When the movie opens with the new Childish Gambino, I knew I was going to like this movie. I knew I was going to like it a lot. And I did. I love Childish Gambino.
“Get Out” is about a black photographer, Chris, who is visiting his white girlfriend’s parent’s house for the first time. Before they leave for the weekend, he asks Rose, the girlfriend, if she has told her parents that he is black. Rose playfully replies, “Mom and dad, my black boyfriend will be coming up this weekend.” She then reassures him that her parents are absolutely not racist. She then goes on to tell him about how her father would have voted for Obama if he could have run for a third term. Chris is still hesitant. Soon after, he is at Rose’s parents’ house and realizes that he is trapped in an inescapably deep, deep hole of suburban racism and bigotry. A true nightmare.
This movie is a very rare and beautiful combination of horror and social satire. We see so many traditional tropes of horror films. First of all, it takes place in a middle-of-nowhere suburb. As a city guy, there is absolutely no hope for Chris to find somewhere to run or someone who can help him when in danger. And there is Rose, our femme fatale. Chris plays the good, innocent man brought down by a woman who perfectly feigns her naiveté. There are also conventional themes like self-doubt, distrust, good vs. evil, and living dead (sort of?) deeply embedded in the plot. There is no doubt “Get Out” is a horror film. But with all of the racial stereotypes and discomforts that toy with our expectations at every twist and turn of the storyline, it is more than just a horror film. It is disturbingly topical and embodies so many important truths that every American needs to know. Here are a couple things that really stood out to me:
- In horror movies, we usually have a protagonist in a new, dangerous situation where they find themselves being haunted by a killer or some sort of a monster. No one believes them and they are forced to start doubting and questioning themselves and their sanity. In “Get Out,” we see this archetype through Chris when he first arrives at the Armitage home. Thankfully, our main character Chris is woke as hell and knows what he knows. But of course, he also has to go through this phase of self-doubt. It is a horror movie after all, but it is definitely more elaborate and complex than just the horror film stereotype. After he has strange encounters with Walter and Georgina, the black servants of the home, he has a hunch that they are not their normal selves. He tells Rose that he thinks they feel some sort of deep connections to her and they are acting strangely because of it. Rose quickly brushes it off and reassures him again that there is nothing to worry about. Chris is not reassured and he is now put in a frustrating position, having to defend himself and his fear. As a woman of color, I can completely relate and empathize with Chris’ experience. I am sure all minorities can relate to the experience of having someone (usually white men from my personal experiences) tell them that they are overly concerned about certain issues, like sexism and racism, when they do not even exist. Whenever I express my concerns, I am constantly told that I am just being paranoid for absolutely no reason. I feel that I am almost trained by the society to doubt myself constantly, and this is exactly how Chris feels in the film. Jordan Peele plays on real racial fears and masterfully weaves Chris’ black narrative into the classic trope of horror.
- It brings so much attention to microaggression (see below for definition). When Chris gets out there in the backyard full of white people, we immediately know he is just about to be bombarded with racism. We know it isn’t going to be the n-word dropping kind of racism – it is going to be the “I am really nice, but also blinded by my privileges. I am going to say something that’s not nice at all while smiling at the same time!” kind of racism. It reaches out to the black audience (or possibly, any of color) and forms a special connection with them. It is even comical to some extent, because it is just so relatable to the black, minority experience in America. This scene in particular brings so much discomfort and hyperawareness of microaggression, really giving white people some sense of what it is like to be not white in America. They are able to put themselves in Chris’ position and imagine how frightening it would be having their hair touched by random people, constantly being fetishized and sexually and physically objectified for the “unique” features. And they suddenly realize that it does not matter if the comments have well-meaning intentions behind them or are seemingly so casual and insignificant, because ultimately, this is just another form of racism that devalues the lives of people of color.
Movies are difficult for me. I rarely have the attention span for 90 or 100 minutes or however long a typical movie is, and I usually snack so mindlessly and excessively that I hate myself by the end of it. But! I really loved “Get Out” and I think I am going to see it again and attempt to pick up on more of Jordan Peele’s brilliant subtleties. I would definitely recommend this to every single person in this country. I am so disgustingly tired of casual racism or racism in general (my least favorite is when someone says hi to me in Japanese or Chinese. Yikes.), and I hope this movie can encourage Americans to stay woke.