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Love and Theft: Why Get Out Matters

By Mary F. Corey

A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND ASTONISHMENTS” —Kendrick Lamar, The Heart Part 4

In 1962, James Baldwin hurled a smart bomb into the liberal white community when the New Yorker published his incendiary “Letter from a Region in My Mind.” In this essay, he let white people know some hard truths about Black rage and white oppression. Jordan Peele’s Get Out is a smart bomb of a different sort hurled into the theaters of America to deliver some troubling news.

Since 1619 when the first slave ship touched land in Virginia, the relationship of white people to Black folks has been a complex amalgam of what the scholar Eric Lott has called love and theft. Sometimes it is the body itself that is stolen; sometimes the gift of song and story. From slavery to Blackface performance all the way up to Mackelmore, this sometimes violent, sometimes reverent form of appropriation continues to be played out in American culture. Get Out, a kick-ass genre film that begins with love and ends in theft (and mayhem), is a smart, dark exploration of just how inseparable love and theft really are.

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