Thinking of Us or, Why Thinkpieces Give Me Heart Palpitations: A Personal Essay

Pop culture wise, 2018 has been Black as fuck.

I’m sure we’ve had Blacker years, but I bet that 2018 will rank highly among them. Music was good, strides were made in television, and the movies? LAWWWWWDD THE MOVIES!!!! If we weren’t the central focus of the narrative, we were definitely up in that bitch somewhere.

The beautiful thing about this Black Entertainment renaissance is that it causes discussion. People from all different walks of Black life gather in spaces both private and public to discuss their thoughts and feelings on the art they just witnessed, engage in fierce debate about whether or not something is a classic just 24 hours removed from release, or get upon their contrarian high horse to shit on anyone who dared like this mega-popular event and berate them for being sheep. It’s wonderful because it can be fun, and it can be downright annoying, or you could occupy that space in the middle. General indifference is an option as well.

While I’m glad that there is discourse about art, especially when it comes to discussion about those -isms that really keep us all from enjoying life to its fullest – necessary discussion that needs to be had – somethings don’t require, aren’t ready for and sometimes shouldn’t be given extensive critical thought. Some of these things are as shallow as a kiddie pool, some of these things are incomplete and others have been analyzed to death and can’t offer us new insights into ourselves. Thinkpieces and theories have become a staple of online discourse and I won’t lie and say that I don’t enjoy reading or composing them occasionally, but it can be a bit much.

The highly anticipated trailer for Oscar winning writer-director-comedian Jordan Peele’s follow up to 2016 tour de force Get Out premiered in the predawn Christmas morning. Us is a family film, if your family is getting chased and lit up by dopplegangers of themselves. Set to an eerie remix of, of all things, the Luniz’s seminal work “I Got 5 On It”, the trailer is an exercise in creepy.

I was legit creeped out watching that trailer.

Any way, once it was over, as I anticipated, the thinkpieces would come about before midday. You have a Black family (a dark-skinned Black family at that) vacationing in Northern California, they look affluent enough, the husband wears Howard University sweatshirts, the teach their kids the classics and the mother keeps a close, keen eye on her children. Yes, a great shout rose from the collective consciousness of the Woke and this idyllic view of Black family life being tormented by something other than white people.

What we got made me take a nap. When I awoke from that nap, the realization of what I had seen loaded into my brain and I sat up, exclaiming, “I know kung fu!” I don’t, but you get the point. I learned that “I Got 5 On It” wasn’t just a song about going “half on a sack” of some Indo’ weed, but a call from the ancestors to always offer our brothers and sisters in the struggle the five fingers of our hand to get ahead in this racist American society, something something, Five Percenters something something. That the film is a revenge plot on the talented tenth and suburban Blacks (probably the very people I am ranting about). That Jordan Peele is automatically unqualified to give us much of the discourse he’s given us with this trailer and Get Out because he’s a seemingly unproblematic biracial Black claiming man married to a seemingly unproblematic white woman (I ain’t dug into her background nor do I care to).

Point is, there is only so much that we can get from a two and a half minute trailer, combined with what the director himself has said the themes of the film are. I’m going to take his lead on this until I actually see a final cut of the film.

Us and Black-specific culture isn’t the only instance of this though, but it is the freshest. We get this type of speculation with nerds a lot as well. I saw so many thinkpieces and theories popping up with the drop of the Avengers: Endgame teaser that my eyes rolled into the back of my head and I had to get knocked silly to get them straight again. “Tony said ‘Rescue’! Pepper Potts is going to save him!”, uh uh, “Ant Man is a Skrull, there’s no way he got out the Quantum Realm!”, uh uh, “It’s in the past!” I saw someone break down the reveal of the movie’s title at the end of the teaser, indicating that the stylization and fonts used were indicative of certain events in the past MCU (the snap, the Infinity Stones, etc.). I need another nap thinking about it.

Look, I’ll admit that this is all deeply personal. I like to be told things. I did all my critical thinking in high school and college and when I try to apply much of it to everyday life I end up being disappointed or looking like a fool critically thinking about why Chik-fil-A breakfast is the GOAT fast food breakfast (their biscuits taste real). So when I see people engaging in a two and a half minute trailer, I feel a bit guilty that I’m not engaging in a two and a half minute trailer outside of, “Holy shit, this looks interesting, I will wait for it to come out.” Like me not engaging it further is a waste of my education and not just me wanting to be taken on a journey without expectations.

Then I remember the pretentiousness of a lot of these people. Don’t get me wrong, I can do pretentious. These people are on a whole different level with it, and that turns me off from trying to be one of them. None of the markers that these people celebrate – including thinkpiecing media to death – makes them that important. The rest of us who don’t want to engage in the pretentiousness aren’t any lesser for it either.

In conclusion (wink, wink), Black Entertainment has had a banner year in 2018, and looks to be making strides well into the ‘19 and the 2020. While discussion about Black art (as well as any other art) can be beneficial, sometimes it is taken too damn far for the sake of being taken too damn far.