Jordan Peele’s Get Out is a thriller with a relevant social message. It keeps you guessing and, as the movie plays out, you become more disgusted and intrigued. Its central theme of racism engages both its victims and perpetrators. The film forces white people to look, albeit in an extreme way, at how they interact with and react to black Americans. The film riddles itself with hilarious jokes and deep symbolism to reveal an unfortunate truth about modern America. Racism is rampant and, much like Get Out’s big plot reveal, it should make your skin squirm.
Get Out focuses on a young, happy interracial couple living in New York City. Chris Washington is apprehensive about visiting the parents of his girlfriend, Rose Armitage, as he fears they will be uncomfortable with his skin color. Rose assures him that, although they might be awkward, they “aren’t racists”. Once at the house, Chris notices some odd characteristics about the Armitage estate. The two African American workers behave strangely and, to an extent, lack any true sense of a personality. Additionally, Rose’s parents and brother make offensive comments regarding Chris’ race and past that start out as subtle but quickly culminate to be completely blatant. As Chris meets more of the predominantly white residents, the shocking remarks continue. Ultimately, Chris discovers a sinister secret about the Armitages and the rest of this suburban town that could result in his demise.
Get Out is brilliant in its incorporation of race relations in America into the thriller genre and through its use of subtle symbolism to convey its point. While Chris and Rose are on their way to the Armitage home, a deer jumps in front of the car and ends up on the side of road, dying. The camera focuses on the huge bloody hole left in its side as a result of the crash. It is a foreboding message. Much like Chris, the deer runs into its death– unaware of its mistake. When they arrive at the house, the couple tells the Armitages about this unfortunate event. Dean Armitage, Rose’s father, responds in a surprisingly positive way by stating that deer are parasites that should be destroyed. Toward the end of the film, Chris uses a mounted buck head as a weapon against his white assailants. The term buck also doubles as a demeaning name for African Americans. In this way, Peele uses the deer to coax the audience’s realization that Dean’s disgust is really the way America treats black people. White Americans either dumbly ignore their plight, like Rose does when she hits the deer, or they actively engage in racist rhetoric, like Dean does in his reaction to the deer incident. Either way, Chris’s use of the stag head to defend himself is a powerful statement of reclamation and retaliation. Do not accept this reality– actively resist the systemic oppression so present in the United States.
Furthermore, the social positions of the black characters in the suburban town play on tropes present in various examples of film. Georgina is a maid, Walter a ‘caretaker’, and Andrew/ Logan is a hypersexualized husband of an older white woman. The film industry often casts African Americans in these roles which is a lazy writing tactic that promotes harmful stereotypes. In making their docility so alarmingly obvious, Peele emphasizes the abominable handling of black characters by white filmmakers. The unsettling behaviors of these three characters make the audience recognize the creepiness of their position in this pseudo liberal town, especially in comparison to the mostly white party goers that appear in the middle of the film.
There is something wrong if you do not have a problem with white people being the default for upper middle class suburbans while black people serve as their maids and sexual objects because, to be blatant, it’s super racist. On that same note, Peele incorporates direct images of white privilege. At the very end of the movie, an unseen vehicle with a blaring police alarm drives up to Chris and Rose. Chris immediately puts his hands up while Rose lies on the ground, moaning, “help me”. Although Chris has done nothing wrong and (Spoiler alert!) Rose is the villain, Rose feels comfortable in her decision because she’s a white woman in a compromised position. This highlights the ultimate privilege that white women have over men of color which is significant not just in terms of racism, but feminism. Yes, white women suffer from oppression, but they carry a lot of benefits in society as a direct result of their race. Peele addresses so called feminists who do not adopt intersectionality into their advocacy. Additionally, Chris’ reaction echoes a rallying cry of the Black Lives Matter Movement, “Hands up, don’t shoot”. The audience empathizes with Chris’ tension in the scene as they have watched his plight and really want him to win. The fear that he will be arrested for the events at the Armitage household haunts the viewer from the moment he decides to fight back.
Finally, Peele’s genius lies in his choice of genre. Often, when directors portray racism in film it is in a historical sense that makes it appear antiquated. The films are usually dramas, evoking a sympathy from the viewers. But thrillers function differently. They directly join the audience into the narrative through emotion. You don’t know what will happen next and, for that reason, you become filled with fear and stress. Peele makes those who do not experience racism understand those who do by universalizing the experience via fear. That is what racism is. It’s scary and foreboding. And, it’s still happening. As Get Out make glaringly clear, just because institutionalized slavery has ended doesn’t mean that its adverse effects have suddenly disappeared.
Get Out is the most important film I have ever seen. It takes on a heavy subject and portrays it in a beautiful, arresting manner. Especially in our current political climate, Get Out is a necessary example of the black experience in America that educates people about the horrifying reality of our country. The acting of Daniel Kaluuya and Alison Williams carries the story in a powerful way. The film presents a social message without forgoing any sort of quality. The dialogue, the comic relief, the menacing antagonists, and the soundtrack come together to form an art piece. Honestly, I cannot rave about this film enough. Take the advice of a guy on my Facebook and, “SEE GET OUT!! IT’S SO WOKE”. I promise it will be one of the best decisions you ever make.
~Get Out is rated R and showing at theatres near you~