I think everything about the depiction of the white people in the town in this movie- the eating cheerios with the milk in a glass, the asking questions about the “black experience,” the weird cultish vibe of the town- is a subversion of old exploitation and horror movie tropes where a white protagonist is surrounded by a mysterious and sinister “other” culture.
Even looking past the racial angle it’s similar to the town in The Wicker Man(the Christopher Lee one), where not only is it clear that something is going on in this town, but every little thing the people do in their spooky, pagan culture is depicted as very off-putting to our staunch Christian protagonist.
This time it’s a black man in a portrayal of whiteness that’s distorted into a sinister “other” which is just recognizable enough to be off-putting.
And there’s also a metaphor in there for the idea of appropriation of Black American culture in White American society; the adoption of neologisms and trends originating in black communities goes back a long time, along with the appropriation of black music movements like rock & roll, jazz, and hip hop.
Black contributions to pop culture, generally speaking, are valued widely by white Americans and seen as very fashionable, meanwhile the rights and freedoms of black Americans, again generally, are very much overlooked and pushed into the margins.
Having a black person’s body effectively appropriated because of its value as a fashionable, trendy item to these white Americans while their mind and soul are discarded is effectively this idea taken to an extreme.
It’s uncomfortable and kind of funny because it portrays a lot of familiar elements of white culture, specifically older white culture, through a ridiculous and sinister lens as a tongue-in-cheek metaphor for White America’s relationship with people of the Black community. While it’s not a comedy, it’s definitely satire.
Least that’s my take on it.
I’m sure other people will say this, but–
The girlfriend’s death was thematically similar to the fate suffered by the protagonist’s mother AND the deer at the movie’s opening. Just as his mother died cold and alone by the side of the road, so does the one person who had been built up to be his new surrogate mother. When he abandons her, he’s giving her what he had called the worst imaginable death.
So, the point isn’t that he still loves her–it’s that he’s finally stopped giving a shit about her 🙂
IOW, I’d argue the emotional arc of those beats was more “passionate rage —> contemptuous apathy” than “hate—>regret.”