Get Out and the Remediation of Othello's Sunken Place

Beholding White Supremacy's Coagula

  • Vanessa I. Corredera Andrews University

Abstract

As a result of director and writer Jordan Peele's remediation of the horror genre to create a racially polemic film, breakout horror-thriller Get Out (2017) has achieved critical and commercial success while substantially affecting how Americans think about and approach race. As stories about a black man amidst an all-white community who ultimately strangles his white female lover, Get Out and Shakespeare's Othello share obvious narrative overlaps. Othello, however, maintains a more tenuous status regarding race and its function within the storyline than does Get Out. Othello remains a play mired in questions about how or even whether it can be staged (or filmed) in a way that shakes off its legacy of vexed racial dynamics. Get Out does not suffer from such questioning; instead, it achieves the difficult feat of spurring multicultural audiences to root for the black Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) as he successfully murders the Armitages, a neoliberal, upper-middle-class white family. Get Out's unexpected success, I argue, suggests a powerful framework for reorienting how we conceive of Othello's racial dynamics to imagine more ethically the play and its racial representation in the 21st century. Specifically, through its central concepts of the "coagula" and "the sunken place" — concepts that explain the visceral threats of whiteness upon black individuals — the film articulates a racial framework that places blame for Othello's extreme responses not on his blackness, but rather on the physiological and psychological violence enacted upon him by white supremacy. Thus, using Get Out as a framework for reconsidering Othello opens up a means of remediating the racial representation that continues to haunt Shakespeare's tragedy.

Author Biography

Vanessa I. Corredera, Andrews University

Vanessa I. Corredera is an Associate Professor at Andrews University. Her scholarship focuses on race and representation in early modern drama, especially appropriations of Shakespeare. Her essays appear in Shakespeare Quarterly, Journal of American Studies, Literature/Film Quarterly, and Early Modern Literary Studies, as well as the collections The Routledge Handbook to Shakespeare and Global Appropriation and Shakespeare and the Power of the Face. She is currently working on a monograph examining the racial frames authorized by the power of Shakespeare in appropriations of Othello created during "post-racial" America.

Published
2020-05-01