Anger Translator: Jordan Peele's Get Out

By Jarvis, Michael | Science Fiction Film and Television, January 1, 2018 | Go to article overview

Anger Translator: Jordan Peele's Get Out


Jarvis, Michael, Science Fiction Film and Television


Anger translator Jordan Peele's Get Out Get Out (Jordan Peele US 2017). Universal Pictures 2017. Universal Studios Home Entertainment. Region 1. 2.40:1 widescreen. US$10.00.

WELCOME WAGON LADY: Have you heard? Just spreading like wildfire. A black family's moving into town. Think that's good? I think it's good. Well, I don't know if I think it's good so much as I think it's natural, considering, well, I mean, after all, we are the most liberal town around.

JOANNA EBERHART: Stepford?

- The Stepford Wives (Forbes US 1975)

In a 2007 analysis of the campy millennial remakes of The Stepford Wives (Oz US 2004) and Bewitched (Ephron US 2004) for Journal of Popular Film and Television, Sherryl Vint updates Susan Faludi's 'backlash thesis' in order to point to a disturbing trend in the discourse of contemporary cultural production. Building on Faludi's diagnosis of a popular cultural reaction to second-wave feminism, one illustrated by narrative portrayals of career-minded women who come to regret missing out on the more meaningful pleasures of domesticity, Vint argues for a more insidious contemporary 'new backlash':

In [Faludi's] old backlash, feminism was vilified as a false ideology to which women sacrificed their personal happiness (in marriage and motherhood) for the sake of abstract ideals about work and independence. In the new backlash, women's equality is treated as a fact that no sensible person would deny, but feminism is made to seem ridiculous and passé in its insistence on still talking about gender discrimination when we all clearly live in a postfeminist utopia. (162)

Instead of attacking the discourse of feminism by overtly espousing anti-feminist ideologies, texts associated with this new backlash attempt to render the question moot on the surface while advancing the subtextual thesis that women's self-actualisation occurs primarily via traditional (heterosexual) coupling and domesticity - that is, it espouses anti- or pre-feminist dogma via the cultural logic of post-feminism. The deceptiveness of this approach is further illustrated through both its jettisoning of the surface signifiers of misogyny/intimidation marking anti-feminism and its appeal to what is presented as an a priori universal good:

New backlash motivates not through fear as in 1980s backlash culture, but through love. By making the right man the solution to the dilemmas of gender discrimination, new backlash texts make feminism comedic in the present and imply that even in the past feminism must have been mistaken or exaggerated problems because love is real, natural, and unchanging, preventing us from ever imagining a world in which most men treated women badly. (163)

In other words: things are fine now (not that they were ever that bad, really), so what are you worried about?

I revisit Vint's critique of popular post-feminism at length in beginning this DVD review of Jordan Peele's satirical horror film Get Out (US 2017) not just because of the director's clear affection and for and pastiche of the original The Stepford Wives - unlike the 2004 camp parody remake, a horror film with a clear second-wave feminist polemic - but because in updating and racialising the Stepford-trope, Peele works within the terrain of an analogous cultural backlash, mainstream post-racialism, which similarly constitutes a covertly reactionary structure. Get Out critiques a fantasy of post-racialism that functions in much the same manner as the post-feminism that the Stepford remake champions, a post-racialism that overtly disavows the anti-blackness/ white supremacy that is its proper subtext and which appeals, like the postfeminist new backlash's emphasis on companionate love, to the consensus good of universal humanism in order to justify its disregard for an actual progressive racial politics. In post-racialism the problems which necessitate an anti-racist praxis are safely displaced onto a cultural fantasy of the past, i. …

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