Get Out: A Brilliant Portrayal of Racism Carried Out by “Good” White People

Last week, Michael won us advanced screening tickets to go see the movie Get Out (thanks to Crypticon!) Sadly, I had to work late and we both wanted to support this movie, made by master comedian Jordan Peele, financially because we both want to see more non-white (and non male, cishet) filmmakers in horror. 

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Amazing art by Jermaine Rogers 

So tonight we bought tickers and settled in. I am struggling right now to put into words how brilliant this movie is. There was not a single part of this movie that wasn’t captivating, tense, funny, or just plain creepy. In addition to being one of the best horror movies I’ve ever personally watched, it also makes an incredibly powerful statement to the kind of tension people of color (POC) feel navigating white spaces (aka the larger American society). 

I am not sure if I want to put spoilers in this post, but I don’t think I can describe the utter genius of this film and not talk about certain details….so spoilers it is! 

The first scene of this movie sets the tone of the film; we see a black man alone in a very middle/upper class looking neighborhood; already there is tension, but it’s not coming from the white residents, who are usually the ones to fearfully lock their doors or cross the street at the sight of a person with brown skin. In this case, the fear is coming from the man walking alone in an unfamiliar neighborhood at night, an experience that might put most people on edge a bit. In this case, this man (still unnamed) has a very good reason to be afraid; within minutes he is kidnapped by a man in a white car wearing a knight’s helmet. 

After this scene the focus is on Chris and his girlfriend Rose. They are going to her childhood home where Chris will meet her family. Chris is nervous because on top of the usual stress of meeting a significant other’s parents for the first time, he also has to navigate meeting his white girlfriend’s white parents as a black man while said girlfriend is seemingly oblivious to the forms of subtle racism he will face from her family as she assure him that her dad voted for Obama, therefore he can not possibly be racist. 

We don’t have to wait long for the first round of micoaggressions; after hitting a deer with their car a police officer asks for Chris’ license, even though he was not driving the car. While Rose becomes outraged at the officer’s obvious bias, Chris remains calm and hand the officer his ID, clearly already familiar with how to interact with white police officers in a way that will cause him minimal harm. 

 

SPOILERS BEGIN NOW AND IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THIS MOVIE DON’T READ THE SPOILERS, YOU’LL THANK ME LATER

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Once the couple arrive at the house, that’s when shit starts getting weird; at first Chris handles being asked “what sport to do play?” (one of the ONLY questions he is asked about him as a person) very well, like a man who’s had to live with white people “othering” him his whole life. But then he notices black employees around the house acting very strange. Chris is then hypnotized against his will by Rose’s mother to “help” him quit smoking. Later at family party, we see the man who was kidnapped in the first scene of the movie, acting like a pod person. At said party, we see a twisted auction where Chris is unknowingly sold to the highest bidder. We know something is very wrong.

So what’s going on? Well, once upon a time an old white man’s feelings were hurt after he lost an Olympic race to Jesse Owens in the 1940’s and made the decision to dedicated his life to kidnapping black people and using their bodies as a result. Not making them slaves, literally taking their bodies (which he has deemed “superior”) and using them as his own, because while black people are “genetically superior” their autonomy does not matter. This family auctions off black men and women and the winner will transplant their consciences into the unfortunate black victim. It’s cultural appropriation on steroids. Black people are not human to this family (which includes Rose. Surprise! She’s not a basic white girl who is just slightly ignorant but well meaning, turns out she’s a deeply entitled racist who has taken white privilege to a whole new level) they are meat, bodies in prime condition that can be used by rich white people however they please. There is a scene of older, rich, white Americans literally auctioning off the lives of unwilling black human beings as their ancestors did hundreds of years before them, all while patting themselves on the back for not being “real” racists (the families patriarch would vote for Obama a third time, after all). We see this de-humanization from the beginning; Rose’s family doesn’t ask questions that would help them get to know Chris as a person, instead opting for questions that are invasive and uncomfortable (“tell me about you mom’s death,” or “tell me about your smoking habits,” for example). He’s not a person even then, he’s a body. In this context it’s because we know these people don’t want anything but his body but interactions like these happen all the time, often with well-intentioned but ignorant white people asking questions that reinforce stereotypes.

After this film was released, I saw comment section after comment section with complaints from white people claiming this film was racist against white people. It’s telling that a narrative from a black man’s perspective would be considered racist by defensive white people who are not willing to do the work of confronting their own biases and acknowledge that the microaggressions in this film happen every day to real, living, people and often by people who would never consider themselves racist. Their criticisms (many of which I am sure have come from people who have not actually seen the film at all, let alone read about what inspired it) are proof that films like this need to be made. We need more POC in public spaces, telling their own stories because when white people try to tell these stories, the narratives change to appease white guilt. 

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