Jordan Peele’s film Get Out goes far beyond just another scary movie to be enjoyed eating popcorn and hugging tight to a pillow. It is far more frightening because its horror is real and (still) overwhelmingly present in our contemporary society. Get Out raises awareness about racism and micro-aggressions, calling attention to how harmful behaviors often go by unnoticed. In the movie, dark-skinned characters are hypnotized and lobotomized by light-skinned characters, consequentially having no control over their own body. The surgery allows white people to objectify black people, as their minds are transferred into the bodies of the latter. It is a scary form of domination and appropriation, and the means through which white people achieve that—by tricking black people and pretending to be friendly—makes it even more alarming. Get Out presents a contemporary form of slavery and calls attention to how our society’s behaviors easily go by unnoticed.
The movie’s white family (The Armitages) manipulate Blacks and trick them into believing they are not racists. The father, Dean, for example, claims to despise Hitler and adore Obama; he would even vote for him for a third term, if only he could. Dean is so good at lying—probably because he is very used to it—that we actually believe he worships Obama.
The Armitages introduce hypnosis as something beneficial and safe; they say it’s a service they provide. We can clearly notice Chris (the protagonist) finds the idea crazy, but he is manipulated nonetheless, and ends up being hypnotized. The scene’s soundtrack and the way it is shot contribute to its creepiness, revealing a paralyzed Chris who clearly has no control whatsoever over his own body.
Another sickening scene takes the audience only a second to realize the event taking place is not a lighthearted arts auction, but is, in fact, a slave auction, conducted by Dean. Behind him, there is a huge poster of Chris’s picture. This disturbing event is happening while Chris is strategically kept busy by Rose, his girlfriend. Additionally, prior to this scene, the white characters disturbingly analyze Chris’s body, touching him, feeling his biceps, and making comments that suggest black people are better at sex. In Get Out, black people are “chosen because of [their] physical advantages”, and the objectification of the black body is evident. Jim Hudson, an art dealer who is blind, wants to purchase Chris because of his artistic eye (Chris is a photographer). It’s interesting (and infuriating, of course) to understand that what Jim truly desires is Chris’s “eye” without the “I”—or merely a body.
Get Out makes us question our society’s predetermined thoughts and behaviors. Peele creates scenarios that criticize racism indirectly, revealing how easily racism goes by unnoticed in our society. In the beginning of the movie, for example, an officer pulls Chris and Rose over, and instead of asking Rose for her license, as she was the driver, he asks for Chris’s. He automatically goes after the dark-skinned person. It is interesting to observe Rose’s reaction: she confronts the officer, while Chris remains quiet, not questioning the cop’s wrongdoing. He addresses the officer in a low tone of voice and seems to be very shy, indicating the familiarity of the situation and that he is well-aware of who is in power. The last scene of the movie, also involving the police, continues to call our attention to the pattern: when a police car arrives, the audience can’t help but feel apprehensive, fearing Chris will be arrested for acting in self-defense. Our reaction of relief when seeing the officer is, in fact, Chris’s friend, is also alarming, because it only reinforces how accustomed we are to unfair treatments. Chris isn’t the only one who knows it: the audience does, too, as this situation is far too common. And however subtle these situations might be, they are extremely harmful and must be addressed.
Peele uses these familiar circumstances to highlight how automatic racist behaviors can be. In an interview, Peele comments that by creating racial tensions, the movie “subverts the idea of genre”, considering the reality of the horror in Get Out. It is also interesting to think about the movie’s soundtrack: it’s a Swahili song and, according to Peele, “the words[…] issu[e] a warning to Chris”: the voice tells him to get out before he also becomes trapped.
Get Out calls attention to racism and loss of identity, highlighting how our contemporary society feeds that. It raises awareness about the power relations between Whites and Blacks, and how micro-aggressions reinforce it. Through Get Out, Peele is able to criticize the objectification of the black body and call attention to the need for change. In 2017, I left the theatre nauseous and disturbed, surprised that many of those extremely common scenarios indeed go by unnoticed. This July, I watched it again for a summer course at Concordia, and the students’ response, two years later, was no different: all throughout the movie I could see people shaking their heads in disbelief and feeling apprehensive whenever Chris was in an all-too-common situation with white police officers or with the Armitages. It’s interesting to observe that Peele wrote Get Out during the Obama presidency, but it was released right after Trump’s election. Today’s U.S.A is far from being a post-racial America, and Peele describes it as an illusion. Indeed, the constant micro-aggressions and racial discriminations have not gone away; if anything, they have only increased midst a white supremacist government.
By Marcia Ramos