Breaking Down the Film “Get Out”
This blog is written for readers who have seen Jordan Peele’s Get Out.
This post contains spoilers, so if you have not seen the movie and you want to, proceed with caution.
The film was a great work of both entertainment and commentary. It’s not a mindless Hollywood formula piece designed solely to entertain. It’s not a film that you enjoy while you’re in the theater then as soon as you walk out you immediately forget about it. Nor is at an independent, abstract, art style film that has you scratching your head wondering what the films about other than knowing it’s trying hard to tell you something.
For movie goers simply interested in taking in a good horror film, this film works as pure entertainment. On the other hand, for those like me who are also interested in thought provoking films, Get Out offers layers upon layers of social commentary to be unlocked, analyzed and discussed.
This blog posts focuses on the social themes I observed in the film and have been pondering since seeing the film. Here are key theme’s I observed:
Black Fear. Andre Hayworth’s abduction at the beginning of the film evoked the memory of Trayvon Martin. The police officer demanding to see lead character Chris Washington’s ID evoked all of the fatal confrontations of black men at the hands of the police. Rose Armitage’s confrontation of the officer evoked the notion of white privilege.
White Microaggression. A micro aggression is a causal degradation of any marginalized group. Rose’s liberal white father greeting Chris with a “what’s up my man” and the way he changed his communication style around Chris evoked the micro aggressions African Americans face daily in society. I’ve experienced this. A “What’s up my man?” from a white work colleague often leaves me trying to remember if I’d ever heard them address a white colleague in the same way.
Black objectification. Chris is fully objectified at the family gathering. A former golfer wants to see his swing. A woman wonders aloud what he’s like in bed. A blind art dealer envies his eye for photography. This evokes the history of objectification of African Americans in this country, as property, as threats to society, as sex objects, as sports and entertainment icons.
Slavery. Chris is sold off in a silent auction led by Rose’s father Dean. This evoked slave auctions and the slave block of the slavery era in America. Toward the end of the film Rose is researching her next conquest by googling top black athletes. Pro sports are sometimes compared to slavery due to the dynamic of majority white owners drafting majority black athletes to whom they own rights. Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” positions this era of mass incarceration of black and brown men as the latest manifestation of a systematic effort of racialized social control in America. Get Out imagines a future manifestation on this continuum through mind control.
Cultural Appropriation. Cultural appropriation is the use of one culture by members of another. The movie is about rich whites who kidnap blacks because they desire to be black because they think it’s cool. To me this is a metaphor that evokes the history of cultural appropriation in America. Recently Chuck Berry passed away at age 90. He’s considered an originator of Rock and Roll but not the king. That title goes to Elvis Presley who was white but achieved fame and fortune performing the music Chuck Berry created.
Black Consciousness. The minds of black abductees are controlled through hypnosis. Rose’s mom, Missy Armitage, sends them to “the Sunken Place” — a place lacking consciousness. This evokes the struggle of Black Lives Matter, an activist movement focused on the societal consciousness and acknowledgement of the value of black life. For black people in this country the struggle is to stay conscious on the value of our own lives, to “stay woke”. As a parent to black children, it’s my job is to ensure that my children understand how truly valuable their lives are, despite what society may try to tell them.
White supremacy. In the end, Chris escapes only after killing the entire Armitage family. This suggests that there is only one way to end white supremacy — and that’s to kill it.
So what does it all of this mean? At the end of the day all I’ll say is that Get Out is a wonderful film and I’d encourage you to see it. As with any great art, hopefully it gets us all talking. Constructive discussion is a great first step towards bridging the divisions which we struggle with as a society.