Get Out: It’s Not What Was Said, but How They Said It

I don’t have to tell you, dear readers, that Jordan Peele’s Get Out is good; all other film review outlets have done that for me. But allow me to say that if you haven’t seen this film yet, do so as soon as you can. If you’re worried that this film is a Boo! Haunted House sort of horror, then let me soothe your fears. Get Out is absolutely a horror film, but it’s horrific more in its realism than in any sense of gore or otherworldly fiends (though there is gore to be had). More than horror, though, the film is clever in its message. Like Zootopia, Get Out relays the message that racism continues to be damaging in its persistence in modern-day culture, but unlike the Disney flick, Get Out doesn’t lose its message due to a lack of direction. Instead, Get Out focuses on exposing the subconscious racism that lingers in a portion of its audience. Get Out sets itself apart by subtly—and then not-so-subtly—showing that white people who consider themselves progressive can be just as racist as the blatantly racist, and that this liberal-coded racism can perhaps be some of the most damaging racism of all.

Spoilers below.

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La La Land, Racism, and the Real History of Jazz

(image via Variety)

Hollywood loves few things more than it loves itself. I grew up watching old musicals with my mom, and many of them were super meta: musicals about actors putting on a show. Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney headlined a whole host of these films, enshrining the “Show within a Show” trope. My dad put it well, when I auditioned for a play in middle school: “Just don’t think you can solve the world’s problems by putting on a show.”

La La Land may not be trying to solve the world’s problems, but it’s certainly trying to save a few people. It won a stupid number of Oscars and was mistakenly announced as this year’s Best Picture (Moonlight actually received this year’s honor). But for all its adulation, La La Land is currently on the receiving end of accusations of racism. And those accusations are well-founded: as Refinery29 points out, one of the two main plots is about a white manic pixie dream boy saving real jazz from the silly Black sellouts. Ouch.

Is La La Land actually racist? The truth is a bit more complicated.

Spoilers abound below the cut.

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Assassin’s Creed III: A Good Game for Current Events

I really have just about given up on decent female representation in these games. It’s not even that women aren’t in Assassin’s Creed III—we do get a few characters, and they are anything but poorly written. They’re just not in it very much, and I know the story could do better. However, now that Trump has signed legislation allowing DAPL to proceed once more, showing how little both he and other Americans care about Native American lands and the rights of the people on those lands, Assassin’s Creed III was remarkably on point when it came to issues of race. Given the current political climate, it delves into a much-needed conversation about the oppression of minorities, white privilege, and the bad things that happened to make our country what it is today.

Spoilers up ahead.

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How About No: Why a Firefly Reboot Is Probably a Terrible Idea

There was a bit of a splash last week when it was revealed that Fox might, finally, be interested in revisiting the Firefly property. The word used was “reboot”, not revival or renewal, but the company’s apparent make-or-break factor was that they would only revisit it if Joss Whedon was interested in coming back to run the whole deal. Presumably, eternally optimistic Browncoats everywhere raised a cheer of joy, their hope renewed. But should Firefly come back to the airwaves?

Frankly, I think that’s a terrible idea.

Well, to be clearer, it’s a terrible idea unless they address the various and sundry deeply problematic problems that the original series had. The issue I’m coming up against is this: I suspect that eliminating all of these problems would make a show that barely resembles the beloved-by-many original. The show suffered from a variety of racisms with a strong sexist undercurrent, and these were not so much vague issues as they were built into the worldbuilding of the show, deep down in the foundations. Let’s get digging, shall we?

firefly

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The Assassin’s Creed Movie Sure Does Exist

(via gameranx)

(via gameranx)

I was excited for the Assassin’s Creed movie and had made plans to see it the day after it came out. Unfortunately, due to our scheduling around the holiday, I’ve only been able to get to this review now, weeks after its release. I think I can safely say that the Assassin’s Creed movie wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t very good either. I really wanted this movie to do well, and it had a lot going for it, but it just fell flat in too many places. Thankfully, it didn’t pander to preexisting fans and turn every scene into a pointless Easter egg hunt. Unfortunately, part of me suspects that’s because the people who made the movie don’t know all that much about the games in the first place, and not because of any considered storytelling decisions. On the whole, though, the movie suffered from poor characterization and worldbuilding.

Spoilers for the movie below the jump.

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Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: The Legacy of Christian Paternalism in the Harry Potter Universe

As long as there has been racism, people have been trying to justify it to themselves and others. Unfortunately, all too commonly, religion has been a prime factor in these justifications. While the Atlantic slave trade was just beginning, before slavery was made hereditary, slavery was justified by the simple fact that slaves weren’t Christian. Worse—they didn’t even know about Christianity! It was obviously necessary to capture them all and take them under the loving wing of white overseers in order to educate them about the Lord and Savior, right? Jesus did say to go and make disciples of all men! And otherwise they wouldn’t be able to get into heaven! And Christian salvation was just the first perk in a long line of awesome things slaves got for being slaves!

Yeah, that was my sarcasm voice.

Slavery is rampant in the Bible. The Hebrews were God’s chosen people, and they had slaves. Not only did they have slaves, but God must have approved of them doing it, because He gave them specific rules in Deuteronomy and Leviticus on how to do slavery the Yahweh way. In the New Testament, in St. Paul’s Letter to Philemon, Paul doesn’t so much reject the idea of slavery as he recommends that slaves and their masters maintain an imbalanced system of mutual respect, e.g. slaves should be obedient to their masters, and masters should repay that obedience with compassionate lordship. (Sounds a lot like what he had to say about marriage, so, uh, yikes on that one, dude.)

In the beginning, God created a bunch of stuff, including Adam. In both of the Creation stories included in Genesis, part of the myth involves God granting dominion over the earth and all the creatures He created to Adam, to hold in stewardship. As nonwhite peoples, in particular Black Africans and brown Native Americans, were seen as lesser, subhuman, and savage by white colonialists, it was easy to argue that this sense of God-given stewardship, this paternalism by divine right, should extend to include these other races. (The troubling principles of social Darwinism later lent pseudo-scientific credence to these arguments.) Instances of cultural genocide like the Trail of Tears, the doctrine of manifest destiny, and the Indian Residential School System were all in some way justified by the God-given belief that the white man had authority over how these “lesser races” should be living their lives.

Now, this is all horrifying and unpleasant to say the least, but what does it have to do with geeky stuff? Well, this Christian paternalist mentality is front and center in the Harry Potter universe, with the serial numbers filed off just enough to make it kind of secular.

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House Elves & Racism or Discussing Racism, but Not Really

So I’m not gonna lie, I absolutely loved Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but I was probably more critical of this movie than most other movies I’ve seen recently. I tend to hold the Harry Potter franchise to a higher standard because I love it so much. In essence, the Harry Potter franchise, like many others, has always been incredibly problematic; I was just too young and privileged to notice this when I first started reading the books. I’m now an adult watching Fantastic Beasts, and there are still aspects in the worldbuilding that we at this blog have criticized before and that others have criticized as well, so it’s a wonder that J.K. Rowling—or even Warner Bros—hasn’t attempted to fix some of these issues yet.

There is plenty to discuss about the recent movie, but today I want to focus on the house elves and how they were a stand-in for the period-era racism that Black people faced (but, you know, there weren’t actually any Black people in the movie). Once again, the Harry Potter franchise finds itself discussing racism without actually discussing racism.

jazz-singer-house-elf-fantastci-beasts

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