Blacks Stereotyping in Get Out and Us Movies Media Analysis Prompt Examine and analyze how television, music, movies, or print media (e.g., newspapers, magazines) represent EITHER a specific course topic (e.g., color-blindness, racial identity) or a specific non-dominant ethnic or racial group (e.g., Asian Americans) or intersectional group (e.g., Asian American women). Ensure that your […]
Repeated targets of racist and sexist caricatures draw attention to Hollywood films. The movie characters, roles, and directors reflect the nature of stereotyping in films. Stereotyping on racial lines is prominent in this industry, with characters playing roles attributed to their generalized perceived tendencies. Therefore, Asian American characters often play as mystical villains; black characters die first; Africa features untouched civilizations, and Latino characters get defined by their sexual appeal. There is optimism that things will change owing to the increased calls for diversity and push for representation. However, there remain features that project stereotypical attitudes towards minority races. Peele, McKittrick, Blum, Cooper, and Hamm (2017,2019) in Get Out and Us, present a case that implicit and explicit bias are the main causes of African American stereotyping and try to rectify the negative stereotyping through reversed “Othering” and counter-stereotyping to avert its negative effects.
Get out, and Us breaks the norm created by stereotypical ‘othering’ in horror movies to allow African Americans to feature as main characters in horror films. ‘Othering’ is the concept of creating a dominant group and another construct that is dominated and considered an outgroup based on stigma and stereotyping (Brons, 2015). For a long time, horror films have had the white person serving as the main protagonist and the black people used as accessories, which often attracted the punch line of” the Black person dies first” (Hughey, 2009). Get out uses a black person, Chris Washington, as the main protagonist of the film and creates a white family as the accessories of the movie; therefore, Chris survives the ordeal, and Jeremy, a white person, dies first (Peele, MacKittrick, Blum, & Hamm, 2017, 1:27:43). In Us, the producer projects the same trend by creating a story around a black family facing the danger from a home invasion, in this case too; a white person dies first (Peele, McKittrick, Blum, Cooper, 2019, 0:55:30). The creation of a story behind the black people creates humanity for these characters, and the audience effectively has empathy for the race. The reversal othering created by these two movies creates a reversal effect on the previous set of practices in Hollywood that created marginality and inequality towards African Americans.
The movies project explicit bias towards the African American characters, thus associating them with abilities in different fields generalized for blacks. Explicit bias creates a conscious attribution of some qualities to members of a certain group based on previous associations, race, and particular qualities (Schmader, Block, & Lickel, 2015). For example, In getting Out, Jeremy associates Chris with street fighting because he is black (Peele et al., 2017, 0:24:30 – 0:24:5). The scenario resulted in an awkward moment when Jeremy finds out that Chris had not been into any tough fight as he previously had thought. Another explicit bias projected towards Chris in Get Out appears when Jim Hudson refers to the blacks as faster, stronger, cooler, and in fashion (Peele et al., 2017, 1:24:50). The prejudice, in this case, was the reason why the Armitage families projected a form of slavery towards the black people within their circle. Similarly, in Us, Gabe Wilson wants her daughter involved in tracks and the Olympics, given the advantage she possesses from being black (Peele et al., 2019, 0:12:59). The stereotype, in this case, would force parents to impose certain activities on their children when it is not their preferences. Explicit bias applies to people as a deliberate thought and thus is controllable. Therefore, people need to reinforce norms within their surroundings that respect individuality.
Another form of bias projected by stereotyping is the implicit bias that makes the African American characters drawn to some of the associated attributes. Implicit bias proceeds from an unconscious level and develops characteristics and attitudes involuntarily (Schmader et al., 2015). A good example of this bias from Get Out movie appears when a police officer associates Chris with criminal acts and asks for his license and registration, even though he was not the one who caused the accident (Peele et al., 2017, 0:12:30). The African Americans also have implicit attitudes towards each other as projected in Get Out when Chris uses slang to speak to a fellow black man even though he wasn’t sure whether he would appreciate the language (Peele et al., 2017, 0:54:46). Similarly, the same type of bias appears in Us when Gabe and Adelaide expect their son to be in tune with Hip-hop because of its relation to the Black culture (Peele et al., 2019, 035:23). Implicit bias is a product of taking in information that creates generalization and association and thus, everyone is susceptible to it. Implicit bias, though not a product of a conscious mind, leads to overt forms of stereotypes and racism. As projected in both movies, it is important for people to focus on other people as individuals, adjust previous perspectives and consciously change stereotypes to reduce the grip of this bias in day-to-day activities.
In his movies, Jordan Peele presents a case of counter-stereotyping to present a different perspective of how people got projected in previous times. The presentation of black women in film is that of sass and one with major attitude problems. In Us, Adelaide presents a more relaxed, caring mother who fights for her family at all costs. Black men have also been used to play the role of thugs and criminals in most television shows (Hughey, 2009). In Get Out, the thug and criminal family are white, and it works to counter the previous perceptions. Similarly, black men have had the role of Black best friends, portraying a black character who gives his whole life to save the white man from their problems (Hughey, 2009). In Get Out, Rod Williams exists as a black best friend with keen investigative abilities, but in this case, he comes to the aid of a black man. Counter stereotyping changes the previous attitudes of viewers towards minority groups allowing them to be more supportive and encouraging an alternative way to stereotype. It, therefore, stands to change the previous attitudes that showed that the black man wasn’t as valuable as the white one.
Stereotyping has implications for the characters as projected in the movies in both positive and negative ways. Othering, as portrayed in Hollywood films, had created a feeling of no significance for the black characters as they never played lead roles (Schmader et al., 2015). The wake of diversity in Hollywood saw several African Americans playing important roles, but the horror film sector did not progress the change. The Peele movies were, therefore, a symbol of change and inclusion, and the success of the movies proved that there was a change mindset. The explicit bias created a negative effect on the characters; for example, in Get Out, Chris is forced into several awkward conversations with the white folks because they relate him to other Black personalities such as Tiger Woods and Barack Obama and characteristics such as Black people sexual capabilities, street fighting prowess and criminal relations. The movie’s themes progressed the ideas of slavery in the mind of black people. It, therefore, displayed that racial politics in America were still backward and not inclusive. The implicit bias created a negative effect of progressing stereotypes further. For example, in Us, Gabe and Adelaide’s progression of Hip-hop to their son will be used to prove the association people have between black people and hip-hop culture. When that relation gets proven, it will give credibility to other associations, such as hip-hop and gang activity, tying these together to associate black people with criminal activity.
African Americans have faced negative stereotypes in Hollywood movies for a long time, specifically in the horror genre. Attributes such as association with criminal activity, sports, rap, and hip-hop music have resulted in perceptions that have defined how they get portrayed in movies. Get Out, and Us shows the viewers the stereotypes as presented by both implicit and explicit bias. The biases have the effect of misunderstanding the black person, creating the perception of non-significance for the black race, and projecting racial politics toward them. The directors further counter these stereotypes by providing a platform where black people play the main protagonists, and other characters negate the previous stereotypes.
Brons, L. L. (2015). Othering, an analysis. Journal of Global Studies, 6 (1), 69-90.
Hughey, M. W. (2009). Cinethetic racism: White redemption and black stereotypes in ” magical Negro” films. Social Problems, 56(3), 543-577.
Peele, J., McKittrick, S., Blum, J., Hamm, E. (Producers) & Peele, J., (Director). (2017). Get Out [Motion Picture]. United States: Universal Pictures.
Peele, J., McKittrick, S., Blum, J., Cooper, I. (Producers) & Peele, J. (Director). (2019). Us [Motion Picture]. United States: Universal Pictures.
Schmader, T., Block, K., & Lickel, B. (2015). Social identity threat in response to stereotypic film portrayals: Effects on self‐conscious emotion and implicit ingroup attitudes. Journal of Social Issues, 71(1), 54-72.
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Published On: 01-01-1970