all talk (vs. showing anything)-- and especially in terms of language. Beyond that, the movie is loaded with mature social themes; this is not a movie for kids at all! It's difficult to describe the movie's genre: it's well-crafted and scary in a cool/creative way, but there's a good bit of comedy and drama too. (It reminds me most of M. Night Shyamalan's work.)

A few little things you may not catch: The characters in the opening scene show up later and one guy is wearing a helmet. Halfway through the movie, they're not playing bingo. (Pay attention!) The moment of redemption with Georgina is very cool. The use of milk and Fruit Loops is a nice, subtle touch. And if possible, see a version that has the alternative ending with Jordan Peele's explanation-- very interesting. (At first, you can imagine the alternative ending being realistic, but then if you think about it, it's quite unlikely). Here's a bunch of other stuff and a bit more!

One big theme in the movie is what to do with stereotypes-- what economists call "statistical discrimination". In a world of highly-imperfect-and-costly-to-obtain information, how much information do we work to obtain-- and how much care should we take in drawing inferences (about age, race, circumstances, etc.). Do we sympathize with the one character's reluctance to judge or the friend's paranoia? You know something before the character does, but how much do you really know and how much does you or he "know"? At what point are you required to make a decision, with your limited information-- and what do you do?

Examples:
-Chris says it's "good to see an old brother". Rod complains that an old lady could be a terrorist, but few people want the TSA to divert resources from searching Ahmad to searching Ethel. 
-The guests harbor various stereotypes about African-Americans males. But are they true and if so, how does it matter? Ironically, Jim values Chris as an individual-- at least, for "his eye". 
-Dad notes that it's a "total cliche" to have black servants. He "hates the way it looks", recognizing the potential gap between reality and perception in a low-information environment. Jeremy is a racist of some sort-- not a good sign, especially if we're supposed to think highly of his parents.
-Dad says he would have voted for Obama a third time if he could have-- and this gives him currency with Chris. One sees virtue signaling of this sort in many different contexts. 
-Dad is a neurosurgeon, so Chris is supposed to accept his expertise. Mom is a psychiatrist, so her training and expertise bolster her reputation. Society says we should highly value intelligence and training, but as per Murray, then we're wondering about the far-greater role of morals and ethics.  
-We laugh at Rod's conspiracy theories and we note how he and his story are handled by the police. Conspiracy theories are attractive in that they explain the little bits of information that we have-- all in a nice clean bundle which "explains" the world quite well (a la Chesterton's maniac). The funny thing is that they're not conspiracy theories if they're actually correct.

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