Volume 7, Issue 2
Special Issue: The Work of Jordan Peele
Guest Editor: Chesya Burke, Ph.D.
To buy print copy of issue:
Foreword: We Will No Longer Be Your Monster, by Chesya Burke, guest editor (7-14)
The Sunken Place and the “Electronic Elsewhere” of Jordan Peele’s Get Out, by Amy Nolan (13-34)
Abstract: One of the most compelling uses of analog technology in contemporary horror thus far is Jordan Peele’s use of the television as reflection of and portal to the Sunken Place in Get Out (2017). From the time that the television was invented, the combination of sound and image has magnified the ghostly possibilities of reproduction. According to Jeffrey Sconce, “the paradox of visible, seemingly material worlds trapped in a box in the living room and yet conjured out of nothing more than electricity and air, [wherein] the ‘electronic elsewhere’ generated by television was thus more palpable and yet every bit as phantasmic the occult empires of previous media’” (126). Peele shows us the “electronic elsewhere” by connecting the Sunken Place to the analog television set as a signifier of protagonist Chris Washington’s repressed memory of his mother’s death. The television becomes an extension of the national nightmare and personal trauma that overshadow Chris’s adult life. Get Out is a distinctive, twenty-first century story, yet it draws from earlier horror films that focus on humanity’s relationship with technology.
Keywords: analog television, camera, eyes, horror films, Get Out, Sunken Place
Contending with Nightmares and Dreams: Designing Liberatory Black Futures through Lovecraft Country’s Speculative Counterstorytelling, by Ashieda McKoy and Arturo Cortez (35-56)
Abstract: Our article specifically addresses a need to understand speculative storytelling as an agentic lever in the creation of more just and equitable futures for Black communities. Thus, Lovecraft Country serves as a pedagogical example that helps Black spectators collectively understand both nightmares and dreams as tools of hope and possibility, resistance, and agency. Particularly, episodes that comment on respectability—or the ways in which Black folks shed our literal and metaphorical skins as capital exemplified by the “Strange Case” episode—materialize in the realm of nightmare, of the oppression that haunt our pasts and presents. Conversely, episodes that story the power of manifesting who we want to be now and in the future, as in the seventh episode “I Am.,” make for collective dreams that help us move closer to our imagined futures. Lovecraft Country, then, asks us to move through both the nightmares and dreams, or as Sankofa directs us, to contend with the horrors of our pasts to imagine the futures of our own making. Here, we point to the pedagogical possibilities of Lovecraft Country as a speculative counterstory that reimagines narratives of Black pasts/presents into stories of agency and resistance authored by Black communities themselves.
Keywords: Black futures, nightmares, public pedagogy, Sankofa, speculative counterstory
“I Want Your Eye, Man”: Appropriation, Defamiliarization, and (Meta-)Minstrelization in Get Out, by Stefan Schubert (57-81)
Abstract: Jordan Peele’s 2017 film Get Out has been studied for numerous (inter)textual and generic allegiances already, yet this article wants to add another avenue by examining in how far the film reacts to a particular tradition of Black representation in US popular culture: minstrelization. The article conceptualizes this term as originating in nineteenth-century minstrel shows but as encompassing a larger social process, which it proposes to frame as an invective practice building on specific affordances and affects. This framework is then used to analyze a few select scenes of Get Out for how they reference and represent minstrelization. In a final section, I argue that it is specifically due to the film’s fantastic deviation from the otherwise realist depiction of its storyworld that it manages to turn its representation of minstrelization into a newly unsettling and defamiliarizing one that could be called meta-minstrelization instead. The article thus expands the scholarly discourse on Get Out’s intertextual dimensions by examining a representational legacy that has not yet been considered in detail. Additionally, it provides an argument for why Get Out, despite making use of the same tropes as previous discriminatory representations of Blackness, ultimately manages to subvert them.
Keywords: affect, appropriation, horror, invective, minstrelzation, narrative
Lovecraft Country, Programmed Safe Spaces, Themed Spatial Geographies, and the Negro Has Magic, by La-Toya Scott (83-102)
Abstract: HBO’s Lovecraft Country, developed by Misha Green and executive-produced by Jordan Peele, centers the racial plights of Black people in Jim Crow America and layers them with supernatural occurrences. This article specifically analyzes the characters of Ruby Baptiste, Hippolyta Freeman, and Montrose Freeman and how they construct safe spaces in response to their environment. I argue that Ruby, Hippolyta, and Montrose attempt to program their own safe spaces to subvert Jim Crow-era themed geography and dominant rationalities. I first analyze Ruby’s engagement with magic to show that, even though magic allows her to be more physically acceptable, anti-blackness still impacts her Black consciousness and ultimately leads to her demise. I then engage with Hippolyta’s use of magic to further argue the importance of a programmed space that acts as a counterculture to Jim Crow society. Lastly, the character of Montrose demonstrates the risk of programming a space without the safety of magic as a Black, gay man in the Jim Crow era. Ultimately, the survival of these characters depends on space and how it is mediated for otherwise oppressed and suppressed identities.
Keywords: race, supernatural, magic, racism, safe spaces, geographies
“A History of Violence”: Black and Indigenous Fugitivity in Lovecraft Country, by Jasmine H. Wade (103-130)
Abstract: This essay argues that the collision of Black and Indigenous fugitivities in the final moments of the fourth episode of Lovecraft Country produced a replication of colonial logics in the form of an encounter. In this paper, I perform a close reading of "A History of Violence" in conjunction with a relational methodology. This methodology includes a spectrum on which to read moments of connection as healing (a productive reciprocal interaction) and encountering (an extractive, destructive connection). In the final minutes of "A History of Violence," the main Black characters meet Yahima, an Arawak two-spirit person, locked in Titus Braithwhite's vault, and one of the Black characters slits their throat. By linking the healing/encounter spectrum to theoretical frameworks provided by Black fugitivity, Indigenous fugitivity and queer fugitivity, I present a reading of the moments between Yahima and Montrose that is rooted in both capitalist (afterlives of slavery) and colonial (Indigenous genocide) histories, cultures, and connections. This paper argues that while popular opinion has cast this scene as a failure on the part of showrunner Misha Green, there is still much to learn from this scene.
Keywords: fugitivity, queer, Indigenous, Black television, Black feminism, relational
Sticking to the Script: Constructions of Sonic Whiteness in Get Out and Sorry to Bother You, by Shannon Mooney (131-154)
Abstract: This article places Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) into conversation with Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You (2018) in order to explore how both films represent whiteness as a penetrative sonic force that can be both heard and recognized. I explore how these two films challenge the popular notion that whiteness, unlike Blackness, is an empty and neutral signifier; instead, these films present whiteness as a racial category that possesses distinct sonic registers. Through their engagements with neoslavery, minstrelsy, and racial passing, these films parody the ways that Blackness has become socially and culturally constructed as “sounding” a certain way, and instead depict whiteness as something that can be aurally recognized and imitated. Through probing at their constructions of sonic whiteness, both Get Out and Sorry to Bother You problematize how popular audiences have been trained to hear (as well as see) race and respond to a longer history of the racialization of sound.
Keywords: Blackness, minstrelsy, sound studies, ventriloquism, whiteness