The movie Get Out can be considered an attempt to demonstrate how interracial interactions can be challenging for African-American community members due to the historical roots. The rhetorical performance revolves around the two main topics of race-based slavery and interracial romance. The film’s primary medium is the modern illustration of a slave plantation, where the owners are represented as Caucasian people. Its historical context is deeply rooted in the origins of racism in America, where ethnic segregation was an essential part of the nation’s development.
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The core rhetorical situation of the movie Get Out can be summarized by the arrival scene of Chris in his girlfriend’s house. There, he observes how African-American people are working on a plantation owned by the Caucasian family. Racism in the USA is characterized by the fact that it exists from the very foundation of the state. The truth is that the U.S. society was founded by European people, who made their colony from the United States.
At the same time, they differed in cruel treatment of other groups and hatred of all races except their own. The primary victims of racism were indigenous and non-White people, such as Indians and African-American slaves. All laws, rights, and freedom acts were only applied to Europeans because they did not belong to the rest. In the United States, there was a negative relationship to the non-Protestant white population, namely to the Italians, French, Spaniards, Greeks, some Germans, Dutch, Irish, Poles, and Jews (Hall 4). Initially, slavery in the United States was not based on skin color.
Initially, there were both White and African slaves who jointly served the European colonies. Often, African-Americans, having worked for a specific period, could receive freedom and land plots and became landowners. However, after 1676, slavery in the U.S. became a race-based one (Reece 20). It was this year that an uprising against wealthy landowners took place, led by Nathaniel Bacon. After his death, the U.S. government came to the conclusion that now, only black people will be slaves (Reece 15).
White people were promised various benefits, and they were freed from slavery. This period was called the period of Black slavery, when African-Americans used for agricultural work, work in the fields of paw, and tobacco extraction. In the north of the United States, slavery was not as common as in the south (Reece 6). In 1808, the U.S. Congress forbade the bringing of slaves from Africa, but for half a century, this tradition existed and was successfully implemented (Hall 17). In response to the objection to slavery and the slave trade, some representatives of Congress spoke about the differences between the races.
The movie’s historical context and rhetorical performance illustrate the scene of escape, which can be seen as liberation. A radical change came in 1865 when Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery, and in the same year, the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was also adopted (Reece 11). Despite this legislative abolition, some racial restrictions still existed, such as learning sites only for whites and Jim Crow laws, which seriously limited the rights of black minorities, as well as Indians (Reece 9). In short, these laws operated in the south-eastern states, where racial segregation was predominant.
During this period, the phenomenon of racism flourished, which is closely related to ethnic discrimination. In particular, it took place on the railway construction sites (Reece 14). Some laws restricted the access of non-white citizens to schools, shops, hotels, hospitals, transport, and toilets. In all the courts, there were two Bibles, one of which was designed so that black citizens could take their oath. In addition, African-Americans were limited in voting rights, and not all of the non-Whites were allowed to vote (Hall 20). Such a non-admission was based on the fact that these residents are illiterate and therefore could not participate in the voting, whereas white illiterate had their admission approvals.
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Moreover, the ideas of socialism and Darwinism became widespread. Many believed that some races and nations were not able to grow and develop culturally, which was also often reflected in American literature. It also can be seen in the movie Get Out, where a Caucasian woman hypnotizes Chris. In some states, interracial marriages were prohibited, and a particular attitude was the discrimination of people in the sphere of obtaining American citizenship.
In particular, it was only provided to free representatives of the white race, and in 1870, individual citizens and people from Africa could also receive citizenship (Hall 7). However, people who belonged to the Mongoloid race, as well as all Indians, were legally prohibited from granting United States citizenship. In addition, in the 20s of the 20th century, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Japanese and Indians from U.S. citizenship (Reece 12).
After 1917, access to U.S. citizenship was closed entirely to the Asian zone (Hall 8). Over time, progress in overcoming racism in the United States improved because there were significant achievements of citizens in the struggle for their civil rights. Later, the United States became a multinational state, under the auspices of which the most diverse nations were unified. A number of economic, social, and political measures were adopted, which were aimed at bridging the gap between various ethnicities, nationalities, and races.
Today, the United States, acting as one of the most developed states, is considered a free country, where there is no discrimination, and there are no grounds for it. All citizens are accepted regardless of the color, race, religion, or lifestyle that a person leads. However, this chasm, which had been brewing for centuries, was not wholly overcome. This is the primary message of the movie Get Out, which states that racial discrimination is still present, though not in full. At the moment, the United States is one of the countries where African Americans occupy a very high position in society (Hall 13).
They can become business owners, media personnel, journalists, artists, athletes and also hold management positions, such as governors and senators (Hall 19). However, the problems that have been called into society for a long time do not yet fit into the plane of friendliness, and culture is still divided into Blacks and Whites. Therefore, the rhetorical performance of the movie can be observed in the deeply rooted historical context of the U.S.
Another rhetorical situation occurs at the beginning of the movie Get Out, where the audience is introduced to an interracial couple. The genre specificity of the film is built around the theme of love between an African-American man and a Caucasian woman. Romantic love in Western culture is a feeling that has distinct connotations of universality and transgression in relation to class, racial, and gender boundaries (Perry 2141). However, romantic love is historical and always has “coordinates” in the sense that its forms are determined by particular cultural norms and laws. Love is an area where private and public come together, which makes romantic scenes of the movie an exciting object of analysis.
Romantic love, represented in Hollywood movies, is by no means universal. It is available only to a limited circle of those who have suitable Class, racial, and gender characteristics. In the vast majority of Western romantic comedies, the central character, the hero or heroine, is white, heterosexual, with an outstanding education and career ambitions. Heroes of romance in cinema are rarely representatives of other races, except Caucasians.
Moreover, in the vast majority of films about interracial romantic relationships, a couple is represented as a White man and a Black woman (Perry 2154). These representations are of great interest, as in the United States, interracial marriage between white women and Black men is twice as often as between Black women and White men. However, when interracial love relationships are explored in Hollywood films, they are almost always a pair of White men and non-White women, and not vice versa. Therefore, the movie Get Out attempts to contradict the current trend by illustrating a non-traditional couple.
While modern representations of romantic relationships seem progressive, they contain sedimentary racial descriptions of previous historical periods. Some elements of previous racial perceptions remain virtually unchanged, while others are transformed in response to the challenges of globalization, transnationalism, and the spread of mass information (Perry 2145). Ultimately, these films do not represent modern desire but the sphere of politics and the space of racial reconciliation. By offering this apolitical message, the movie Get Out does not reproduce and reinforce traditional views on interracial romantic relationships, race, and gender.
Endogamy, or the practice of entering into marriages within one’s racial group, is taken for granted in American society and culture. Endogamous heterosexuality is not specifically studied as an institution, although it is normative, and deviations from this norm are considered undesirable (Perry 2160). The representation of interracial heterosexuality either challenges or supports traditional ideologies and practices surrounding race, sexuality, and marriage.
Although interracial relations took place throughout the history of the United States, their public representations were rare and did not give a positive image of love. In American culture, which has a long history of racial segregation, the design of normative masculinity has always depended on the idea of the non-Whites, which embodied the absence of masculinity (Perry 2149). The denial of these groups transformed their own definitions of masculinity for American men.
African-American slaves were considered unmanly, as they could not protect their women and children. As American masculinity researchers note, the same groups that were historically viewed as devoid of masculinity were also often characterized as super-masculine, sexually aggressive, against whom “civilized” men must resolutely fight and thus save civilization (Perry 2157). The persistent myth of the mass consciousness of the non-White aggressor included ideas about the hypertrophy that developed Black sexuality.
Critical linguistics and critical discourse analysis are aimed at analyzing both implicit and transparent structural relations of domination, discrimination, power, and control expressed in language. These concepts were widely present in the movie Get Out, where the communications barriers were clearly shown from the African-American perspective. In other words, a critical analysis of discourse aims at a critical study of social inequality expressed in language or context. Many scientists who develop this area of science believe that language is also a means of domination and social power (Hall 7). It serves to legislate the relations of organized violence.
As far as legislative affairs of governance are not expressed, the language is ideological. Unlike other paradigms in text and discourse linguistics, the critical analysis of discourse focuses not only on oral or written texts as objects of study. An entirely crucial discourse report requires the construction of a theoretical model and a description of both social processes and structures. It leads to the appearance of the text, as well as social networks and processes within which individuals or groups as sociohistorical subjects create meanings in interaction with the context (Perry 2154).
Consequently, in any critical analysis of discourse, three concepts inevitably appear, which are the concepts of power, history, and ideology (Reece 20). Unlike studies in pragmatics and traditional sociolinguistics, critical discourse analysis seeks to avoid establishing a simple deterministic relationship between texts and society.
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In conclusion, the movie Get Out brings up two main topics of interracial romance medium and historical context of slavery. The overall rhetorical performance is a demonstration of how African-American people were captured by Caucasians, who intended to abuse them as slaves.
The movie also shows a non-traditional Black man and White woman relationship, which goes against the norms of Hollywood movies, where the concept of masculinity is mainly illustrated by White men. The director, Jordan Peele, tried to apply his talents in the horror genre to summarize these issues of interracial romance and race-based slavery in order to break the mainstream stereotypes of cinematography.
Hall, Catherine. “Doing Reparatory History: Bringing ‘Race’ and Slavery Home.” Race & Class, vol. 60, no. 1, 2018, pp. 3-21.
Perry, Samuel L. “Religious Socialization and Interracial Dating: The Effects of Childhood Religious Salience, Practice, and Parents’ Tradition.” Journal of Family Issues, vol. 37, no. 15, 2016, pp. 2138-2162.
Reece, Robert L. “Genesis of U.S. Colorism and Skin Tone Stratification: Slavery, Freedom, and Mulatto-Black Occupational Inequality in the Late 19th Century.” The Review of Black Political Economy, vol. 45, no. 1, 2018, pp. 3-21.