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Rob Edelman: Get Out...And Stay Out

Back in 1967-- that would be a half-century ago-- a mainstream Hollywood film came to movie houses. That film was GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER, and its stars are Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, and Sidney Poitier. GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER dealt with a subject that was highly controversial five decades ago. In fact, in some states, it would have been illegal. That subject is intermarriage, and GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER is the story of a black man and white woman who have just met, and have fallen in love and wish to marry. The film charts the responses to this news by both sets of parents, and GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER ends on a hopeful note. At the finale, the characters sit down, relax, and share conversation and a meal-- and the point is that individuals from different races can be friends. They can spend time together and, perhaps, they even might fall in love.

In recent months, films like LOVING and A UNITED KINGDOM, both of which are fact-based, tell the stories of interracial love and how these relationships triumphed over prejudice and lasted for decades. All of this is good and well, and well-intentioned. However, we live in a world in which racial hatred still reigns in certain quarters of the United States. With this in mind, a film that came to theaters earlier this year and recently became available on home entertainment is well-worth exploring. That film is titled GET OUT, and it involves a Caucasian woman who has been dating a black man for several months and what happens when she brings him with her to spend a weekend at her parents’ spacious suburban home.

As the scenario plays itself out, there is one clear message-- and that is that, in 2017, even the most accommodating Caucasian Americans just may not be trusted. With this in mind, the title GET OUT appears to be a message to black Americans, at least from a certain segment of white America. That message is: In 2017, you may have opportunities available to you that were unattainable in past decades. You can attend college and study what you want. You can find a job that suits you, and live in a neighborhood that suits you, and not be hassled if you dare show up on Election Day to cast your ballot. You even can fall in love with and marry the person of your choice. However, there is a certain segment of the population that finds this unacceptable. Their message to black America is not just “get out,” but “get out and stay out.” For after all, how dare blacks think that, here in America, they can be anything more than servants?

From a point of view of genre, GET OUT may be categorized as a horror film. This is clear, given the evolving plot. So appropriately, GET OUT is, at its core, the equivalent of a black person’s nightmare. It is a vision that is not based on paranoia, but focuses on reality. And that reality is depicted in the film’s first scene. Here, a young black man is innocently walking down a suburban street, all by himself. He is not present to commit a crime. He merely is looking for an address. But then, out of nowhere, a car stops. Its door opens. Someone emerges and, in an instant, the black man is beaten up. He is lifeless, and he is dragged off to heaven knows where...

Rob Edelman has authored or edited several dozen books on film, television, and baseball. He has taught film history courses at several universities and his writing has appeared in many newspapers, magazines, and journals. His frequent collaborator is his wife, fellow WAMC film commentator Audrey Kupferberg.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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