A woke audience makes all the difference. On Facebook, my friend posted that he needed to “re-watch Get Out at STC on a Tuesday so [he] can get the real nigga experience some of y’all had.” He wasn’t exaggerating. In fact, it shouldn’t be surprising that there was a significant vibe that came with watching the film in Scarborough, since we already knew what Peele’s film meant to the black community before its release. To sum it up, it’s like reliving a black person’s every day fears but intensified theatrically. I can’t speak for other parts of the city but I can confirm, through discussions on Facebook and personal experience, that seeing the movie in Scarborough –aka being amongst an audience where the majority is black– is vital to the message of the film. A familiar sense of skepticism and discomfort radiates through the audience when encountering individual white characters. Everyone acknowledges the black girl who yells, “Stab that bitch!” in the theatre (like one audience member did) and doesn’t silence her interjections because she’s not white like Danielle Bregoli. Basically, watching “Get Out” in Scarborough was a cinematic experience of its own.
When Andrea Warner went to see an interactive play at Theatre for Living, where audience members get to participate in the story, she concluded that she, “would like to see it again with a different audience because it was deeply frustrating to be surrounded by so many people who believe they’re good allies…but default to what they know: fuckin’ white tears.” The story was about an indigenous family’s encounter with racism, their own past and the understanding of identity. Warner said that when white audience members took over a role on stage, they often shifted the story to reflect white fragility and twice eliminated a white character’s racism. ‘Get Out’ audience members weren’t surprised by the micro-aggressions that Chris endured. What would surprise them is the sudden disappearance of the Armitage’s racism at the end of the film because that doesn’t happen in real life. Racism doesn’t just go away. It’s violently exposed and encounters many “How’s that racist?” moments before (and if ever) coming to terms with its ingrained existence. The audience’s yelling, cheering and groaning played an integral role in the film’s reception because we were aware of this reality and loved seeing it being acted out and fought back.
I didn’t want to see ‘Get Out’ in ULTRA AVX because my scene points wouldn’t cover it and I didn’t think it would make a difference. It turns out; my fellow black audience members were the only cinematic upgrade needed. For those of you who appreciate the dead silence of a theatre and enjoy the occasional guffaws from an amused audience, it’s been rumored that Durham theatres would be better suited to your needs. I was lucky enough to be with an audience who applauded meaningfully and empathetically for the success of the film’s hero. I thought I was alone in experiencing groundbreaking filmography from a perspective that enhanced its storytelling. But then a discussion on Facebook proved otherwise.
People who saw ‘Get Out’ at Morningside, Eglinton (as I did) and STC theatres also experienced sudden eruptions of joy, standing ovations and comedic commentary. One commenter said the climatic cheering was so intense it was, “as if someone hit a game winner in a NBA finals game.” It’s safe to say, the camaraderie that brings a city together during a sporting event is similar to the sense of unification that brought black Scarborough audience members together in the theatre. It’s unifying but only for a community that understands the realities of racial division and inequality. We groaned in unison at insulting lines that have been said to us one time or another and sighed approvingly at the hero’s hesitance because we would hesitate too. The film brought us together and proved that “arts produced by diverse groups of people are socially valuable because they offer us ideas, technologies, and values that help us figure out how to live together,” as Jeff Chang eloquently observed. I can only hope that other black communities experienced the same sense of togetherness when watching in their neighbourhood theatres.