By: Mackenzie Palmer
Horror movies aren’t usually scary beyond monsters and gore. But Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” barely features either of these overdone elements of mainstream horror. This movie is not scary because of what can happen in an elaborate fictional world, but instead it is chilling because it portrays what has already existed in society for many years. Simply put, “Get Out” is a black man’s real life story.
Peele’s low-budget directorial debut which starred lesser-known actors and directly dealt with race on-screen, found a way to earn $30 million in its first week and receive a rare 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Still, critiques of the film range all over the spectrum, and many critics missed his point. Hidden, and not so hidden, subtleties about race and prejudices have left some (white) Americans in the dark, unable to grasp the reality of a black man's fear in a room full of white people.
Is it fair to call a movie racist just because it deals with race? A few think-pieces and reviews have called “Get Out” such, and I can only guess that they came to this conclusion solely on the notion that this movie deals with race. But the movie is a metaphor for the black man's perspective in a “post-racial” world and highlights key aspects black people experience.
A lot of the references are easily been missed, particularly by non-PoC. But when noticed, they played an important role in detailing the ideology of a racist Liberal America. Here are some key themes from “Get Out:”
Do they know I am black?
The film’s main character Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) asks his white girlfriend Rose ( Alison Williams) this question early on in the film. These words embody the existence of a black person living in America. It captures how black people are constantly aware of their race and the stereotypes that accompany it, and wonder whether or not the person they are talking to is thinking the same thing. Do they think I am too loud? Ghetto? Uneducated?
Dating someone of the opposite race only further allows these questions to surface as you deal with meeting their friends and family. The way Rose plays off this question by mocking him only demonstrates her ignorant and inadequate understanding of the black experience. It is not silly to ask this question, and the answer should be yes. Saying “I don’t see color” does more harm than good. Black people want you to see their race, and acknowledge them as black, as they would a white person. There is nothing wrong with discussing or describing race, it only becomes a problem when you socialize negative (or positive) stereotypes along with it.
In a room full of white people
The weekend of Chris and Rose’s home visit so-happens to coincide with a family tradition that involves a large cocktail party. The party scene perfectly encompasses the anxiety and frustration a black body feels in a room full of white bodies. As Chris roams around the crowd he is continuously intruded upon with what seem to be innocent, simple questions, but in reality double as subtlety racist innuendo. Asking if Chris can swing a golf ball like Tiger Woods or asking if he has a big you-know-what alludes to the stereotypes that black people are good at sports or have larger “external organs.” Rose’s father Dean (Bradley Whitford) even voluntary tells Chris that he would have voted for Obama a third term. These scenarios all depict the ignorant stance white Americans take while around black people. Just because you have a black friend or like certain black elites doesn’t mean that you are now entitled to say whatever you want.
Hidden, and not so hidden, subtleties about race and prejudices have left some (white) Americans in the dark, unable to grasp the reality of a black man's fear in a room full of white people.
The black community
There is always a sense of community when black people are in contact with other black people. That secret head nod or sideways smile given as we walk past each other on the street. This movie emphasizes that sense, and uses it as the hero in the end. Upon seeing Andrew (Lakeith Stanfield), another black guest at the cocktail party, Chris immediately feels a bit more relaxed; but once he approaches Andrew he is able to sense abnormality in Andrew’s behavior towards him, and he feels more isolated in his confusion. Not to play into the “acting black/white” theories, but it is noticeable when a black person is not acting the same as they would normally. Once Chris tells his best friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery) about Andrew’s odd behavior, Rod also keeps his wits about him. After his call with Chris, Rod consciously stays aware that his buddy is in what could be a dangerous situation in the middle of nowhere, which he had told him from the very beginning.
Why was there an Asian man amongst the white elites?
During the cocktail scene amongst the white, there is also an Asian man who asks Chris, “Is the African-American experience an advantage or disadvantage?” Claire Jean Kim’s theory of racial triangulation explains this seemingly-unusual addition to the group. She elaborates that Asian-Americans lie between being perceived as better than blacks, but not as good as whites, while still being perceived as foreigners. Based off of this theory, while trying to remain accepted among white Americans, Asians inevitably encompass a sense of anti-blackness. So when he asks this question, he is pondering the idea of whether or not it is better to experience anti-blackness through Chris’ body or remain in a state of limbo where Asians are never seen as fully American.
They want us, they want us not
The movie’s final twist conveys its point perfectly – Rose and her surrounding white community are using black bodies as a means of survival and new life. This symbolism is deep in its meaning. Peele plays with the theory that black bodies are more adequate for future survival, a theory that has been scientifically tested. A 2008 study conducted by Cornell University found that white genes are genetically weaker to their black counterparts. The study revealed that European genetics have far more harmful mutations than people of African descent. Trailing this theory has to be done carefully (no one race is better than another), but it is important to realize that studies like these have been done.
There are cultural references to the advantages of being black, such as “black don’t crack,” or when sport teams have a majority of black players. One lady in “Get Out” even says “black is fashionable” as she feels Chris’ bicep. Peele shows that white people appreciate the genetic makeup of blacks, but not the actual person within.
They want to have what we have, but not the negative experiences. “Get Out” captures the essence the strife of the black man in a “colorless world.” Peele has (hopefully) opened the eyes to those who believe that we are living in a post-racial world, and allowed them to experience the very real truth of uncertainty and fear. Though a fictional movie, it is based off of true events – the real truth of White America.