“Get Out” and Continuity

I have many thoughts about the recent film Get Out, as it is rife with all kinds of symbolism and brilliant social commentary. But for this post I just wanted to hone in on one thing: the concept of historical continuity.

By pure coincidence, I saw the film shortly after I read the novel Kindred, by Octavia Butler, for the first time. One of the things I really liked about Kindred was the way it used a common science fiction storytelling device — time travel — to make a point about how connected we really are to the past, how close things like slavery really are to current politics (brilliantly depicted in The 13th), and how much history defines our contemporary relationships even when we think we’ve moved beyond them.

Get Out, I think, did something similar, but in a different way. The story did not use time travel, but rather other sci-fi storytelling devices (I am trying to make this blog post spoiler-free and not be too specific!) to make a similar point about the continuity between the past and present. We are all products of the history that brought us here to where we are now, and we all feel the effects of that to this day — whether we realize it or not. The past is not present in Get Out the way it is in Kindred, but the point is the same; the past is really not that far away, and it affects our relationships, our society, our politics — right now.

I think this is part of the reason why a Swahili song was chosen for the opening and closing credits (and that the message of the song is what it is). This was a very subtle but effective choice, and does several things for the symbolism of the story. Among them, I think, is to bring everything full circle. If we are connected to our past and our histories in ways we may not necessarily be conscious of, this tale of warning in an African language reaches back even further.

I have no profound closing thought here, but I look forward to more films like this. And I can’t wait to see more Afrofuturism and Black sci-fi/horror in the mainstream because these creators and artists have been around for a long time and it is high time we saw more of it.

The next novel I plan to read is The Parable of the Talents, also by Octavia Butler. In it, Butler imagines — in 1998 — a US senator who promises to “Make America great again.”

 

Using my basic Swahili, here are the words I can make out to the opening titles to Get Out (see video above):

Brother; Sikiliza kwa mahenga
Brother; Sikiliza, sikiliza, sikiliza kwa mahenga
Kimbia; unakimbia mbali
Sikiliza, sikiliza, sikiliza kwa mahenga

Brother; sikiliza;
Brother; sikiliza kwa mahenga
Brother, kimbia!
Kimbia!
Kimbia!

Translation (my translation, so could be wrong):

Brother; listen to (your) ancestors
Brother; listen, listen, listen to (your) ancestors
Run; you (should) run far
Listen, listen, listen to (your) ancestors

Brother; listen;
Brother; listen to (your) ancestors
Brother, run!
Run!
Run!

About Carol Jean Gallo

PhD student at Cambridge. Interested in local context and global affairs and the crossroads and misinterpretations between them.
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