Review: Get Out

*minimal spoilers*


 

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Horror is so often in the mundane—the turn, in an instant, from a walk in a pleasant suburban neighborhood to violence that can end a life. Horror movies have been built on this trope since the beginning, but it is also a potential daily reality for black America. Jordan Peele’s directorial debut underlines this point immediately, layering both classic horror cues and a situation that immediately recalls the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

Having established this metaphor—which is less a metaphor than a brutal, direct statement—we meet Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), who are headed to her parents’ estate for a weekend. “Do your parents know I’m black?” Chris asks, thinking ahead to a potentially uncomfortable first meeting. It’s a question that most interracial couples have encountered, if not always out loud. “They’re not racist,” Rose replies. “I would have told you.” The idea that Rose can see her own privilege through the veil of her place within the family made me scoff, sitting there in the theater. Chris let it go. It laid the perfect groundwork for the questions the movie would raise: about refusing to see what is in front of us, and about blinding ourselves with more comfortable or more convenient truths.

At every turn, the film explores how the sinister can be folded into the seemingly ordinary, through the specific lens of racialized interactions. As the weekend progresses, Chris attends a party thrown by the Armitages for their friends—wealthy older white people who wear Chris down with a barrage of uncomfortable comments that feel all too realistic. From an older woman who goes straight for Chris’ arm muscles, to a comment by Rose’s brother containing the phrase “genetic makeup,” there’s a growing burden on Chris to smile through it all. The premise lends itself brilliantly to horror—after all, aren’t moviegoers already primed to feel a slightly sickening sense of unease and dread when it comes to the sight of a young black man alone in a crowd of older white people? We don’t even need the context of a horror movie to know that historically, and in the present moment as well, there is potential for racialized violence there. Is the awkwardness caused by “benign” racism fueled by mere ignorance? Does it mask, like a KKK hood, the real racist beneath? Like all good horror films, Get Out heightens a particular social anxiety to the point of frenzy. In this case, it’s about accurately judging the depths of a person’s discrimination. Being able to tell the difference between an awkward social encounter and a more sinister racist depth is everything.

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It also delivers a pointed send-up of the microaggressive well-meaning white liberal, since racism is not, in fact, the sole domain of southern evangelicals. The film makes a point of emphasizing Rose’s sympathy for Chris’ situation and her father’s insistent ally-ism (including an absurdist moment where he discusses an ancestor happily losing to Jesse Owens under Hitler’s watchful eyes). Well-intentioned civility can, and does, coexist with the kind of casual cruelty and uncaring evil that will put the good of the tribe first—even among the educated and self-proclaiming liberal.

These are signs that Chris chooses to ignore, or to subsume, time and time again. In his character, we get not only a stand-in for the threatened black male body (among a white cocktail party, or on the side of the highway facing a white cop), but also a figure for the kind of accommodation that white supremacy exacts. We can get along well, the movie says in the beginning, as long as you’re willing to bend a little. Overlook moments of discomfort so that everything will go smoothly. Eventually, this is a road that leads him straight down a nightmare, as the stakes of his attrition rise higher and higher. Chris spends so much of the movie accepting his own discomfort, in situations that seem plausibly microaggressive, that he can no longer see the true nature of the threat in front of him. The other black characters at the Armitages’ house are so accommodating, genial, and blank that the audience is supposed to know something is wrong—but they’re not the only ones bending over backwards just a little too much.

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It’s difficult to discuss the movie further without giving away its biggest plot twists—but rest assured that, though the actual plot isn’t exactly subtle in the end, it is immensely satisfying. There is, as a friend noted when we left the theater, absolutely no redemption for white characters in this movie. And that’s ok. This is one movie, out of hundreds and thousands of movies, where the discussion begins and ends on the side of the black characters. The discomfort is insistent, vivid—a perfect counterbalance to the kind of palliative conversations that revolve around white supremacy and “the alt-right.”



Verdict? Five stars. Watch immediately.

 

 

 

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Women at Work: Jen (Bartender)

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Editor’s Note: Today I’m excited to feature Jen, a bartender from Cincinnati. We talk expert mixology, daily work in a fast-paced restaurant, and more!

Continue reading “Women at Work: Jen (Bartender)”

Women at Work: Tess (Cobbler/Shoemaker)

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Editor’s Note: I’m excited to present our third interview in the series! (Check out 1 and 2 as well!) We talked to Tess, who works in a rather unusual industry—as a cobbler’s apprentice. As someone who knows basically nothing about the handcrafts industry, it was cool to talk to someone who is following such a unique path. Read on below:

What do you do for a living?

I’m a cobbler’s apprentice right now. Cobbling doesn’t have an educational requirement/school, so everyone tends to start as an apprentice.

What does a typical day on the job look like for you?

Tess GobeilI am admittedly still learning and there is an insane amount of little things to memorize. Typically, I come in and am shadowing someone for the day, whether that is on the glueing side of the shop, or the finishing side. I often am helping someone work through their rack of shoes, and in down time, I am doing a lot of varied shop prep work. This has included stuff like cutting and glueing new rands for rock climbing shoes, cutting down large leather pieces into small leather heel pads, taking the stock order weekly, preparing halfsoles to be used for those day’s shoes, etc.

Something that I really love about the work is the variety and that I have yet to have one day that was the same as the one prior.

How did you decide to become a cobbler’s apprentice? How much longer do you have as an apprentice, and then what is the process like after that? How much do you make?

Last year, I was working in a handmade papermaking mill, doing mostly bookbinding type work, across the country from where I live currently (which is also where I grew up). I had a partner back home, I wasn’t feeling fulfilled at work, and I was just ready to leave town. I knew I wanted to keep working a workshop environment but I was hoping to keep away from heavy trades (like carpentry, welding, etc) because those don’t interest me much. I ended up cold calling a bunch of cobblers in the city I wanted to live in, and it worked out for me!

As it is, somedays I am given a few pairs to do repairs on. Right now, it’s mostly simple stuff, basic hand-sewing and glueing, sanding things down, etc. When I am fully trained, it will look pretty similar to what I do now, except more work and more complicated work. In the morning, I’ll be assigned a much bigger pile of shoes to work through, aha.

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Right now, I make 12$CAD an hour (9$USD) but I’m told that gets raised pretty regularly, after training and assuming I’m still doing solid work.

I’m definitely the baby of the shop still, so it’s hard to say how long I will be apprenticing for! Probably six months to a year, if I had to estimate.

Very cool! I feel like not many people our age are in touch with this kind of smaller-scale craft work. Are you worried about the growth of your industry, or are you not planning to stay in it definitely?

I’ve had a pretty niche set of jobs and I really strive to stay connected to smaller crafts, because I think they are really valuable as an industry (even if it’s a small one). I’m definitely intending to stick with cobbling. In school, I actually studied papermaking but when I went to do it as a “career”, it just wasn’t for me. So it’s been really encouraging to find something with some familiar hand-skills, that I really love.

In regards to growth, I am not so worried. There has been a big push on online fashion communities, that appears to be trickling into the mainstream culture, that we should be buying buy-it-for-life and better quality products in general. Ideas like this are imperative to cobbling continuing to strive, so I am very grateful for a shift.

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Was cobbling traditionally a male-dominated field, and how does it compare today? Do you see any gap in wages between men and women in your field, or any other areas where you think the conditions for women could improve? (I.e. Things like maternity leave?)

Cobblers themselves are mostly men, I’d say. It’s hard to say why exactly, other than it’s a blue collar industry. And realistically, it’s also one that isn’t very innovative or having changed much, so I sense it isn’t one that has really made a shift to encouraging women to get involved. As well, lots of people aren’t sure how to break into the industry. Our shop is about 20% women, which is pretty low compared to other industries.

Something that our shop does that I really appreciate is always having a cobbler on the front intake counter. This position rotates every shift and that person is also working on shoes in between customers. As a woman, this feels like it reinforces that we are not just cashiers or front-of-house people, but that we also are the ones doing the dirty work.

I would say that the majority of cobbling shops are one-man-stands, ran by slightly older gentlemen who have been doing it a really long time. It’s going to be really interesting to see how the industry evolves over the next 20 years.

I don’t see any wage gaps, but it may also be because the industry is so small and there are so few people really vying to get into it. Most people are hired as apprentices by a man in his one-man-stand, so there aren’t a lot of fellow female coworkers to compare wages with, unfortunately.

Tess is making a pair of shoes from scratch and documenting the process on tumblr. You can follow along here!

Women at Work: Amy (Nonprofits/LGBTQ Task Force)

Editor’s Note: Today we continue with the second interview in our Women At Work series, which is focused on a diverse range of working women and their experiences. Amy’s interview provides a companion piece to our first interview, with her mother Eileen. If you haven’t read that piece, I highly recommend it!

Women at Work logo.jpg Continue reading “Women at Work: Amy (Nonprofits/LGBTQ Task Force)”

Met Gala 2016: Manus x Machina and Red Carpet Looks

The Met’s Costume Institute Gala has morphed into one of the year’s biggest celebrity fashion events, partly because the gala uses each year’s theme to inspire the fashion of its guests. We wrote about last year’s Met Gala (“China Through the Looking Glass”), here. While the theme did inspire some truly beautiful looks (think Rihanna’s yellow silk couture by Chinese designer Guo Pei), the exhibit itself was a hodgepodge of problematic Orientalism, dabbling in the same exoticization and fetishism that mark many designers’ relationships with the “mysterious East.”

This year, the Costume Institute turned to a new fashion frontier with its theme “Manus x Machina,” an exploration of the way that fashion and technology intersect. In the past, the line between high and low end fashion fell roughly along the handmade vs machine-made—think painstakingly hand-beaded couture gowns opposite factory-churned fast fashion. But this divide is no longer so clear. New technologies, culled from mass-production, enhance the creation of the most rareified designs (for example, the intersection of thermoplastic film and hand embroidery), forcing us to rethink the relationship between industry and what has traditionally, but perhaps not quite accurately, been classed as pure artistry and craft.  Continue reading “Met Gala 2016: Manus x Machina and Red Carpet Looks”

Women at Work: Eileen (Writer/Editor)

Editor’s Note: I am very excited to introduce the inaugural interview of our new series, “Women at Work.” This series aims to open up conversations about what work women do, what aspects of work they find fulfilling, and what improvements can be made to their part of the American workplace. We’ll talk to women in a broad range of fields, in different stages of their careers.  Greater transparency benefits everyone! Our first interview is with 91-year-old Eileen Lavine, a retired editor who began her career several decades ago.

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1) What did you do for a living? What do you do now? 
I was a writer and editor for most of my career. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1945, and knew when I first entered college that I wanted to have a career in journalism. I had also been an editor of my high school newspaper (an enormous all-girls school in Manhattan), and as soon as I started college (at the age of 16 ½), I went to the office of The Daily Cardinal, the award-winning newspaper at Wisconsin, and started as a reporter.  That was September 1941 – and when we entered World War II in December, many of the male students went into service – so The Cardinal was run mostly by women, and I became the first woman to serve a full year’s term as executive editor.

2) When you were in school, what did you imagine you would do for a living? Did you have a strong sense of direction in terms of career, or a sense that there were many options open to you?

Yes, I had a strong sense of direction – I did not want to major in journalism, but rather in American Institutions, an inter-department major where I concentrated in political science, history, sociology and economics, all much more valuable for journalism.

When I graduated, I went to Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and received my M.S. degree. Then I worked as a reporter and Assistant Sunday Editor on the New Bedford (Mass.) Standard-Times for about 2 years.  I then came back home to New York and worked as an assistant to Dorothy Gordon, who had youth forums on radio for the New York Times – my job was doing forums at junior and senior high schools around the city on current events and cultural issues.  After 2 years, my job ended and with my generous severance pay I went on a six-week Grand Tour of Europe, ending up in Paris where I stayed for a year doing some free-lance writing for UNESCO and the Economic Cooperation Administration (US Marshall Plan). When I came back home, I became editor of a welfare and health newspaper published by the Community Council of New York.  I married and was doing free-lance writing when my first child was born, then we moved to Washington, DC (my husband was an attorney with the Federal Trade Commission) – and I started doing part-time work for a nonprofit association in the medical field, writing and editing newsletters and other materials.

Eileen LavineIn 1968, a group of us – all women whose husbands were employed – incorporated ourselves as Information Services, Inc., an editorial business that produced newsletters, brochures, conference proceedings,, public relations programs, etc. mostly for health and education organizations and government agencies.  I was President of the company for much of its existence and also was active in the formation of the National Association of Women Business Owners.  We were a low-key firm, mostly housewives working part time on a variety of assignments.  It was quite unique at the time, but we were fortunate in that the organization that had brought us together in the first place continued to pay for the rent and office supplies, and also most of us had husbands who were working and had health benefits.  Our company closed in 1998.  Since that time I have been a volunteer, first as a mentor for young Black and Latino students in reading and acculturation projects and a member of the Board of Directors of the organization sponsoring this program , and for the past eight years, I have been a senior editor at Moment Magazine, a bi-monthly publication founded 40 years ago by Elie Wiesel as an independent magazine on Jewish cultural, social and political issues. I have written articles for the magazine, and I do copy editing and proofreading for each issue.

3) Did your family, friends, and other people around you support your ambitions to be a writer and editor? Was there pressure to do something else with your career/life?

Yes, my family and friends strongly supported my ambitions to be a journalist.  From my high school days, I always went to the 070 section in the public library to read books about journalists. My father, who was a doctor, died when I was 10, and my mother was very supportive of me and my two sisters in everything we did, from going to college out of town, working on the high school newspaper, and going to graduate school (I lived at home that year). My friends also had career goals, and most of my close friends worked after college and after they were married (although most, I believe, stopped working when they first had children, returning to work in later years).  I don’t recall any friends of the family questioning my ambitions.  My older sister, who graduated from college in 1941, got a master’s in economics at Columbia, worked for several yeas after she married, then returned to work when her sons were older. Ditto for my younger sister.  There was never any pressure for any of us to do anything else.

4) Do you see major differences in the way that women are seen and treated in the workforce, from your early days as a writer and editor to your time now at Moment Magazine
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Eileen celebrates her 91st birthday at Moment Magazine.

Obviously, women in general have many more opportunities today – but remember, my college years were during World War II and women took over many jobs at that time. Some of my friends in college accelerated to get out of college in 3 years instead of 4 to take advantage of these jobs.
For a year in 1948 I worked on two trade magazines, before my job opened up at the NY Times, and the staffs were all women including the top editors. At Moment, the staff is almost all women, except for the design and production manager. We have had male fellows for one-year stints, but the latest fellows have been female.  I am continually impressed at the professionalism, capability and skill of all these women – and it has been a real pleasure for me to work with them.

 

5) Was the gendered wage gap and ERA [Equal Rights Amendment] a big topic of discussion during your time at Information Services, Inc.? What do you think can be done to further improve the working conditions of women today, if anything?

We didn’t discuss gendered wage gaps at Information Services because we were all part-time housewives whose husbands made most of the family income. So we really had no concern about the issue. However, we did march in support of the ERA and that was a big topic of discussion among us all.

As far as improving the working conditions of women today, I think professionally, women have made their marks already at the top levels of many fields, including journalism. The major issue today is how to improve working conditions for women at the lower end [of the job spectrum], to give them education and training so that they can move up and aspire to better jobs.

Our next interview is with Eileen’s daughter, Amy! What kinds of working women would you like to see us interview?


 

Know someone who wants to share their workplace experiences? Contact us :)

 

Ask Momo: 3/21/16

Momo tackles furballs, leaving your parents for college, and being #foreveralone

Processed with VSCOcam with b1 presetDear Momo,

Basically, I’m writing to you because I have already exhausted all my friends in talking about this. Maybe you’ll have some good advice. I’m 27, a successful consultant with a big firm, and generally feel good about where I am in life. I have a circle of friends I love, a nice apartment…I’ve hit all these benchmarks that I told myself I’d earn by this point in my life. So far so good. But my love life so far has been unfulfilling and unsatisfying, in terms of real partnership. Many of my friends are engaged or married, while I keep making the same tinder rounds. I can’t help feeling like I’m going to be alone forever.

I don’t feel this way all the time, but there are moments…quiet moments, I guess, when I’m home alone and I just feel like…this overwhelming feeling of panic and loneliness because I’m not getting any younger and I haven’t found anyone and maybe never will. I’m getting so tired of just going on empty meaningless dates and never moving past that stage. I feel like my time is running out. I know that makes me a bad feminist. I don’t need no man, etc. etc. But I can’t help feeling this way, anyway. So…any advice on how to get over it?

—J

Dear J,

As a cat, I like my alone time and consider it something to be treasured. But I also know how nice it is to be petted and cared for. I get it. Wanting to have something to joke with and watch TV in bed with and just generally share life with is not something to feel ashamed of. It’d be one thing if you felt like you absolutely couldn’t get your life together without a man/woman/partner/whatever. But that’s not the case, right? You’ve laid out your other “benchmarks,” as you call them, and it sounds like other than this partner thing, you are a woman (?) of many achievements and live a fulfilling, fairly balanced life. That’s more than many, many people are able to have, and you should be proud of that.

I also wouldn’t treat this as something just to be “got over with.” Accept that you are lonely, accept that you want a partner to share your life, and accept that it’s ok to feel this way. This is a more common “problem” than you think. So, how do you go about addressing this?

Honestly, I have very little concrete advice. I’m a cat, after all. Even if I were a human, this sounds like the kind of messy, complicated, open-ended problem that humans are always creating for themselves. You say you’ve tried dating apps, but find them unfulfilling. Maybe it’s time to switch up your tactic, if this approach is not getting you the results you want. Ask your friends to set you up! Go to in-person meetups, wander around bookstores, live whatever rom-com cliche you want. Just know that you are taking concrete steps toward your goal and feel happy about that.

Finally, I would tell you to have more faith in yourself. You are not unlovable, as your friends will attest. Take the confidence you applied to school, your job, and your social life, and tell yourself you won’t be alone if you don’t want to be. Have a little more belief in yourself, as you do in the other areas of your life. And good luck!

—Momo


 

Dear Momo,

I’ve been lucky enough to get into three of the colleges I really wanted to attend, all of which are outside my home state. I even have a full ride to the one I liked the best. The problem is that my mom is really, really opposed to me leaving the state. (My dad has very little opinion on this, but with his silence basically supports my mom.) She wants me to attend the state school I also got into, which is a pretty good school and close to our town, but just isn’t where I saw myself ending up. I’ve tried telling my mom the reasons I want to leave the state, but she always feels hurt and says I want to get away from them. That’s not really it, though I do feel like going to a school out of state would let me be more independent and meet more new people. Do you have any advice on how to handle this situation? What do you think? My mom and I have always been very close, and I hate having to start my college career like this. But I also don’t want to give up on my dream school. Thanks!

—M

From one M to another,

College is the time to stretch your spine and try something new. It can be one of the most formative times in life, and for most young humans, it’s their first time living alone and figuring things out like adults. That step into adulthood is something important that you shouldn’t give up just because you might hurt your mom’s feelings.

Your mother sounds like she’s being emotionally manipulative. She should realize that your college decision, which will probably shape the course of your life (or at least give it a push in a certain direction) is more about you than it is about her. Since you are (or shortly will be) an adult, it’s time to make the decision that will be best for you and help reconcile her to it as best as you can—especially since you have a full ride to the school of your choice, so there’s no practical reason you shouldn’t be able to go!

Take some time to talk this through with your mom, adult to adult. Of course, it is often hard for parents to accept that their children are growing up and leaving the litter. Be respectful of her feelings and make her feel appreciated, but be firm on what you want and why. I hope that approaching this in a rational and thought-out way will go a long way toward reassuring her. If not, make the decision that will ultimately be best for you. Weigh the options. You know your mom best—is this something that will hurt your relationship forever? It might seem like it, but remember that there are a lot of things you can do to ease the pain of this transition, like visiting home as often as you can, giving your parents frequent phone calls, etc. Good luck!

—Momo


 

Dear Momo,

How do you keep your coat shiny and healthy? Asking for a friend.

Dear Anonymous,

IMG_2429The only heat styling I submit to is a nice long nap in the sun. My human supplements my organic cat kibble with fresh fish and occasionally, some fruit (I like apples). Having a balanced diet with enough protein is important for fur and hair growth. I also try not to let myself feel too frazzled, since anxiety can manifest physically. Yoga is good for this. And of course, I groom myself daily. Sometimes twice daily. Looking put together is extremely important, don’t you think?

—Momo

 

Have a question? Submit to Ask Momo using the form at the top of the homepage. We take questions on any and all subjects, and promise to answer to the best of Momo’s ability.