PJ VOGT: Welcome to Episode 5, the final episode of The Scaredy Cats Horror. Show. This week, we are discussing Get Out with our guest playwright, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. Let’s go.
ALEX GOLDMAN: Welcome to Scaredy Cats Episode Five. Um, I am Alex Goldman. As always my co-host PJ Vogt is here. Hi PJ.
PJ: Hi Alex
ALEX: This of course is the show where I try and get PJ to appreciate horror movies. And it's all kind of been leading up to this right, PJ? This is this is the, um–
PJ: Yeah, it's not- it wasn't just appreciating horror movies. I literally wanted to be able to watch the movie Get Out. And so the idea was to put me through an intense course of horror movie training so that I could be a climatized so that I could actually enjoy Get Out.
ALEX: So that was your goal. My goal was just to watch a bunch of horror movies with you and see how you reacted and, uh, I've done five of them, the sixth being Get Out. And, um, uh, every- every week we have a guest and our guest this week is Branden Jacobs Jenkins, uh, award-winning playwright, Pulitzer nominee. Thank you so much for being on the show, Branden.
BRANDEN JACOBS JENKINS: I'm happy- I'm so happy to be on the show. What a surprise.
ALEX: So, first things first, uh, the- the- the episode this week is Get Out. We've done five movies so far. Right before we started recording you were like, uh, "You got to Get Out too fast and I'd love to talk about that." (laughs)
PJ: Well you said- Bran said, he was like, "I have critiques," and I thought you meant of Get Out and you meant of our process (laughing)
BRANDEN: Of just your actual- your actual concept. I mean it's- it's part of why I'm like so freaked out about doing this because I feel like as I get old- you know, I like teach I teach at University of Texas and like part of the problem is I feel like my professor self taking over my actual body my person body and I'm always like, oh god everything has a syllabus and I want to make the syllabus that's sort of like what my experience was listening to these where I was like, Oh my god, there's so many steps to really get the richest experience of Get Out there's like so many movies he missed, but then I guess this is like the series finale so I can- I guess I can just shut up.
ALEX: I will- I will say my original plan for this- for the show was to do like 25 episodes.
BRANDEN: Oh, hilarious.
ALEX: And then we started making it and we're like, oh, this is really hard. We also have a
another show, let's cut it down, cut it down and cut it down. So so they were- they were between Alien which was our third episode and Hereditary/Midsommar which was our fourth episode there were probably seven or eight movies that I wanted to watch before we went to–
BRANDEN: Yeah, yeah. I guess I just feel so- I go so hard on Ari Aster that I'm like, Oh, what a missed opportunity to just get some things in there that just some basics of like vitamins that right really been the right Launchpad
ALEX: You know, I wanted to do like Candy Man, I want to do Blair Witch Project.
BRANDEN: Oh yeah, this is exactly what I'm saying. Like, I feel like there's a whole thread of like social thrillers, which are like some of the best, you know, horror films in history. And it's just like, oh, that I feel like you- you kind of- well, I don't want to- I can go on and on. But I feel like in some ways, you have to know the Stream trilogy, before you can really get in to Get Out because so much of what it's- what it's doing is like self-referential to the genre itself, you know, or just like, yeah.
PJ: I will say I have seen Scream.
BRANDEN: You have seen Scream. Okay.
PJ: I saw the screams because- and this is also part of the reason I hate horror movies so much. I didn't like them anyway, I was bullied into watching them on a few sleepovers. They haunted my nightmares. Scream in particular...my best friend growing up loved it, like loved it to the extent that he tried to scare me by being in character from the movie. So like, we were hanging out
ALEX: Was he your real friend?
PJ: I don't know, in retrospect. Like literally we'd be like playing video games and he'd be like, "Oh, I gotta go to the bathroom just keep playing," he would disappear. And then I would just hear like dragging sounds on the wall of the room and he would he would either have a baseball bat and a Scream mask or a knife and a Scream–
BRANDEN: An actual knife?
ALEX: That's so fucked up!
PJ: An actual knife, like from the kitchen. And he would chase me around the house and then- not just chase me, like stalk me around the house. I'm sure–
BRANDEN: Are you still friends with this person?
PJ: No, no.
ALEX: You're not still friends. (laughing)
BRANDEN: Surprise, surprise. Yeah.
PJ: But so I have seen Scream. Is there other- what what else would you have had me see before seeing it?
BRANDEN: Well, ah, God because part of the real pleasure of Get Out is how like dense it is with like references to other films and it's- I mean it is kind of a work of genius because it's so- it's like so layered in a way that a lot of things aren't. But one of the big references is Stepford Wives, which is an incredible movie.
ALEX: So I just watched Stepford Wives yesterday in preparation for that.
BRANDEN: Oh. Oh, wow. And how amazing, right?
ALEX: It's- I was shocked at- so so PJ...and this will give away a bit of the of the plot of Get Out...Stepford Wives is about a woman who lives in New York, who is an aspiring photographer who moves to Connecticut with her husband and finds out that, uh, all the women there are being replaced by- by sort of like subservient robots.
PJ: Oh, wow.
BRANDEN: But specifically robots that are manufactured by Disney.
ALEX: Oh, yeah.
BRANDEN: Using Disney technologies. Yeah. (PJ laughing) It's like amazing.
ALEX: The-the sort of main antagonist is this creepy guy who is called Dis because he's- he worked at Disney for a long time. But it's sort of this allegory for like the reaction to like the sexual revolution and um–
BRANDEN: Yeah, it's totally about like- it's totally about second wave feminism.
BRANDEN: Like, white- specifically like white woman feminism.
PJ: The only other thing that I want to ask about before we like get in to Get Out more directly is just like, Branden, when we were talking about- like when I called you and asked to if you wanted to do this, one of the really nice surprises is- because you're- you write plays, which I think people think of as kind of like high culture and I think they think of, like, VHS horror and a lot of horror as like low culture. But I was happily surprised at how much you love horror, I just wondering if you could like talk about that–
BRANDEN: So, you know, my way to writing is through horror, but specifically, this is humiliating, because I can only talk about it because I- as we're all going down these pandemic rabbit holes recently, I was like, "I wonder what R.L. Stein's up to," because that was like, my gateway drug into reading was like the Goosebump books, which then I graduated to Fear Street, which was like the whole series was about like teenagers murdering each other.
BRANDEN: You know, and then I also- but then around that time, which is when we're all kind of like graduating to that next-level reigning of movie-going I was kind of growing up in this golden age of like teen slasher movies, and that was sort of the way in, and that's like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. And so for me, it's like- like I was already kind of a genre nerd growing up like I loved reading like Stephen King far too young or like Ray Bradbury, but for some reason, the thing that felt like the thing that I could go to that my family couldn't at the movies was, was these like slasher movies, which I loved ad nauseum.
PJ: And what did you love about them?
BRANDEN: I, you know, I think it was because, well- I feel like anything I say now is gonna be bullshit, because I- like hindsight 20/20, but I think part of it was a) there- these these are- these were movies that had characters that were technically closer to my age, right. You know, I think one of the things we could talk about is how horror is- the storytelling of horror is completely predicated almost more than any genre on the magic of identification as a viewer, like who you're being asked to identify with and how is kind of constantly being manipulated by horror writers, right? But so I'm- I'm looking at these kids who are like, maybe three or four years older than I am, they're all they're like high school kids, you know, who are of course, they're played by like 35-year-olds, (PJ laughs) who are all dead now, but uh, but you know, you're sort of watching this story that's kind of could be your life. I mean, you're- it's very vivid and it's so dramatic and it's the opposite of growing up in like suburban DC.But so I was already- I was just like- I was just- that was just my jam. I also loved this show Tales from the Crypt which I would stay up late and watch. I mean, there's so many things like Are You Afraid of the Dark was this Nickelodeon show that was like the horror show for kids. I watch- I was deep in this, deep in this, right.
PJ: Alex loves Tales from the Crypt and right now is physically restraining myself from doing a crypt keeper–
ALEX: I love the cryptkeeper so much. I want to bring the cryptkeeper back for his own stand-alone show. Can you imagine how fun it would be to write–
BRANDEN: Oh my god, yes.
ALEX: –his puns?
BRANDEN: For the cryptkeeper? Yeah. Oh, totally. I mean–
ALEX: Oh my god it would be amazing
BRANDEN: We'll also- let's talk about puns too with this movie because it's part of what's kind of amazing- the whole thing, but anyway, point being I'm immersed in this.. I was just- I just thought it was like everything to me. And then of course, I grew up and went to college and became pretentious and started–
(PJ and Alex laughing)
BRANDEN: And then- but then I lived in- I lived in Germany like- like none of us do in my like, mid-20s for a second and I had this really weird, um, roommate situation where none of us- No three of us spoke the same language. So we all kind of- we couldn't really talk to each other. And the one that I was the most distant from was this German nurse named Sarah, and we had nothing in common. But, one day we realized...she kept saying this word 'muda hanka'..."muda hanka, you want to watch muda hanka?" And I'm like, "What is she talking about?" And I realized that 'Mörder Henker'' was like German, I guess, for- for horror movies. But I- I realized like, oh, we're gonna bond over these movies because horror is like a common language, like the fear- the dread of death...there's no like complicated- complicated language in these movies. So I wound up- like it was kind of a funny like cultural exchange where like, I would- she would show me like a German one, which was bad, but then I would like- I would like one-up her with like a Scream and she- just like her mind would be blown, you know? And that's how I reacquainted myself with like that entire- all of those franchises like Final Destination, I Know What You Did Last Summer ones like it was- it was kind of amazing.
ALEX: Uh, at the tail end of the 90s I lived with a guy who is like, who is like one of those rare VHS collector weirdos like, you know before there were like viral internet, but he'd be like, you've got to check out this- this- this Italian horror movie. This was an unofficial sequel to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, and there were three other sequels made after that you, got to watch them all. I've got them all on my bookshelf, and then he'd be like, "Let's do Robotusin first!" So–
(PJ and Branden laughing)
ALEX: So, so the movies would go from feeling like they were 90 minutes to feeling like they were eight hours. And so it was like watching 36 hours of zombie movies. And um, it definitely was like a way for me to be like, "Oh, wow, the horror universe is so much bigger than I ever imagined it to be."
BRANDEN: That's so me. I mean it does for- all these genres kind of reward obsessiveness. So that's what's kind of really pleasurable about them and why five is just not enough PJ, you got to keep going. You got to keep going to get to the goods. This is just the early high.
PJ: Early high. Oh god. (all laughing). So unpleasant for me.
ALEX: Uh, So- so I do- I do want to get to the movie but I first I wanted to say very quickly for our audience PJ did not honor the Mantzoukas rules on this particular episode. (Alex stutters)
PJ: Oh god. Well I could- It wasn't because I was being a baby. It was because we were on deadline. We were like working on a big story I was editing and so the only time that we could watch it, and be able to have a conversation about it and put it out on time, meant watching it in the late afternoon, but I did it with the blinds drawn, I made the room as dark as I could, I didn't go the bathroom. I- we watched it together, which is your breaking of the rules.
PJ: I feel like- this sounds like a big excuse, but I feel like the way I didn't break the Mantzoukas rules is I was trying- I didn't feel like at this point I was trying to like escape the movie. I felt like I was trying to watch–
ALEX: So, the other thing I wanted to ask before we step through the movie is: PJ, did you like this movie?
PJ: I loved this movie.
ALEX: Wow! Loved!
PJ: I love this. I love this much more than anything we've watched. And I have to say even though I didn't enjoy being scared by the scary movies, I do think it- I think if...if I'd just been like, "I'm gonna sit down and watch this movie," I would have been so scared and so scared of being scared that I wouldn't have- I would have been overwhelmed by it. I think I actually got to enjoy it the way a more normal person would get to.
ALEX: Oh, you've gotten more normal over the course of this. I'm so glad to hear that.
PJ: In this way. Yes.
ALEX: Um, alright. So the the two lines summary of this movie, uh...Get Out is about a black man named Chris who is dating a white woman named Rose. She goes to the family's palatial estate for the weekend. Um, and it turns out that they're a bunch of weirdos who are doing uh body swapping where they take old white people and put them in the bodies of young black people. Um, that about covers it right?
PJ: That's pretty good.
BRANDEN: Pretty close. So we're just spoiling things. That's okay, right?
ALEX: Oh, yeah.
BRANDEN: Okay, good, great.
PJ: We're driving through spoilers.
ALEX: so like, just right away this movie- here's like a- there's like a- this movie does what I think is now pretty common which is the sort of like this- the- the establishing kill.
BRANDEN: We call that a cold open in the biz, just so you guys know.
ALEX: Oh, thank you.
BRANDEN: You're asking, what happened for a really long time.
ALEX: So it starts with Andre.
He's on the phone.
ANDRE: Half a mile away from Edgewood lane
He's walking through a neighborhood that he is not familiar with
ANDRE: It’s crazy… they’ve got me out in this creepy, confusing ass suburb
that is a- neighborhood that he's very uncomfortable in because he's black man walking- walking alone at night.
ANDRE: feel like a sore thumb out here
And he sees a car, the car turns around and like basically someone jumps out and gets him, right?
ANDRE: Come on… Yo! Hey! [struggling]
PJ: It's really- I found it really scary. It's really scary cause- because it feels like- it doesn't feel like- it feels like a realistic horrifying thing that happens to black men walking in neighborhoods in America. So it felt really like–
BRANDEN: That is correct.
PJ: –grounded and real and scary in a way that was worse than if it was like I don't know like a demon or something like that.
BRANDEN: It's also worth remembering that, you know, when that- when that sequence happens you don't- you actually don't know if he's alive or dead at the end right? But there is a sense that dead- that a guy's just been killed in front of you. Right?
PJ: Yeah, I assumed he was dead because he's- he's like, strangled it's really- it's like slow and visceral and then he's like dragged into the car by some guy wearing a scary like night mask.
ALEX: Yeah, um, but- but then we sort of get introduced to the main characters who are Rose and Chris. Rose is a white 20-something and Chris is black 20-something and they're like packing to go to her parents house for the weekend. And he is ve- very nervous to go And like, one of the things that I was reading about Jordan Peele and Jordan Peele, his whole thing was like, basically, I wrote a movie about what it's like to feel nervous in a room as a black guy.
BRANDEN: That's interesting. I mean, one of the things that's amazing about the movie, is that, uh, like when I saw- I saw it my with my husband, and we went with, like, our closest couple friends who are, in fact, caucasian Americans. And, and I think we went- well, I weirdly went to it because I know I know Betty Gabriel, we went to school together, and I was like, "I heard she's in this movie, we got to go see this movie," you know, and I had no context- none of us had any context going in for the movie. But it was in that scene where I was like, Oh, shit, we're about to have a totally different experience with this movie than our couple friends are. And it's gonna be so rad to like- because there's so much signaling, there's so much like secret signaling happening that makes it- that makes- that actually makes the movie what it is.
PJ: Well, and this is something I'm really wanted to ask you about it- what I found- what I was wondering watching is like, for me, it's like, okay, there's this really scary opening scene. And then for a while you're just seeing what are their names again?
ALEX: Rose and Chris.
PJ: Rose and Chris. You're like seeing their relationship. And I knew this was a movie...
\\e that was like about race and racism and was like a satire and so as a white person watching a lot of that movie, what I'm watching is like, what is white racism going to look like in this movie? And am I gonna feel like, Oh shit, I recognize myself in it, or am I gonna be like, I don't do that. I feel like, I think if I was watching a movie and I were black, I'd be watching it more from his perspective, which is like, he's looking around seeing whether he's safe in a place or not safe. And there's all these signs that he's not safe. And at some point, I think I started to identify more with him. But at first, I had this tension that I think came from being a white person and it made it a different movie for like, 20 minutes for me. Does that make sense?
BRANDEN: Yeah, I think that was- yeah, that was very intentional. I think that part of what- part of what this movie does is that it's inverting- you know, so when we talk about genres, it's sort of like a codified system of, of principles or ideas or values that make up a viewing experience. And part of- but part of what was amazing about what he was doing is he was inverting so many of these principles, and creating a space where you didn't know how to be in it anymore, right? Because Allison Williams' his character is- is- is to me at least the- she would normally be the hero of this film. She would normally be, in this genre of film, she would normally be the center of that story. And so of course you feel predisposed, like you're, you're like, you know, your instincts are being like, "Okay, this is how I'm supposed to watch it," you know, but actually, like you said, you know, your instinct wasn't to identify with Chris. You know, what does that mean?
PJ: Yeah. Yeah.
BRANDEN: You know, and also I didn't you know, I didn't really choose to identify with anyone really either. But you know, because that's just like- that's just part of what it's gesturing to about, like systemic racism is it's like you are- you play into it emotionally without even being aware of it.
ALEX: Um, I mean part of what I think makes this movie so incredibly effective is that everything has a touch of menace, like every interaction. It's like some of his interactions with his- with his, with his girlfriend, definitely most of his interactions with the family, his interactions with the groundskeepers, just like every conversation. It feels almost like a whodunit. It's like, could that person be the bad guy?
BRANDEN: Yeah, but that- but by the way, the menace is racism. Like that's all the menace is. (Alex laughing).. So what is whose side am I on? You know, you're asking that in every single encounter, But you're right. I mean, that's what's sort of genius about it is that he, the way he deploys kind of racial anxiety in the storytelling, you know, to keep it- and that's what makes it a horror movie. You know that that's why we're all in a horror movie. It's because of this unspoken menace that we call racism. I don't know.
PJ: It's also interesting. The thing you said about Allison Williams' character, like, I hadn't thought of it this way, but like...Okay, so the first scene that's like, really that- so there's a scene where they're driving to her parents' house, some weird animal carcass–
ALEX: It's a deer. They hit a deer.
BRANDEN: Deer, yeah.
ROSE: are you jealous it’s rod!!
[deer hits windshield, car screeches to a halt]
PJ: But the deer like flies through the air in a way that feels bad and more menacing than normal.
ROSE: Are you ok?
And then the cops come,
COP: So you guys coming up from the city?
She is the driver. The cop asked him for his ID.
COP: Sir can I see your license please?
ROSE: Wait why?
CHRIS: Yeah I have state ID
ROSE: No no no he wasn’t driving
COP: I didn’t ask who was driving I asked to see his id
ROSE: But why that doesn’t make any sense
ROSE: No no no fuck that. You don’t have to give him your ID because you haven’t done anything wrong
CHRIS: Baby it’s ok
COP: Any time there is an incident, we have every right -
ROSE: that’s bullshit
She's making the situation worse. It feels really stressful and like watching you're like, oh, this like white woman who has her own sense of like, what is the right thing to do is like- is making a situation more dangerous for the hero. And then when he says to her afterwards in the car, he's like, that was really hot–
BRANDEN: That was hot, yeah.
PJ: I'm really glad you did that.
PJ: I think you're right. It's like there's this part of my brain that wants- I'm like, oh okay, she can be the hero. She can be the hero. That's good. You know what I mean, it's like, it lets her off the hook in a way where my brain is like, hey, Allison Williams is a hero.
BRANDEN: Yeah, you're condi- I think you're conditioned by the genre, because everything she's doing is- is protecting him. But then we learn- of course, we learn later that it's all for something much more insidious, but that's like, yeah, the genius of the storytelling.
ALEX: Even that protection of not showing the ID on like, the fifth viewing, it's like, she doesn't want him to show the ID so that people don't think that he's missing.
PJ: Oh, right!
BRANDEN: This is what I'm saying. PJ. You too soon, you jumped into the advanced class and you need the other prereq that you had to get through.
BRANDEN: This is about to be a mind-blowing party is what's gonna happen if you get really into it.
ALEX: So- The first scene i want to talk about is when they get up to the house
ROSE: You ready?
… it’s this huge brick house… in the middle of nowhere
And this is where Chris meets Rose’s mom and dad….
DAD: There’s my girl
My man… We’re huggers
I have to say that this is probably one of the most uncomfortable scenes in this movie for me because um, and if he's listening to this, I just want you to know dad, I love you so much. But the dad in this movie seriously reminds me of my dad.
BRANDEN: Is your dad...? Wow. Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow.
ALEX: Not in that he is you know, not in that we have like a palatial Manse out in upstate New York, but definitely that like, I think of my dad as a guy who has sort of- who thinks of himself as like nominally progressive and he is, uh, middle class and, um, I'm sure has said stuff like God, I wish we could have a third Obama term.
BRANDEN: Well, I mean, also it's key to remember again, it's a hindsight 20/20 but he's putting on an act in the movie, right? The whole point is that the family that we meet is not actually that family, they're all kind of performing for their new black captive so you can- you can- if this- if the evil that is being portrayed in Get Out plays at your dad, you might be like a little bit off the hook in terms of like how you identify there–
BRANDEN: But uh- but you know, it is about- it is about a kind of like performance though of- of liberal allyship that's ultimately covering up, uh, their intentions. You know?
PJ: Yeah, in a lot of ways I feel like the family proves to not be good allies at all.
BRANDEN: You know, PJ, I was wrong. You were ready for this class. I'm so sorry–
ALEX: That is- that is advanced shit right there, PJ.
BRANDEN: –for doubting your astute- your astute, yeah, criticism.
Ok, so, they meet Rose’s family, and like the big twist of the movie is that Rose’s family basically they’re taking black people’s bodies, putting their brains into those bodies, and then taking over, so that they can live forever. And Alison Williams who for most of the movie you think is like a good guy who doesn’t like her racist family, she’s the ringleader. Like she is the bait. She goes out and dates people, brings them back to the house so that this can happen to them? And so that gets revealed in a scene where Chris realizes the family’s out to get him, he doesn’t know Rose is bad yet, but he says to her like, “We gotta get out of here.” And so she goes to get her stuff together, find her car keys, and he’s alone in her room and he finds this this box of photos with all of the black people that she’s dates including the woman including this woman Georgina, the black housekeeper who has been acting like a weird zombie this whole time. And so now he knows she’s bad
But even then, he goes downstairs… the family’s descending down him like jackals — Bradley Whitford, who plays the evil dad, Catherine Keener, who plays the hypnotherapist—
DAD: What is your purpose
Chris: Right now it’s finding those keys
But Rose, Alison Williams’ character, she’s still pretending to be a good guy, and he’s so panicked that he’s still asking her to find the car keys. And she just keeps pretending to look for them.
ROSE: I don’t know where they are
CHRIS: Rose! Rose! Give me those keys! Rose, give me those keys… Rose! Now! Now! The keys!
ROSE: What the fuck is going on
CHRIS: Where are those keys Rose
ROSE: You know I can’t give you the keys right babe?
PJ: And just- Allison Williams is so good at her job in this movie, that even though you've been told she's a bad guy, like you've seen the evidence, I still was like, "Oh, she also can't find her keys," like the fact that she's holding her keys is still a surprise to me
BRANDEN: Well, because the whole you know, one of the tensions that it hinges on is, you know, you're trying to- along with Chris, you're trying to actually un- you sense there's a conspiracy. It's very Stepford Wives actually, and why you should actually, you know, watch Stepford Wives, you know, the whole thing is about a conspiracy, but you're like, "How deep is this conspiracy?" Because it seems, up until he opens that door, that actually Allison Williams is clueless about what is going on in her own home.
BRANDEN: Right, and that- and the very fact that she's dating him is proof that she is like, escaped from this, whatever craziness is going on here. But what- and I've actually had that experience where I dated someone and then I, like accidentally started clicking through their like Facebook and I'm like, this person has had exclusively black boyfriends, you know, and this person was not black. But it's- that- that I found that- I identified very hard in that moment. And you're like, oh, man, this is so complicated, because I thought I was- I thought that was me, but maybe I'm something else. I mean, the whole thing is about how we project on other people. Yeah, that's kind of the genius of it.
BRANDEN: I also- I have to that like you know, Allison Williams and Catherine Keener's performances to me are so- they're like extraordinary, extraordinary performances of acting, because they don't play at the joke at all. They like inhabit it so fully and so seriously. And like, there is something about the fact that they're able to maintain this that- that is creating that sensation you're describing.
ALEX: Well, you know, I read an interview with Allison Williams, where she said, like, basically, "every time I made a gesture at someone in the movie, I wanted it to be you to be able to read it the first time you watched it as me being annoyed at them for their sort of casual racism. And then on reflection, I wanted you to be able to read this facial expression as me being upset that they're not letting me go through with the plan fast enough." Like–
PJ: Oh, wow.
BRANDEN: Like, well, I mean also what's weird is Allison Williams hasn't really worked since in like a substantive way and I don't know why that that feels- like honestly like racism to me because I think this is performance is like, truly one of the best screen performances of like the last, you know, 10 years because it's so- it's so- it's so specific. It's so like every- she's alive in every single second of it, and the game- and when you watch it a second time PJ and you see what she's actually doing, it's like, it's like Meryl Streep level dude. And it's just bizarre that she doesn't quite get those props. And she took this role specifically to weaponize all the things I was aware of people pigeonholing me as, like as like Peter Pan and like, the like- the like, rich friendly girl on- on Girls, you know, and it's like what a brilliant coup for as- for an artist to pull.
PJ: No, totally
ALEX: Right. And so before the scene with the keys, like before Chris discovers what's actually happening at the house, he senses that something is off...like he's surrounded by all these weird white people….and there are black people — like the people who work at the house: the housekeeper Georgina and the gardener walter..but every time he tries another black person… they respond in these really strange, robotic ways. Like, this is what happens when he runs into a character named Logan, played by Lakeith Stanfield.
CHRIS: Good to see another brother around here n
ANDRE/LOGAN: Ah, yes, of course it is
Logan… he’s actually Andre... the guy who might have been killed at the beginning of the movie? And just like… everything about him just looks so unsettling. Like, his eyes have this weird glimmer, he's incredibly stiff and awkward
ANDRE/LOGAN: Chris was just telling me how he felt much more comfortable with me being here
So at this point Chris is feeling really unsafe, but he really can't put his finger on why...and everyone else is acting like nothing's wrong.
BRANDEN: Yeah, I mean, it's all about gaslighting- I mean, he's actually just being gaslit.
BRANDEN: As like many people are saying they've been gaslit right now on the streets. you know, so I think that like that's sort of- that's sort of the pleasure of it is that it was capturing something about, like, racial paranoia. Like, that's why that scene with Allison Williams up top is so great where she where he's like, "Have you told them I'm black?" And she's like, and the tools, the device, the strategy she uses is like, "Yeah, I'm gonna tell them like, I'm bringing my black boyfriend home." You know, she's like, "Obviously, they're not racist. I'm bringing you home." It's like, everything kind of gets turned back on him. It's like, "Oh, he's actually afraid for no reason." But we, though, of course, know that he should be afraid because LaKeith- LaKeith just got disappeared like five minutes ago. You know, that's the value of that scene happening up top is that you're kind of always living with the mystery of like, well, what happened to him?
BRANDEN: You know, as you move through it.
PJ: It also makes me realize like, movies I've watched as a white person that were about racism against black people, it's usually like, they- I don't think I've seen many films that had that feeling of paranoia like correctly depicted like, it's like you'll see movies were just like, obviously, like out in the streets like, sort of like KKK like in-your-face racism, you'll see stuff where there's like surprising racism but like this movie really- it does, like, it puts me in the place watching it where I'm looking around like a detective trying to be like, what did that mean? Like, is that paranoia? Like I know something bad is gonna happen, but I don't know from who or what
BRANDEN: I think something that also doesn't quite get enough airplay that I think is really key is that there are like the- they're like just Tales from the Hood, there's like all these movies that you could point to that were trying to, like, find this metaphor within the genre. But one of the tropes that this- this movie almost like willingly refuses to fall into, or refuses to fall into rather was the phrase I want to say. The tropes that this movie is refusing to fall into is that no one uses the N-word, and it's not set in the south, it's like not set on a plantation haunted by slaves and the KKK has nothing to do with anything. It's just like the purest, almost platonic form of like slavery. It's like–
BRANDEN: It's like- It's like diff- It's like not- you- you don't have- if you- if I'm sure if you've seen a hood, at some point or like, had a flashback to a slave, you would have felt like, "Oh, I get- I get them- I get who I'm supposed to be mad at here." But because that family just for all intents and purposes, puts on such a strong appearance of allyship and liberal- liberalness. You know, you kind of can't figure out how to judge them because maybe they're too close to something you might think of as your own profile.
You know what I mean?
PJ: Exactly. And then all of a sudden you're watching them do a slave auction. Like
ALEX: Right. BRANDEN: In silence. Chilling.
BRANDEN: Chilling. With bingo cards.
PJ: With the bingo cards!
BRANDEN: The details are crazy.
ALEX: Yeah and that’s happening at that same party where he goes up to Logan/ Lakeith… Not a party, actually a slave auction… Chris is just distracted by Rose and doesn’t know it’s happening... what’s actually happening is the white people are bidding on who gets to take over Chris’s body… Which is done through this like bizarre/ gross brain procedure carried out by Rose’s dad
PJ: I can't remember the fake name, what's the name they use for?
ALEX: Coagula (Alex laughing)
PJ: So- so first they- they hypnotize him and send him to the sunken place where he's like, sort of in- like deep in his own consciousness, but not in control of himself.
Yeah, Catherine Keener who is like a hypnotist can send him to this like purgatory hell inside his own consciousness. When he’s there, he sees his life happening like it's on a far away movie screen and he can’t move or control anything...
ALEX: Which by the way, could there could there be a stronger metaphor in the world than that particular feeling that you have of being deep in your consciousness and unable to move and unable to shout?
BRANDEN: I mean, I that- literally that moment when Catherine Keener gets close to the camera and goes, now you're in the sunken place to- gives me chills even every time I watch it, because it's such a- that- and that moment, that whole sequence to me is like poetry. I mean, it's such a like, that's where I feel like the like, the movie comes alive in like a crazy way.
TAPE STEPHEN ROOT: I’m here to answer any outstanding questions you may have about the procedure apparently our common understanding of the process between us makes the results better
He explains that after being hynotised, he’ll be forced to undergo a brain transplant surgery, he’ll be killed, but a little part of his consciousness will still be there in the sunken place
STEPHEN ROOT: You’ll be able to see and hear what your body is doing, but your existence will be as a passenger
BRANDEN: Which is horrifying.
ALEX: Oh my god–
BRANDEN: Which is a horrifying idea
PJ: Because it's like a brain transplant but you'll still be in there and then it backwards explains all these moments where black characters who had been like body snatched would have, like, to me, like one of the most affecting scenes was he's talking to Georgina the housekeeper, he’s trying to apologize for getting her in trouble with the people he still thinks she works for
CHRIS: I wasn’t trying to snitch
CHRIS: Rat you out
and she starts- she's like smiling and telling him everything's fine while crying
CHRIS: all I know is that sometimes when there’s too many white people, I start to get nervous
GEORGINA: [crying, then laughing] Aw no, no no no no no no no no no no
. But it's like how they're explaining that people- they're still in there in a way that's like truly horrifying.
BRANDEN: Right. That's right. Yeah, I mean, it's, I mean, that's sort of the- that's the horror trope, but well, you know, usually when it's like a zombie film or Body Snatchers, the idea is that you have been excavated of your body, that your your subjecthood is not in a zombie. But what's more horrifying in this version to me is this idea that you are still living your life passively. And this is where I think it becomes like a prison metaphor. You don't get to feel life. You don't get to be a part of this, like one thing you get as a being on the earth, you know, and that's the fact that- that- to me is the most chilling detail that they kind of bring up.
ALEX: I actually had this- it actually reminded me a lot of the ending of Being John Malkovich. I don't know how long it's been since you've seen that movie, but in the end of the movie–
BRANDEN: That's why Catherine Keener is cast. She's in that movie too.
BRANDEN: That's what I'm saying there's so many weird references throughout the movie, it's amazing.
ALEX: So the whole premise of that movie is like people go into John Malkovich's brain, but then there's there's like a dominant personality that takes over, eventually, John Malkovich's body, and decides to live a happy life with Catherine Keener and- John Cusack's character is trapped in his body and you get to see through the eyes of John Malkovich, Catherine Keener and her daughter playing together, and you can just hear John Cusack's mom, sort of inner monologue saying, like, "Please look away, please look away. This is too painful, please look away." And I just think about, like, how sad that moment is, and that- and that's what they're describing in Get Out being a person's entire life. And it's so fucking frightening.
BRANDEN: But that's also why it's amazing in the end...I keep forgetting the groundskeep's name–
BRANDEN: But you know, he shoots his own head and you're like, "this moment is like a form of liberation," because he knows that he's gonna have to- he has to live with this thing inside of him for the rest of his life. I mean, that's an insanely emotional moment.
PJ: It was- that moment was crazy for me, because I don't I have like a really hard time with filmic depictions of suicide. Like I find them so traumatic that they kind of pull me out of the movie usually. And with that, not only was it, did that not happen. I did experience it like the way I think you're supposed to experience it. Like I was like–
ALEX: It's triumphant.
BRANDEN: Yeah. Triumph, yeah.
PJ: Which is crazy. It's crazy that there's a scene in this movie where a man shoots himself through the head, and you're just like, he got away. This is a crazy movie, that's all I'm saying. (PJ laughing)
BRANDEN: It's a crazy movie
PJ: the other thing I wanted to ask about both of you is like...so one of the reasons I think I enjoyed them I enjoyed the movie because it's really smart and because honestly, like relative to fucking Ari Aster movies, it was like, it wasn't like- there was a lot of it that was like movie that wasn't just like, they're like, there's not a lot of jump scares, there's like menace but they're not- there's a lot of things happening. But the other thing is that it sort of turns at the end. He starts like kicking ass like he like kills all the evil white people. And then you think- it was funny. He kills everybody. Allison Williams, like he vanquishes her. And then this car shows up
which looks like a cop car. You're like he's so fucked, this movie is gonna end with him being shot or it's gonna end with him going to jail and her just like starting everything up again. And then the reveal is that it's not the police.
It's his friend Rod who works for the TSA–
BRANDEN: The TSA.
PJ: But it felt like- it felt like-
ALEX: That's not the original ending to the movie.
BRANDEN: Yeah, there's an alternate ending.
ALEX: So the the original ending as written, it is not Rod, it is the police and he goes to jail.
PJ: Got it.
ALEX: That movie- that ending was filmed. But what happens is the police show up, he puts his hands in the air and it cuts to a scene of him in jail, talking to his friend Rod on the phone, you know, like the- his friend rod is visiting–
PJ: Like through the glass, yeah.
ALEX: Yeah, and he says like- he's like, "Chris, I need you to try and remember some of the names of the people that are there- that were at this- at this thing. I just cuz I, you know, you didn't leave me much because the whole place burned down, like there wasn't much evidence for us to go on. So give me some names and he says like Rod, I'm good. I'm good, he- I stopped it. I'm good." And so it's a- it's a quote unquote happy ending like he has ended this terrible reign of killing people or stealing people's bodies, but it's a deeply sad ending. It is a terrible- like a terrible ending.
BRANDEN: And I think- I think that the ending they chose is the right ending because, so again, we talked about how genres are about, you know, genre, generic work is about unifying the people who can share the same moral codes or signs of that genre, right. And horror films are explicitly moralizing. That's because it's life and death. And what I love about this ending, is that right...I mean, I was just listening to the one you guys just did with I think it was for the Ari Aster movies, but you were talking about, PJ, how you don't like things that in nihilistically?
BRANDEN: You know? Right. And so I think this is an amazing example of the difference between those two endings, because, you know, in that one ending where he winds up in jail, and he's like, "I did it, I did it." You know, we're still positing that our hero has to live outside of a moral code or suffer beneath one. But what I love in this version is it's like no, actually, he- they all possess the moral code. Like everyone can be a part of this. It's like, this is a horrible thing that happened and there's a way out of it that doesn't have to end with like, black people incarcerated or dead. You know what I mean? Like, justice can happen still, you know,
it's like this weird thing where I, for like, literally three years of my like, sad little TV career, I kept getting pitched the same thing, which was literally like, "Okay, we have a pitch for you. It's a world in which reparations happen, and it's insane. People are dead, they want to murder each other. It's like a nightmare. Black people are rounded up, they're living in cages, like, can you write that?" You know, and I'd have to say to people, like actually guys, would if there was a show where reparations happened and like, it's okay.
BRANDEN: Like, what if like- what if there's like a crazy like, bear with me here, like there's a world in which like, restorative justice happens and we're all like, totally chill. Like, can we, is that science fiction, you know, but there's so- what I love about this ending is that it's sort of like is allowing this- this- this movie to me though it completely is experimental and upends so many tropes that define the genre. It actually is like making- breaking new ground for it somehow.
But again, that's sort of the- that's the- when we talk about genre, right, we're talking about, they're like, rehearsals, they're like emotional and political rehearsals, you know, and you go through them to confirm that your value system is right, or clarify why your value system is right. And that's all you have to do to get through it. You know, it's funny also to hear you talk, having watched these podcasts, I keep wanting to know like, you know, you're I think you're afraid of like feelings. Let me just diagnose you now.
PJ: Yes, please, please.
BRANDEN: You know, you- you're afraid of like the feeling of fear, right? But you have to remember that the whole point of these, they're exercises in feeling, they're all that's they they're about. They're taking care of you in that moment. You know?
PJ: What do you mean they're taking care of me in that moment?
BRANDEN: That- that the whole point of a story is like someone building an emotional experience for you, and if they're very good writers, and it's a very good story, everything you're feeling you're feeling safely, you just have to remind yourself of that, that none of this is real. And that you're, and that in some ways, it's about building up a tol-, not tolerance, but a strength around that feeling. So I think part of why people get addicted to horror films, or like people who get addicted to like skydiving, you know, it's like a thrill. It's like, you kind of have to like rush through those feelings again, and again, you feel in some ways, like you're taking ownership of them in some way. It ceases to be so potentially overwhelming or paralyzing, because you realize that feelings are just like a passing thing. You know, they're a sensation.
PJ: I've had a little, little bit of it. Like, the other night after watching Get Out, I was in the kitchen, and I was like, I just had that feeling of like, there's eyes outside, which I get sometimes late at night, you know? And I was like, that's just a story your brain's telling you, which I don't think I totally had before, right. So I think there's like I'm getting the tiniest of muscles.
PJ: I will also just say of all the ppl who tried to make pitcehs why like enjoy not just tolerate horro movies the eidea that they're about — ethical movies that means a lot to me
PJ: Ok, thank you Branden so much for doing this.
ALEX: Yeah, Branden, thank you. It was such a pleasure to talk to you.
BRANDEN: Thank you! Please bring me back if there's a season two, because I have all the movies you need to watch, PJ.
PJ: Thank you everybody that came with us on our weird, scary journey, it’s been surprisingly fun. That’s it for us for now. You can hear us on Reply All. Thanks.
Scaredy Cats is hosted by me, Alex Goldman & PJ Vogt. This episode was produced by Anna Foley and Damiano Marchetti, and edited by Tim Howard. We’re mixed by Kate Bilinski. Fact checking by Michelle Harris. Our intern is Lisa Wang. Special thanks to Zane Latta. Our theme song is by Mariana Romano, and our closing theme is by me. Additional music by the mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. Our cover art was made by Olly Moss. Thanks for listening.