The Concept of “Social Thriller” in Jordan Peele’s Get Out and Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives

Whilst reading The Stepford Wives I was reminded of Get Out, a film I’d previously watched and absolutely loved. Lo and behold I find out Jordan Peele was indeed inspired by the 1972 novel by Ira Levin, which was then made into a film and shot to cult classic status [1]. It is interesting, to say the least, because The Stepford Wives and Get Out are dressed up as horror/thriller stories but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Jordon Peele labelled Get Out as a “social thriller… inspired by movies that are creepy but humanity is the creepiest part at the centre of it [2].” It intelligently critiques ‘Post-racial’ America – which is the idea that prejudice and discrimination no longer hold sway. Cough. In the movie Chris, who is black, is dating a white woman named Rose. Such a delicate name. Spoiler alert: Rose lures unsuspecting black men to her family so they can brainwash and periodically transfer white people brains into black bodies. Why, you ask? So that white people can live forever in genetically-gifted strong bodies.

The white characters in Get Out are not repulsed by blackness, no. They admire and envy instead [3]. The film doesn’t jump straight to the chase like I did. It gradually transforms into a dark and creepy story. Peele was also inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the opening scene invokes the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Get Out paints insensitive white middle-class liberals as the true villains. Chris is visibly uncomfortable in every scene, at every insidious comment. Daniel Kaluuya is a fantastic actor and  the film score was brilliantly crafted too boot [4].

The Stepford Wives can also be interpreted to revel a hidden meaning. Socially aware and politically driven, Ira Levin’s story is about a family who moves from the city to a suburb called Stepford. Joanna, our main protagonist, finds the housewives of Stepford to be rather odd. They are uniformly good-looking, Barbie-like, and spend all their time cooking and cleaning. Turns out, the husbands of Stepford run a secret society and transform their wives into submissive robots.

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And Joanna is next. She fears there is something in the water that makes all the housewives so but it is soon revealed, evil lurks in her own house, and her own husband. Joanna is fiercely independent, sexually confident, ambitious – the product of second-wave feminism – and is frightened at the possibility of losing power and control. Ira Levin is also pointing fingers at modern commercialism and technology, which can be easily manipulated by malevolent forces, in this case misogynistic, murderous husbands.

I believe that allegorical storytelling allows hysteria and paranoia of the main characters to blend into the background and bring into focus real-life political issues such as feminism and civil rights. The real enemy is not the devil or the monster, it is society and in it, patriarchy and racism are the horrifying elements. A carrier for contemporary ideas: these stories convey anxieties of marginalised groups over loss of their identity and power.

[1] Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yh9yM00r9JQ

[2] Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yh9yM00r9JQ

[3] In one disturbing scene, Walter the groundkeeper (aka Rose’s grandfather) runs in the garden at night. He never got over the fact that Jesse Owens beat him at the Olympics.

[4] Opening credits and songs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qA-ONNTBteE

 

Mystery/Thriller Reviews # 1: Behind Her Eyes & Before I Go to Sleep

Who doesn’t love a good twist? They work when they are done well. Like really, really well. The ending for thrillers can make it to break it for me. For instance, The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle was intriguing and a page turner for sure but the ending was underwhelming. It was clichéd and frankly, dare I say – even a little offensive. I usually don’t have high expectations for thrillers but I pick them up frequently to get out of reading slumps. Works every time.

Behind Her Eyes and Before I Go to Bed have many overlapping elements, and they are set in London with a female protagonist. I gave three stars to Behind Her Eyes and a sad two star rating to the latter. Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough was unputdownable… is that even a word? Louise is a single mom. She makes out with a mystery man from the bar one night and turns out, he’s her new boss. Married boss. Oops. Any review of Behind Her Eyes you come across on the internet will mention the crazy ending and yes, the ending is indeed crazy. It’s unbelievably bonkers.

S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Bed sounded so promising. The biggest issue I had with this book was that I wasn’t compelled to pick it up, but I desperately needed to know the ending. It took me about a week to finish. Christine, the victim of a “hit and run case”, wakes up every day not remembering who she is, a twenty something trapped in a forty something body. I admit I enjoyed the bits that talked about memory and Christine’s journal, the whodunnit element. But as I said, I wasn’t compelled to read it. I’d still recommend these books though: they were properly creepy.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Review)

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⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

This book legit made me tear up. The story follows Eleanor Oliphant who is a thirty year old socially awkward woman that lives alone and follows a regimented, monotonous routine. She works at an office all week and drinks herself to oblivion during the weekend. It is understood that Eleanor did not have a normal childhood and did not have a normal mother, as her mother is presently in prison. Eleanor speaks to her mother once a week and absolutely loathes it. And she’s been doing it every week for nine years.

I loved reading this novel because it is hilarious, heartwarming and heartbreaking all at once. I did not exactly empathise with Eleanor but I understood her character, her mental illness and her ability to learn how to live and not just survive. She meets Raymond, the new guy at work, and they quickly become friends. This is the first book I’ve given five stars to in 2017 and I’m really glad I read it because Eleanor’s story shows how the little things in life matter a lot, and make life worth living: relationships, friends, love, kindness. I know it’s kinda cheesy but I would totally watch this movie!

Booktube-a-thon 2017 Update

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Challenges completed: 2

Books completed: 3, total pages: 874

Enjoyment level: 100%

The week started off with a whimper. I planned on reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and finishing the first challenge soon but alas, a hundred pages in and I wasn’t feeling it. I put it aside (gasp) and picked up Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Absolutely fell in love with it and finished it in two days. For this book, I completed the ‘read a hyped book’ challenge. Next, I decided to pick up A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams because it is the shortest book in the world. The story was really… interesting. Remind me why it’s so famous again? Maybe the literary nuances were lost on me. This play was for the challenge ‘pick a book with a person on the cover.’ Marlon Brando is a person. And the other woman who he’s kneeling in front of (Side note: I really have to watch the movie adaptation soon).

My third and final book for the week didn’t fulfil any challenges. Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough is batshit insane. I was hoping to finish it in a day, damn you nighttime and treacherous sleep. Psssh! Anyway, I finished it during the next morning. Highly recommended. I really enjoyed this week, and I wouldn’t ever have finished 3 novels in a week if it wasn’t for booktube-a-thon. My TBR is growing everyday but sadly there aren’t enough hours in a day. I read at a snail’s pace, fam. You understand my pain!

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Review)

“Black life is cheap, but in America black bodies are a natural resource of incomparable value.”

Between the World and Me is a powerful piece of work.  Ta-Nehisi Coates, a journalist by profession, deconstructs black consciousness in a series of letters to his son Samori. Reading this text was truly heartbreaking. And I don’t know how to begin talking about this subject, but here goes anyway. It is important. Ta-Nehisi Coates charts the brutality and inhumanity of slavery, the absence of control and power for black people which has been the only consistent thread since the seventeenth century to present times.  Ta-Nehisi Coates refers time and time again to the severe regulation and curtailment of the black ‘body’ in America. He is referring to the black individual, and the larger collective. Blackhood in America is an essentialism and rightly so, it is unique and exclusive to American history and the way race relations in tandem  with the American Dream unravelled in it. Ta-Nehisi Coates is relentless in recounting the ritualised violence on black bodies – “the essential below” – from plantations to twenty first century streets and prisons. Everyone should read this book.

Booktube-a-thon 2017 TBR

Disclaimer: I am not a YouTuber. Also, I am not going to finish seven books in seven days.

But this should be loads of fun, right? Yes!

The Booktubeathon is hosted by Ariel Bissett (who is an awesome human being) and will take place between 24th – 30th July of this year. Here are my picks for each challenge:

  1. Pick a book with a person on the cover: For this I choose The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I was planning on reading this next, anyway.
  2. Read a hyped book: Can I choose The Shadow of the Wind again? Haha, if not that, it is The Night Circus by  Erin Morgenstern.
  3. Finish a book in a day: I’m pretty sure I can get through Clara’s Daughter by Meike Ziervogel in a day because it’s a very short thriller.
  4. Read about a character that is very different from you: Birdie by Tracey Lindberg is about a Cree woman. It should be a harrowing and interesting read.
  5. Finish a book outdoors: A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. A play counts, yes?
  6. Read a book you bought because of the cover: I would be repeating a book here –The Night Circus by  Erin Morgenstern. It’s such a gorgeous cover!
  7. Read seven books: WELL. If I had to pick two more books, they’d be – Orlando by Virginia Woolf and Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough.

Let the games begin!

 

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware (Review)

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⭐⭐⭐

Lets play a little (bookish) game of two truths and a lie:

1. I will read anything Ruth Ware writes.

2. I am running out of space on my bookshelf.

3. I don’t buy pretty covers.

If you guessed right, #3 is the lie! 😂 The Lying Game is a psychological thriller that had me on my toes the entire time. I was hooked within the first sentence. Ruth Ware’s writing is absolutely fantastic. I fell in love with the eerie, mysterious tone and setting of her debut novel ‘In a Dark, Dark Wood’ and the sense of dread and claustrophobia in her second novel ‘The Woman in Cabin 10’. I felt that the plot in Cabin 10 wasn’t the greatest but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

The Lying Game is about Isa Wilde and her three friends who share a secret, one that comes back to haunt them seventeen years later. It ticks all the right boxes for me: girls boarding school, small town, gossip, mystery and tension. I had a few problems with the main characters though: I didn’t like any of them. Isa is an emotional mess and she’s constantly putting her 6-month old daughter in danger. Thea never seemed to have grown up. Fatima’s character felt like forced diversity. Despite that, I got on board with the slow-burn plot. Ruth Ware is filling the Gillian Flynn hole in my heart.