White-washing Via Hypnosis: A Review of the Get Out Trailer
If you've read my earlier posts on the misconceptions of hypnosis, you probably heard my head explode at the images and suggestions of hypnosis as it will seem to be used as a plot device for mind control and behavior modification in the movie.
DISCLAIMER: I admit that I am basing my reaction on the trailer. I am drawing my own conclusions from the imagery presented and character interactions suggested by the editing of these snippets. Trailers are designed to entice viewers to see the film – they are not the whole film.
So, what did I surmise from the trailer?
It seems like Catherine Keener's character has experience as a hypnotist. We can make this conclusion because he husband, in a nice little piece of convenient exposition, tells the main character that his wife can help him to stop smoking via hypnosis.
I hesitate to call her character a hypnotherapist, because we do not know the basis of her background. Read about the distinction here.
As the playwright Anton Chekov noted, “Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there.”
With that in mind, the inclusion of hypnosis in the trailer suggests that it is an important plot device in the film. In this film, at least based on the information in the trailer, hypnosis is our gun on the wall. But to what end?
As we move through the trailer, we see images of the main character presumably being placed, without his consent, into a state of hypnosis by Keener, who is stirring a cup of tea, presumably to create a rhythmic pattern and touchstone for the main character's state. She is heard telling him to “Sink into the floor,” and he then finds himself waking up bound to a recliner.
The other African Americans in the universe of Keener's home appear to be acting oddly. Blank stares, maniacal laughs, bloody noses when they appear to wake from a trance... the list of tropes goes on. One presumed victim of Keener's programming seems to realize what is happening to him after the strobe of a cellphone camera frees him from his Stepford-like state.
The implication to these events, the conclusion that I draw about the film is that Keener, and possibly her husband and the town, are complicit in conducting behavioral modification on these characters to make them “safe,” essentially white-washing the scary black man into behaving like a caricature from the 40s (complete with straw hat).
Peele has said that this film “... is one of the very, very few horror movies that does jump off of racial fears. That to me is a world that hasn’t been explored. Specifically, the fears of being a black man today.”
I applaud him for making that leap in storytelling. Racial fears are fantastically fertile ground for a new age of horror/suspense films, particularly given the current perceptions of division in the US.
I DO NOT commend him for using hypnosis as a tool to conduct what appears to be brainwashing. Even the CIA has disproved that theory.
Misguided and ill-informed presentations of hypnosis make my job more difficult. I resent them.
They reinforce fears and misconceptions in a public whom is uneducated about the benefits of hypnosis. These fears prevent people from seeking out a tool that could help them to live a happier, healthier life.
These incorrect beliefs lead people to be afraid of me when I tell them I am a hypnotherapist. They jump to a conclusion that I have the power to control them.
Not only do I not have that power, I do not care to control anyone.
The purpose of my practice is to help my clients to live their lives more fully: The lives they choose to live, not some fantasy of white-washed behavior.
By all means, if this film intrigues you, see it. Please just realize that it is a work of fiction and as such, contains elements that are not entirely truthful.