In general observation, horror and fictitious movies share some similarities; that is, they are based on something that already happened. Contemporary society is thrilled with these gruesome films. People either watch or purchase books that portray horrific thematic events to watch or read when during free time. Currently, there are many writers and producers specializing in horror books and movies like Victor LaValle in Ballad of the Black Tom book and J. Peele in Get Out movie among others. Historically, horror genres trace their origin from the tradition of Gothic literature that emerged in 17th and 18th Century Europe. The earlier themes in horror writings emerged from religious and pagan topics. In modern-day writing, the genre has not lost meaning from the traditional horror type as evident in the similarities shared in the mentioned book and movie. Victor LaValle's book and J. Peele's film Get Out share two main themes of the use of excessive language and thematic focus on decay and degeneration.
Excessive language in Victor LaValle's Ballad of the Black Tom is open as depicted in the white people's description of the immigrants living in New York through objectionable language. The book begins when the protagonist, Charles Thomas Tester, dressed carefully, leaves his father's apartment to go for his daily hustle. Tester intentionally carries an empty guitar case by posing as jazz and a blues music singer. His main job, however, was to smuggle cultic texts in a book. Tester goes to a white neighbourhood to provide a witch by the name Ma Att with a copy of a book he hid from Harlem. During his smuggling, Tester learns that there are few jazz musicians on this side of the city and comes back the following day to play. Charles meets Robert Suydam, who gives him a lot of dollars to play the next time Robert has visitors. Tester, however, learns that Suydam wants to use the black population to rule the new world order using dark magic known as Cthulhu. Before the engagement, Thomas Malone, police with the NYPD, sees Tester interact with Robert. Malone had been investigating the sorry of kidnapping involving Robert. The two police officers end up harassing Charles Tester in a bid to get information about Robert from him. Tester makes it to the party the following Saturday and plays his music as promised. Suydam then uses Tester as his witch, naming him, Black Tom. Throughout these events, instances of excessive use of language is evident.
The first instance of the use of excessive language took when Tommy Tester rode into Harlem. The conductor walks towards Tester and asks if he was lost, signifying that he was on the wrong side of the town. When Malone and the private detective arrested Tester in a place he was not supposed to be in, he applies a strong language by telling Tester that he is far away from home. To a great extent, this is a florid language to show the racial divide between the two races. Describing Otis Tester's previous job, LaValle applies an excessive language to depict what African American went through in their respective places of work. The author uses Negro wages, which were standard at the time.
When Malone arrested tester, LaValle describes the situation as "playing clueless negro" a collective term to show that African Americans were ignorant in some issues like the situation Tom was in at the time. After playing the guitar at Robert's house, Suydem makes a racial speech by referring to African Americans as you people. The language that follows is also excessive as Robert Suydem refers to the black immigrant as individuals living in an inhuman condition in a maze-like ghetto which the people are too ignorant to escape. The other instance of excessive language is depicted in the book when Tommy Tester called Suydem, in his head, a motherfucker, to express displeasure after is performance.
Aside from the foul language, Victor LaValle's book is also characterized by a theme of decay and degeneration. The whole movie represents a society in decay and degeneration from the social setup to how some people get special treatment over the others. When African Americans moved to New York, they were segregated and made to live in congested areas while LaValle depicts high-end neighbourhoods to have unused parcels of land. This is a form of social decay and degeneration as few people controlled too much than the many (LaValle 7). The other type of degeneration is the cultism practiced by the people, both the poor and the rich, black and white. The novel begins by Tester smuggling a book to Ma Att, used for cultic activities. Later on, we learn about black magic Suydem uses to control the city. Robert acquires most of his property through magic. Finally, the other form of degeneration is perpetrated by the police who shoot an innocent older man pretending that he held a gun against the police when it was clear that the older man was holding a guitar. Nothing is done after the shooting, even though the police was on the wrong.
In Get Out, J. Peele applies the use of florid language in many instances to show dissatisfaction among characters. The movie stars an African American photographer by the name Chris Washington and his Caucasian girlfriend named Rose. The two arrived in Armitage's house where the film takes a new twist. It is in the compound where we learn about the use of excessive language to describe Chris, being an African American in addition to the application of decay and degeneration in society. The first instance of excessive language comes from a comment made by Missy regarding African Americans. Missy refers to African Americans as athletic with a well-built body and compares sex life between Caucasians and Blacks. Separately in a gathering, a man of Asian origin mockingly asks Chris to explain how he finds being African is. Chris Washington finds all these words offensive and Peele use them selectively to express what goes on in the family. Before the family go for dinner, Rose's younger brother by the name Jeremy arrive and also make comments considered as an active language against the Black community. Chris and his friend Rode, an also use obscene language whenever they are together, aimed explicitly at Rose's family in the opening scene. Towards the end of the movie, we also hear Rod use swear words after finding out what goes on in the family's compound.
The next theme in the movie that stands out is decay and degeneration. Even though they are hypnotized, the Armitage family still keep African Americans as slaves, one as a groundskeeper and the other as a housekeeper. The family was obsessed with keeping hypnotizing black people and controlling all they do. Despite the achievement made in the society regarding race, the family still promote the act by hiring and carrying out an experiment of the Black community, which is a form of decay and degeneration. Rose's parents specialized in doing so since her dad was an accomplished neurosurgeon while the mother was a hypnotist. Missy, a qualified hypnotist, traps Chris, who goes to sleep and she discovers his guilt about the mothers' death. She then uses the guilty to get to Chris and control him, which is an immoral act that depicts how degenerated the family is.
The next decaying and retrogressive scene in J. Peele's movie take place when the affluent Caucasians, who gather in Rose's family compound for an annual meeting, are bidding for Chris without his knowledge. They sell him as a commodity sold to the highest bidder. Finally, the surgery on strong and energetic African men to host older people is also an act of social retrogression depicted in the movie (Garmonbozia 23.6). Towards the end of the film, Christ discovers that all the Black people in the compound had dated Rose at one point before luring them to the Armitage family. Rose's data and mom then applied their skills in transforming them into hosts of older people. The act itself is retrogressive since it goes against the prevailing social norms where everyone shares equal rights. The family used these African Americans without their consent as depicted when Logan regained his consciousness and warned Chris to leave the compound.
The two items, novel and the movies, as discussed, share the same themes of excessive language use, and decay and degeneration. The producers of the book and the film systematically use these two concepts in a horror movie to depict the bad stories going on in society. As mentioned in the discussion, horror genres borrow mostly from events that happened in the past, and it is through such observation that Victor LaValle and J. Peele use the category to discuss racism and social discrimination among Caucasians and Blacks. Racism and excess language is prominent in Ballad of the Black Tom while J. Peele's Get Out depicts a society that is decaying through racial practices. The similarity in the novel and movie is that regardless of the steps made in terms of social progress, aspects of abuse are still prevalent in some parts of society as depicted in various scenes in both movies.
In conclusion, the two thematic concepts discussed in class are evident in the movies compared in this paper. The authors selectively use excessive language and decaying theme to address the elephant in the room that is racism. Coming at a time when most people shy away from using such topics, these two, writer and producer, calculatedly apply the two to discuss social issues within the society. Through the application of excessive language, one can resonate with what goes on as opposed to the assumption of the event taking place. Finally, the decaying and degenerating components of the book also depict an obsession with prestige, power and control prevalent in our society known to few people. The events in both movies complement the themes highlighted in class.
Garmonbozia, Cinema. Get Out/Director Commentary. Retrieved on 15th March from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eG5uT00SWNA 2018.
LaValle, Victor D. The Ballad of Black Tom. New York: A Tom Doherty Association Book, 2016. eBook
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Essay Sample. Victor LaValle's book and J. Peele's film Get Out. (2023, Feb 07). Retrieved from https://speedypaper.com/essays/victor-lavalles-book-and-j-peeles-film-get-out
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