Review: ‘Get Out’ is great commentary on race
In Jordan Peele’s debut film that perfectly marries racism, history, horror and humor, the protagonist, a young African-American man named Chris, ends up saving his life by picking cotton.
“Get Out,” written and directed by one-half of the comedy duo Key and Peele, is nothing short of brilliant. It is a film that, once you look beyond the surface, perfectly portrays the sort of casual racism that constitutes daily life for People of Color, but that pass completely unnoticed for their white counterparts.
The film begins like many other horror movies, in which the protagonist is set in what is deemed a safe place, which is usually a white suburban neighborhood. The film then makes that place unsafe for the character. In “Get Out,” however, Chris begins in a safe place, his apartment, then moves into what is for him, an unsafe place, the white suburban neighborhood where the family of his girlfriend, Rose, lives. This point is made even more relevant by the fact that the film opened in theaters on the fifth anniversary of the murder of Trayvon Martin.
For African-American men, a white suburb is not a safe place; rather it is a place in which they are constantly afraid of the way that its residents will see them. Black men feel vulnerable in white neighborhoods, and that is made clear in “Get Out.”
“Get Out” is about a black man who meets his white girlfriend’s family for the first time. Unfortunately, they are not just any ordinary white family. They are the exaggerated embodiment of many white people’s attitudes towards African-Americans. They capitalized on both overt and covert racism, and on cultural appropriation of black culture.
Chris finds that the few black people living in that neighborhood were behaving strangely, as though they were barely alive. Eventually, he discovers that his girlfriend’s family lure black people to their estate, and sell their bodies to wealthy white customers. The wife, Missy, is a psychiatrist who hypnotized the black people and put them in a “sunken place” by making a tinkling sound with her teacup. After this, the husband performed surgery on the person, transplanting the white customer’s brains into the black person’s body.
Some of the customers chose their new black bodies because they had always wanted to be faster, stronger or cooler. One customer even stated, “It used to be that pale skin was everything, but now, the pendulum has swung…black is in.” This was a very smart portrayal of cultural appropriation, an act that is so insidious that it is almost always invisible to those who perform it.
Many of the other scenes also depict casual racism, both implicit and explicit. These include a scene in the beginning of the film when after Rose, who is driving, runs into a deer, the police officer asks for Chris’ ID and the scenes in which Rose’s brother, Jeremy, suggests that Chris would be good at some mixed martial arts because it requires incredible strength, but little mental agility. Chris’ genetic makeup, Jeremy believed, made him perfect for such a sport.
There were also the jarring scenes in which Chris, who is wandering the woods alone, is being auctioned off to the highest bidder. It is frighteningly similar to the auctions that occurred during the slave trade, and harkens back to the dehumanizing experiences that African-Americans were forced to endure.
In the end, Chris is able to protect himself from further hypnosis by filling his ears with cotton that he picked out of the couch that he was tied to. This was another clear reference to the history of black people in this country, and how they were often able to stay alive by simply picking cotton.
For audience members who did not catch any of the social and historical references in “Get Out,” there was still a lot to admire, from its brilliant foreshadowing to its fantastic cinematography, to Chris’ friend, Rod, who initially did not seem important, but whose humor and dedication to his friend stole the show.
“Get Out” is definitely a must-see for anyone, even those who do not particularly like horror films.
Although it is only Peele’s first film, it is unsurprising that it has a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. He did a brilliant job executing his first project, and one can only imagine how his next film will top it.