Get Out, Logan and What Am I Supposed to Do in 2017 America
This is a “hot take” article, I’m afraid. I hate using the term, but I guess it’s true. But I process life through pop culture and I gotta get this out into the ether because it’s been rattling in my brain for too long.
I think about race cooonstantly. Specifically, I think about all the injustices that are going on with the villains in charge of the United States. I don’t like this line of thinking and it’s led me to just spiral down into that feeling that many kind-hearted people have probably felt, which is that we are basically hogtied on a railroad track and 40 trains are barreling towards us.
At some point, I have to unplug. That’s really entitled of me to say because shouldn’t I be fighting injustice constantly? But I don’t fight all the time because I’ve literally worked myself into a blubbering frenzy of tears and yelling in part due to the political impotence I have right now.
So I see movies. That’s a big comfort food. Movies have always been there and they’ve always been a friend, especially when I have had none around me. I can trust movies and they never let me down.
And 2017 has been unbelievable for film so far. Each weekend has had something very rich to present to me and something to mull over.
But I can’t get away from the world totally. Since the inauguration, every single movie I’ve watched has been so politically charged. More than likely, I’ve injected those politics into them, as they probably didn’t intend the meaning that I’ve walked away with.
So, when I have the one-two punch of Get Out and Logan cross my world, there is a very problematic thing that arises because of my own privilege if what Get Out tells me is true. And Logan might be emblematic of that problem.
Logan is Too Fresh! How Did It Know This Would All Be Real?!
It’s impossible for Logan to have been this intentionally relevant. No one could have predicted the world having gone to hell in a handbasket this fast. Filmmaking dictates that it’s just not possible. They probably locked picture in January.
But the film takes place in a future where there’s a border wall. There are lines for immigrants to cross the border. And everyone that is not rich, white, and privileged is living a hellish life.
The only people that seem remotely satisfied with their station in life are Logan’s limo clients being dropped off at a high school dance. And, surprise, they are all white.
Laura/X-23 speaks Spanish. The mutant kiddos are a multi-cultural group led by another boy of Latino descent. The ones who were responsible for bringing these kids into the world were Spanish women forced by a corporation to have children. The ones who saved the kids were a multicultural group of women that had to do the right thing. And the children’s safe haven is on the border of Canada.
Yet the only one that can affect real change is the indifferent white man that is Logan. Which speaks volumes because, right now, indifferent white men seem to have all the power at the moment. The only ones that can make decisions right now are all indifferent white men, but all the indifferent white men could care less so long as they make money.
Logan is a villain. Logan is the embodiment of how things got this way because he was complacent and only worried about himself. But! If he only took charge against the villainy, if he stopped being complacent, he could save every one else. He could save the next generation of multi-ethnic kiddos. He is the only one that has the sufficient power to kill the white villains that are oppressing EVERYONE.
Only he can. Or so the film posits.
Get Out Chills My White Bones
I’ve already reviewed Get Out and think it’s a straight up masterpiece. There’s also a reading of the film that I’m wholeheartedly lifting from my close friend, Tyler Bryce.
The film goes into overdrive when Chris gets trapped in the nice white people’s basement and is victim to their experiments and hypnosis. But we finally get an explanation from the nice blind photographer played by Stephen Root. The only white guy that seemed nice is now Chris’s ultimate undoing, as he wants Chris’s body.
More than that, he wants his eyes so he can take photographs again.
I’m too dense to realize the symbolism, but Tyler picked up on this. After we’d both seen the movie, he was sitting across from me and was talking about this very moment. I hadn’t put the pieces together as to why it was even more sinister.
“Don’t you get it?,” Tyler asked me (I’m paraphrasing, but go along with it). I shook my head no.
“He wanted Chris’s perspective.”
Stephen Root’s nice man wanted to see what Chris saw.
Wanted his viewpoint. Wanted to be relevant in a world that was increasingly diversifying.
Similarly, I want to understand what the non-white experience is But that action is villainous according to Jordan Peele.
And he’s right.
Get Out is a masterpiece and I’m terrified of my own secret racism.
Chris delivers himself from evil. He is the one who wins, and he most definitely wins at the end of the film. No help from white people. They all die. And this is the only justice that can exist in this world.
Why Does Logan Deal With Ethnicity?
I’m incredibly curious as to what the impetus was for James Mangold and company to make a film this diverse, but with such a point. Placing the film in El Paso/close to the border gives Logan a rich visual tapestry to paint against.
They could have set the movie in Montana. Kansas. Really anywhere in the midwest where there’s magnificent desolation. But the filmmakers decided on the border and put a border wall up.
James Mangold does not strike me as the kind of filmmaker that would put a border wall up simply because it was “cool”. But the border wall only serves to drive home the racial politics that, to our white protagonist Logan, aren’t problems, but merely window dressing.
James Mangold’s background is one of privilege. He grew up in NYC as the son of two artists. He has a career in Hollywood. The man assuredly works hard, as filmmaking is one of the most stressful professions out there. But he is still privileged.
White people are the villains and the architects of the worst crimes in Logan. Any good, honest people are depicted as non-white folks. That’s very deliberate.
But Jordan Peele and Get Out tell me that this story is wrong. It shouldn’t be told and, because James Mangold is playing with this tapestry of diversity, it shouldn’t be in his hands.
The only way that James Mangold should be allowed to make this film is if it’s only from the white perspective.
Mangold is trying to tell a story that uses the immigrant perspective to inform Logan.
Mangold is using an identity that is not his own to create something that resonates. We can certainly commandeer aspects from the life around us, but when we are commandeering something that is so personal to someone else so you can add drama to your film? To commandeer the immigrant experience because you want your film to give the illusion of feeling, even though it’s about a comic book character?
Is that wrong? Because it might be.
Naturally, All of This is Related to Me
I’m just trying to understand myself here. And I never once want to have a pity party for my status as the squarest white male this side of Pete Holmes. I am so privileged because I can walk down a sidewalk at night and feel completely safe. If a cop pulls me over, I will survive. That is not the case for everyone. And what I’m trying to work out in this piece is not an absolute thesis. I have to allow for shades of gray. I’m pretty sure Jordan Peele doesn’t want every white person to die and for them to not be able to tell stories.
But, since these monsters gamed the system to get into the White House, I can’t stop thinking about if I’m doing the right thing by trying to stick up for women, immigrants, and other folks.
I know for a fact that everyone else that’s against the government right now is doing their best. But I just don’t trust myself to see or understand anything that’s not from a white male perspective. And I can’t pretend to ever.
But what is my responsibility? Get Out is such a bold proclamation against white folks and liberal racism and I’m so glad that it exists. Now I’m trying to listen to what that film is saying and figure out what I do next. Because I feel like the movie told me not to do anything.
Granted, I’m the master of my own destiny. But I also don’t want to commandeer other non-white perspectives to try and a.) galvanize by own political points and b.) make my own abilities as a storyteller “richer”. If I’m using someone else’s perspective to do what I want to, that’s such a personal theft and it can only be used to benefit me. That’s selfishness incarnate.
So what stories do I tell? What truth do I put out in the universe? Honestly, I think my role here is just to not say anything because it’s everyone else’s time. In a very selfish way, that makes me feel bad, and I’m not trying to gain sympathy. I’m just trying to gain understanding of myself and permission from someone else to do something in this world.
I want to be a storyteller more than anything. But my story should not be told because it’s been told for 1,000 years. Another white guy that’s trying to figure himself out. Great!
So what do I, as a white dude, have permission to do? What should I do? Do I fight? Should I fight? Is it my job to fight for others or is it more selfish to fight for them? They’re strong enough, so don’t fight their battles.
What do I do next?