Change Q3

Art has the power to change society

by Kiana Stevens

When discussing this topic, it is incredibly easy to quickly dismiss any form of art as simply an individual’s representation of the world around them; therefore providing nothing of evidence to change an individual’s opinion. Art is often seen as biased and vague in comparison with scientific discovery and global developments.

In the year that man reached the moon through NASA’s scientific development, Andy Warhol began Interview—a creative’s magazine that provided unedited interviews with creatives, artists and those of similar nature. It is obvious from history books and newspapers from this era that this monumental scientific exploration of space reached the hearts of the public, and changed people’s perception of the world around them much more than Warhol did. However, can this be said for every form of art that arises from every artist? This is where you begin to notice that this is not the case. Art is a continuous form that is persistent in its nature, it is constantly altering and developing a new outlook on topics that can range from Alberto Burri’s visual art that comments on the Spanish Civil War from the eyes of a prisoner of war, or Band Aid’s question Do They Know it’s Christmas?, art is a constant comment and allows viewers to perceive the world around them in a new light.

In a world that is as technologically advanced as we are in the 21st century, in which digital competency is seen to be as important as Maths and English in the education system, it is obvious that the product of film as an art form is impactful to a large degree. Beginning in 1888, film has continued to influence society as televisions become more popular, the cinema becomes cheaper and therefore the audience of which film can reach is widely diverse. A prime example in the 21st century of a film that has had the power to change the people’s perception of the world around them is Jordan Peele’s Get Out. A 2017 Academy Award-winning thriller film following the nightmare experience of Chris, a black man visiting his girlfriend’s white family, the film utilises horror and thriller to represent contemporary life for a 21st-century black person in America. Peele combines influence from previous film and turns it on its head. Inspired by Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?, the film delves deeper into the silencing and objectification of black people and the alternate perception of racism that has been created in this era of America—the uneducated refusal to accept. As Chris first interacts with his girlfriend Rose’s family members, he experiences constant prejudice due to his colour, being categorised alongside Barack Obama in order to create a sense of community between the two worlds of black people and white people, or being challenged to a fight because he is seen to be naturally primal and strong compared to the white man.

Peele turns this prejudice from the casual to the obvious. ‘The sunken place’: a hypnotic restriction of the physical body that is used to control Chris throughout the film becomes a metaphor for the restriction of prejudice and misrepresentation of black people throughout society. As Chris attempts to escape from what is ultimately a difficult position (no spoilers!), the use of the cotton he stuffs in his ears is a vivid artistic reminder of the origin of this inequality that Peele is commenting on, a reference to a time of slavery that has not changed as much as we would have hoped by now. At the end of the film when the police car arrives at the scene, the entire audience of the cinema lets out a cry of dismay. A black man and a white woman in a suspicious situation is incredibly likely to lead to injustice in 21st century America, whether this be on or off screen. Peele brings to the light of day the harsh reality of how black people are represented in America in contemporary society and he does not hold back. After being submitted for a Golden Globe in the comedy/musical category, Peele tweeted simply ‘Get Out is a documentary’. This gives a perfect example of the implications of his film that have obviously gone unnoticed in this aspect of perspective.

However, people have noticed. Get Out received a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, has been written on by scholars and made a profit of $255 million globally. Peele has so blatantly commented on society that society has listened and reacted. The power of art comes from its repetition throughout history, people continuously comment on previous artwork so that it becomes eternally relevant. When commenting on the social representation of black people in America, Peele has provided a pedestal for black people across America to communicate their emotions, to present an example of art through film that presents the issues they face on a daily basis. Whether it makes a change for the people that produce this prejudice is something we cannot fully understand; however, this relief for those that feel misrepresented has been powerfully portrayed and played out in the narrative of Get Out.