Featured, Movies, Race & Politics

What Becky Gotta Do To Get Murked? White Womanhood In Jordan Peele’s Get Out

(This piece contains major spoilers. Beware.)

Jordan Peele’s transcendent Get Out is the latest entry in black folks’ long-standing fascination with horror; beginning with our folklore (Zora Neale Hurston’s Every Tongue Got to Confess), early literature (Charles Chesnutt’s The Conjure Woman and Other Conjure Tales) and film (Oscar Micheaux’s A Son of Satan) as well as contemporary literature (LA Banks’ The Vampire Huntress Legend Series), and short films (Bree Newsome’s Wake; Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes’ Danger Word). 

But it was when Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) removed his fingers from around the neck of Rose that I knew I had to write this piece. In a scene reminiscent of the fatal climax of Shakespeare’s Othello, we are held rapt as he is poised to finally punish the instigator of his personal hell, Rose (Allison Williams), for her intimate betrayal, yet he is unable to put an end to his white temptress. Why not? The woman has lied to him for four (or five) months, literally led him to slaughter as she introduces him to her eugenically-inclined family, orchestrated her mother’s hypnotic assault upon his psyche (possibly after psychologically grooming him for months), paraded him around his potential buyers, and ultimately chased him down the lane with a rifle shooting to kill. If we continue to see Chris as an avatar for black manhood, the film’s finale serves as one more indictment of black men’s sustained inability to punish white women for their willful complicity in white supremacy. And so I ask on behalf of (a whole lot of black women and femmes), what line does Becky have to cross to get murked?

**************

It was actually three black men that failed to kill her…Paul Bunyan should have shot her twice and his boy should have run over her with the TSA squad car. – Tracey Salisbury

This reluctance on Chris’ part is particularly notable in the horror genre in which it is commonplace, expected even for white women to be killed in increasingly graphic ways. As pop culture scholar Janell Hobson says of this moment, “It’s almost as if brothers are still scared they’ll get lynched if they demonstrate any violence towards Becky—even cinematically.” Why does the film depict a black man so unwilling to pull this trigger? Why does this film still find it problematic for its own protagonist to enact thorough, graphic revenge, and even righteous revenge on white womanhood for its steady betrayal? I mean the chick chased his black ass with a rifle down the driveway.

Yes, yes, he kills the mother, Missy Armitage (Catherine Keener); but we can only presume how she died (letter opener through the eye) because the camera quickly cuts away before it happens. Now compare this to the (partial) death of Jeremy Armitage (Caleb Landry Jones) who is brutally beaten about the head with a croquet ball. Or even Dean Armitage’s (Bradley Whitford) graphic piercing through the throat by the horns of a mounted stag—shout out to scholar John Jennings for highlighting that he kills him with a literal buck! The camera lingers on details like blood spurting through the father’s mouth or slowly pooling around the brother’s head. Not to mention how the frame stays with the Georgina (Betty Gabriel) as we view her head crashed against the car window in a repose of death. Peele’s editorial choices reveals his hand: graphic white male death is okay, and even the fetishizing of the dead body of the one (of two total) black women characters is just fine. But the intentional framing and editing choices Peele makes to conceal and work around the explicit deaths of Missy and Rose show that white women are still valued as fragile and occupy a unique cultural privilege…even in the blackest horror film of this decade.

Kinitra Brooks

Kinitra D. Brooks is an Associate Professor of African American and Afro-Caribbean literature at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She recently edited an anthology of short horror fiction written by black women, Sycorax’s Daughters and her upcoming monograph, Searching for Sycorax: Black Women Haunting Contemporary Horror will be published in 2017. She has published articles in African American Review, Obsidian, and FEMSPEC. In Fall 2016, discussion about Brooks’ innovative course, “Black Women, Beyoncé & Popular Culture” focusing on Beyoncé’s Lemonade went viral, drawing local, national, and international press coverage to her model of creative and rigorous cultural criticism.

  • Junegirl627

    Wow!!!

    I was so angry when he kept asking Rose to get the keys. I mean he saw the photos. He saw the maid the grounds keeper and they boy all in there with her and acting mad fugazi/ suspect now. He knew he was in a long line of Negroes that been through that house. Even though she says he’s the first black guys she ever dated. Why did he feel the need to cape for her. He knew he was in danger but instead of trying to get out and to safety he stayed for her.

    Now I never thought of the whole reluctance to kill Rose from that angle but I definitely see your point. But I wonder if it had to do with his divorce from a white woman and not wanting it to be misinterpreted as his desire to kill his ex played out on film.

    • pls

      I can definitely see him not wanting to deal with white feminism and their claims of “violence against (white) women” in the film….but they are exactly who needs to be checked.

      White women are THE most privileged people in this country.

      • CrankUpThe_AC

        Hmm. I think it’s close but I’m still gonna go with white dudes on that one. Having people nervous about hurting you is different than not having anyone strong enough to oppose you.

      • Deeds

        Really? You think so, I still think white dudes got one up on them.

        • Epsilonicus

          Imma go with white dudes also, especially after seeing the violence white men afflict on white women.

          • “M”

            *also votes for ‘white dudes’*

        • BrownKitty289

          Nay…they lay up under white men and STILL cry that they’re living like slaves.
          I just got in an argument w/ a white lady on Bill Mahr’s FB page bout it.
          #smh Give me a break!

        • Gaaltero

          White women are confused. They are oppressor and oppressed.

      • Gaaltero

        Nope, that would be white men.

    • Vanity in Peril

      I was reading somewhere this white woman was thinking in that moment, as Rose is fake-digging for those keys, that she assumed the mom was hypnotizing Rose. And she felt ashamed for assuming white innocence.
      Thing is, in that moment…when she screamed at the prospect of her brother attacking Chris, I felt the same thing. And that is by design. We are all working through indoctrination.

      • pls

        I went into the movie theater KNOWING the girlfriend is in on it, yet, while watching I thought there’s still hope she could still be innocent. We hope for the best, but in reality….

    • Blue

      He wasn’t caping, he was attempting to trick her into giving him the keys. He said something about pulling the car around that led me to believe he never intended to let her in the car.

    • FarbissinaPunim

      I don’t think he has divorced a white woman. He’s married to Chelsea Peretti. Keegan Michael Key divorced his (white) wife though.

  • pls

    I asked this question in one of the other posts!

    Not only was he unable to kill her, he was unable to suspect that she may have been just as racist as the rest of her family and friends.

    • Deeds

      Yup! He couldn’t fathom that she was complicit even after he saw all of the pictures of her with all of the other black folks.

      • blue

        I saw differently. I think he realized and never intended to let her in the car. He just needed the keys from her.

    • NotyoKneeGrow

      maybe it’s just hard for a normal person to kill somebody with their bare hands…..even under duress….

    • The thing is that he didn’t really have a clue until the very end of the First Act. Remember when he called her family on the BS, Rose said all the right words. In a way, it cemented how messed up Rose’s fam was. If she would have been with the ish, he would have just left in the First Act, and the movie’s over.

  • Freebird

    ” If we continue to see Chris as an avatar for black manhood, the film’s finale serves as one more indictment of black men’s sustained inability to punish white women for their willful complicity in white supremacy.”

    Sigh….

    • Question

      Are Black men punishing white men for their complicity in white supremacy? I guess I’m asking, is this an omission or actually just a representation of how Black men in general (and maybe Black people) “deal with” white supremacy in 2016…

      • Freebird

        Im in love with black people soooo much I’m not doing it this Friday. I recognize folks have a lot of hurt over things both real and imagined.

        • La Bandita

          We should be able to discuss. And it should come from black love.

    • raul

      When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

  • Vanity in Peril

    While I don’t disagree with this assessment all together, I had a different take-away from that last “kill”.

    As the protagonist puts his hands around Rose’s throat (somebody in my theatre screamed, “curb-stomp that white bish, crip-walk on her azz!”—to a round of applause) she begins to smile. I saw this initially as her trying to use her white feminine whiles to disarm him but I also interpreted it as whiteness feeling self-satisfied that their assumption that the black man is inherently violent, even when 100% justified, is correct. In that moment I saw a switch over wherein Chris decides to let the white woman die cold and alone on the side of the road. A death that she owns, caused and escalated by her own actions. I saw it as implicating whiteness.

    Or maybe that’s what I wanted to see.

    I’d love a black male’s take on this interpretation.

    • pls

      The smile definitely threw me off

    • Shay

      I viewed it in much the same way. I found it poetic in relation to how his mom died. And I also saw it as representative of our humanity (black folks) that is often a blessing and a curse. Even when we (Chris) are well within our rights to “murk” these folks, and probable should les they come back to reek more havoc, we can’t become what we hate. In spite of all that they have done, we find a way to forgive and let live, only asking for peace. So I in no way saw it as having anything to do with her being a white woman. Just my take, shrugs.

      • Vanity in Peril

        Yeah, it can def be taken in a couple of different ways. For me it’s less about forgiveness or even asking for peace but just completely detatching from the sickness of whiteness and letting it calcify on its own. This is also how I see poc triumphing against whiteness in the Western world, just refusing to play by the rules of a game they created.

        • kingpinenut

          indeed

        • Shay

          Exactly! Considering the purpose behind the movie and all of the metaphors, I found no way to come to the conclusion the above author reached (though not saying its right or wrong). Peele used this movie to show the real horror of racism, implicit and express, and how it plays out in our day to day lives. It would only be right that he also depict how we continue to forgive over and over and over when we are more than justified in vengeance, yet in spite of our constant WWJD actions they stay coming for us calling us the violent predators, black men specifically. That moment showed that even when the power is shifted we don’t become them.

          • pls

            I agree but at the same time, it could be another indication of how deep white supremacy runs. He didn’t have an issue killing Georgina after he picked her up off the road. I don’t think the character left her to die alone, I think he really just could not in his heart kill her.

            • Jennifer

              Did he kill Georgina? She attacked him in the car and he rammed that car into the tree, right?

              • pls

                Dang, I can’t remember. Becky attacked him with a shotgun, tho. It would have been my mission once she said “you know I can’t give you the keys, right?”

              • kingpinenut

                You are correct

              • Shay

                Yea he rammed the car to stop her from attacking him while he was driving.

                • Blueberry01

                  I thought she hindered his ability to drive so she inadvertently caused the accident.

                • amilah

                  No, she actually grabs the wheel. She’s the one who causes the crash.

              • Indigo

                I don’t think he ramped it intentionally. She was batting at him screaming something about “you ruined my house” and he just ended up running into a tree bc you can’t fight off a crazy white woman in a black woman’s body and still drive right.

                • Jennifer

                  “you can’t fight off a crazy white woman in a black woman’s body and still drive right”

                  Facts.

              • Stefan Verna

                She attacked him in the car and they drove into a tree. he didn’t drive into the tree on purpose, they were fighting in the car.

            • kingpinenut

              S e x is a powerful drug

            • Shay

              Indicative of his humanity. It shouldn’t be easy for us to kill other ppl even when justified, which makes him humane unlike the white antagonists in the film, and much like us collectively in real life. Georgina was an immediate physical threat, i.e. he literally had to kill her to stop her from killing him in that moment. Rose was helpless and not an immediate physical threat at that point. Not saying that the psychological effects of white supremacy had nothing to do with it, just that considering everything else he depicted in the movie re race relations, I assumed that was what he was trying to portray. That’s the beauty of good story telling, everyone can view it a million ways, it creates dialogue.

              • pls

                I mean I guess…I’m fresh out of some bolchit with white corporate snakes so I wanted him to execute in that moment and in that way for my own revenge!

                • Shay

                  Now I ain’t gonna front like I wasn’t yelling “kill that bish now” at the screen lol

                  • Blueberry01

                    Everybody was…

              • NotyoKneeGrow

                He tried to save Georgina (assuming there was still Georgina left) when she tried to kill him again he realizes….”all my skinfolk ain’t my kinfolk” and he deaded her

            • Bkmews

              Chris didn’t kill Georgina, per se. He crashed the car and she died hitting her head against the windshield.

              • Star El

                Really great point.

            • NotyoKneeGrow

              well said

            • Indigo

              Georgina he killed in self defense when she woke up still grandma after he picked her up. He was trying to save the person in the sunken place, not the body snatcher.

          • Vanity in Peril

            Even with our hands on their throats and our teeth showing we are being fetishized by whiteness. Provoked.

    • Shay

      And that smile was more of a smirk as if to say he is still playing into everything she would expect him to do. Like even in the end she was turning him into something he didn’t want to be.

    • HouseSublime

      Personally I think leaving her to die cold and alone in the dark on that road was more ruthless. Throughout Chris’s life he felt regret for his mother having to die the way she did, cold and alone on that road. That’s why he went back for Georgina, the guilt of leaving someone (even if she was trapped in the sunken place) didn’t sit right with him.

      If I’m a person who has felt for most of my life that dying alone is the worst possible fate, me choosing to leave someone to die precisely in that manner is more punishment that merely choking her. Choking her or stoping her out would just be satisfaction for the audience not the actual character. I think the way Chris killed the brother, mother and father were enough to satiate the audiences desire for punishment.

      Plus Rose WAS killed by a black man. Walter (or whatever his real name is) shot her point blank and that directly is what killed her, just took a few mins for her to succumb. They all still died at the hands of a black person.

      • kingpinenut

        Chris’ mother died, no doubt, while he was watching some Brady Bunch bullshyte.

        This movie has so many layers….

        • “M”

          “Chris’ mother died, no doubt, while he was watching some Brady Bunch bullshyte.”

          But … also because he was afraid to go looking for her, right? Because how much good when someone – in particular, a parent – in particular, a mother – dies or is near death can you really do when you’re eleven?

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          • Indigo

            Other than calling 911 nothing at all. And adults are supposed to take care of kids, not the other way around. So being paralyzed with fear is about right for a kid that age. Especially if she was a strict mother who told him that once his latchkey behind gets home from school, he better not move a muscle out of that apartment before she gets home.

      • Liz

        That’s what I thought too. He was leaving her to die just as his mother did.

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      • shalayla

        “If I’m a person who has felt for most of my life that dying alone is the worst possible fate, me choosing to leave someone to die precisely in that manner is more punishment that merely choking her. Choking her or stoping her out would just be satisfaction for the audience not the actual character. ”
        That was my interpretation too!!! Exactly!

      • kniambi

        Love the way you broke that down!

    • Tiana J. Chambers

      yes! when she started to smirk it was almost as if she was satisfied in the fact that she had pushed him to that point. it felt like he resisted killing her only to prevent her from having the satisfaction. whoever said it was ‘poetic’ nailed it

    • Gina Marie

      To me the ending scene showed that even though Black people are fed up with White America, we still wont hurt America like how its hurt us. Yes he did kill all of her other family members but his refusual to brutally kill Rose at the end when she smiles and says “I love you” felt like every time White America tries to convince us that they genuinely care about Black bodies, when they were just trying to kill us a second ago.Chris cant bring himself to do it. He’s simply exhausted and drags himself to the car. I feel thats a metaphor for some of us, we just cant bring ourselves to do whatever it takes to destroy white supremacy cause we’re exhausted AF and would rather survive.

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    • BlueSteele

      Agree. I also found it interesting that as Chris is choking Rose (typically viewed as a crime of passion), her sick smile reveals that she has no empathy for him, which seems to remove any emotional attachment that still lingered for him. Leaving her to die bleeding alone in the cold was a much colder method of killing her IMO. Especially considering his guilt surrounding his mom’s death.

    • Stanley

      I saw it similarly, he was all in for choking the soul out of her, but then she begins to smile as if she’s enjoying it. It felt like at that moment, she was getting pleasure out of pulling him to this point. His killing her wouldn’t have been retribution, she wanted it.

      However, I will point out that when he lets go of her throat, he leans in as if he’s regretful of it getting that far (Him needing to kill her)

    • The Starship Maxima

      I personally agree with your take. For that duplicitous white hoe to do everything she did to him, he’d have been well and truly justified with bashing her skull in. But by refusing, he’s like “I’m STILL better than you” even after all that happened.

      Just my take.

    • Transbutter

      I see your point but none of this applied to the parents, brother and Georgina. Their deaths were gruesome.

    • L

      Also, I think this ties back into his conversation earlier with him promising to never abandon her, and then doing exactly that at the end – especially how he IS comfortable to let her die alone on the road. Not really sure what else was going on there, but that’s what I figured it was.

    • Cymbalsrush

      As a black man watching that scene, I thought the same thing. The scene invites a lot of readings, but the one you’ve mentioned is the one I felt. In order to navigate mostly white spaces, many black men modify their behaviour to dispel stereotypes of being violent. Chris has been doing this for a long time. That psychotic smile Rose delivers is meant to rob him of the satisfaction of killing her. And it works.

    • miss em

      I saw it as him saying “She’s not going to take this from me.” Especially when the lights came up, she knew that a black man would be punished with his hands around a white woman’s neck. Tthe other killings were self-defense, but this was murder. Not that she didn’t deserve it…

  • Michelle is my First Lady

    Nope. Can’t read this yet. I’m going to see this tonight.

    • Other_guy13

      Ditto

      • Michelle is my First Lady

        Have fun. I hope the movie is as good as everyone’s making it out to be.

        • pls

          It’s def better than my initial expectations.

        • kingpinenut

          The movie is great – trust and believe

          • Michelle is my First Lady

            Nice! I’m excited then. Can’t wait.

            • bastardjackyll

              Hope you saw it with the right crowd.

    • NotyoKneeGrow

      enjoy

      • Michelle is my First Lady

        Thanks!

    • La Bandita

      So it last night – so good.

      • Michelle is my First Lady

        Nice. Going in a few hours.

    • “M”

      Come back and let us know what you think!

  • Shott3r

    Maybe that was kind of the point? The same way we see dude going along with a whole host of problematic crap all through the movie (the cop, the meeting the brother, the hypnosis, the awkward party), it’s the same way he couldn’t kill her. And her smile when he couldn’t, and her look of victory when she thought it was a squad car, were all of a piece.
    I didn’t view the movie as a revenge fantasy, just a look at what we go through. I think the fact he didn’t/couldn’t kill her made the point better.

    • pls

      and the point is what?

      • Jennifer

        Becky always wins…unless she goes up against a Chad.

        • pls

          lol

        • HouseSublime

          People are forgetting she was literally shot and killed by a black man. She didn’t win, not even a little bit. Their entire family was killed and what she thought was her final saving grace (the TSA car) didn’t even save her.

          • Jennifer

            Nah. Didn’t forget. After Nov. 8, Super Bowl, etc. I think some of us were looking for a win…and for some reason it would have come in Rose’s horrific death at the hands of Chris. I’ll discuss what that says about me in therapy next week.

            • NotyoKneeGrow

              i peeped how you accepted your “short-comings” and felt no shame…..lol
              Anyway, I agree with the sentiment….I think there is a constant feeling of folk, not just Black women (cuz, as a man, I felt it about Obama sometimes)…..and that is: “how many times do you have to get done dirty before you blackout?”….js

        • La Bandita

          Chad would’ve pounded her then got a side A s i a n chick.

    • $$west

      Naw I can’t agree with that. Everything else he did in the movie I can get to a point. This movie really opened my eyes to just how much black men suppress, how nonchalance really becomes a way of life to avoid potentially fatal conflict with white people. So I get complying with the officer, not making waves at the party, etc. Letting her live though, that was something completely different.

  • Siante?

    “what line does Becky have to cross to get murked?”

    Disrespect his mother?

    • La Bandita

      Nope. Try again. haha

  • Wise Old Owl

    And it begins…SMDH…On second thought, it never ends for some…

    • Jennifer

      But, is she wrong? I’ve discussed this same point with black men and women since I saw the movie. We all said the same thing.

      Jordan Peele made intentional choices throughout this film. No doubt this was an entertaining horror movie, but it also had a lot to say about race relations. (Someone finally hipped me to the Swahili song in the opening credits which translates to “Listen to ancestors…Run away!”)

      BTW – if anyone is interested, Peele talks about one of the alternative endings that was scrapped on this week’s ep of the Another Round podcast. It was reminiscent of the ending of the original “Night of the Living Dead” if you know what that means.

      • Shay

        Well the premise behind the entire movie was racism, specifically that of liberal white ppl. It was just genius of him to create this social thriller showing it for the horror it really is. Dealing with racism is like being in an effing horror film on the daily, and it inflicts a lot of emotional, psychological, and physical trauma on the victims whether recognized consciously or sub-consciously.

        • Jennifer

          I might have read too much into Wise Old Owl’s comment. I felt like it was saying Kinitra was over-analyzing this thing. But, it was made to be analyzed like crazy.

          • pls

            he’s the resident men’s rights activist. If I’m not mistaken he also has a rose at home.

            • Jennifer

              OH! Girl, I wasted my thoughts then. I could have been having an V8.

            • Val

              Rose?

              • pls

                2520 wife/partner

            • Wise Old Owl

              Not an activist…just also has an opinion…I will let my Black Wife…who has far more African DNA than you, know that she is a “White Rose” at home…

            • La Bandita

              His Rose is 20yrs older than him too. Like the Haywood character.

              • Wise Old Owl

                Is she….
                How dare a Black Man have an independent thought …he must be married to an old white woman..lol

                • La Bandita

                  He was, they’re divorce. And he’s half Black wyte mother and lets everyone know and he does not like bw.

                  • Wise Old Owl

                    I know about Peele…I was responding to the person who called me and residential men’s right activist and accusing me of having a white “rose” wife at home…

                    • La Bandita

                      You could not have a Rose at home and still be MRA – its not mutually exclusive. Also many bm use MRA language (like you did) in everyday life, but dont realize that it comes from White Supremacy literature.

                    • Wise Old Owl

                      Ok…as a BM, I must be wrong and ignorant of the roots of White Supremacy and it’s affect on language and culture…thanks for the enlightenment…

                    • La Bandita

                      Being a bm obv doesnt give you insight from your long standing comments.

                      And you do sound like a MRA.

                    • Wise Old Owl Old

                      Si, porque, Yo don’t agree con tu, Yo must be a MRA…have a nice night…hasta…

                    • La Bandita

                      Nope, we had no disagreement papi. I just agreed w/the other commenter that your comments are MRA ish. That is all.

                • “M”

                  With that comment – are you the same dude who’s so often complaining about how WOC critique the behavior of black men/other men of color?

                  If so, your hypocrisy here is … rather stunning.

                  :-/

                  • Wise Old Owl

                    No, constantly being accused of having a White Wife, because I don’t always agree with the BW are perfect narrative and BM ain’t $hit narrative of many VSS on the site is hypocritical…Sorry, but I can think for myself and refuse to feel guilty or be silent on issues that affect me as a BM…the site is called VSB…thus, it is assumed that BM will also have opinions and those opinions may differ from BW’s opinions on similar issues, but that doesn’t mean that BM hate BW or are “men’s activists”…I would expect this biased and flawyed analysis on Madiamnoire, bossip, the Root and ebony, but not on VSB by VSS…to me what’s hypocritical is supporting, defending and cheering interracial dating between BW and wm…but despising, mocking and constantly complaining about BM and wf relationships…

                    • “M”

                      ‘k

      • Mary Burrell

        I mentioned the Another Round podcast. I love Heben and Tracy. I need to re listen to the podcast.

  • Siante?

    Or maybe his inability to kill her relates to Stockholm Syndrome in an abuse victim. I don’t know if Peele was trying to address Chris’s (the black man’s) psychological damage due to narcissistic abuse, but I think that would be fascinating to further explore.

    • pls

      What you mean?

      • Siante?

        I might be looking waaaay too deep into things
        lol— I’ve been reading a book by Dr. Joy Degruy. She believes that a
        lot of black people are suffering from Post Slavery Traumatic Stress
        Syndrome. I guess that’s why I’m relating the idea of “White Supremacy”
        to an abusive figure & “The black man’s psyche” to that of an abuse
        victim. Hopefully I explained that in a way that makes a bit more sense?

        • La Bandita

          I’ve been hearing that, but we all have it from the triangle slave trade. Caribe, South America, Brazil, America. Bm have something extra due to constant scrutiny or something?

        • LMNOP

          I haven’t actually seen the movie, but that’s what I thought of when I read this, that this was obviously a very abusive relationship, and those get messy, because there are feelings involved.

        • “M”

          She’s not only doc of color who’s written on that, either.

          I’m blanking (I’m tired, it’s Friday) but if I remember I will come back with title and author.

          And that doesn’t even get into the titles on trauma being carried in the body …

    • “M”

      Oh, that’s … wow.

  • Dustin John Seibert

    Maybe Peele realized that a blue-black dude choking a pretty, beloved white chick to death onscreen was a bridge too far for a mainstream film? Financial considerations, mayhaps?

    • NotyoKneeGrow

      hmmmm…..that’s deep….and unfortunate if true

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