Get Out Film Commentary - Black-handed Compliments
Artist: Daniel Simmonds
*THIS BLOG POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FROM THE MOVIE GET OUT*
Get Out, the Oscar winning horror film written and directed by Jordan Peele, features an interracial couple, Chris and Rose, who have reached that point in their relationship where it’s time to meet the parents. Although it is intended to be a horror film, Chris’s friend, Rod, who works for TSA adds a humorous tone and breaks up the tension throughout the movie. The underlying basis of the movie points to how white people and other non-black people of color benefit off of the labor and culture of black people without having to deal with the prejudices that comes along with being black in America. Ultimately, even though Get Out is a racial satire and horror film, it also addresses contemporary racism and the appropriation of black culture using Gothic tropes to further reveal the influence of white privilege.
Serving primarily as a horror film, Get Out also featured the subtle tendencies integrated in every day life by non-black people but the satirical nature of the movie provided the audience with a sense of reality. Similarly, Janet Beer and Avril Horner argued in their article, “This isn’t exactly a ghost story” that Edith Wharton’s ghost stories contain a further dimension, beyond allusion, where they shift into a parodic and humorous strain that enables her to engage self-reflexively with the Gothic tradition (270). Jordan Peele’s interpretation of modern-day racism portrayed the same characteristics. The further dimension that is beyond allusion mentioned by Beer and Horner can be seen as a parallel with the “Sunken Place” in the film and the realization of racist tendencies that are being interpreted in a comedic matter relates to the Gothic tradition mentioned in the article about Parodic Gothic.
In addition to the Parodic Gothic influence emphasized in Get Out as well as Wharton’s ghost stories, another important objective of the contemporary cultural production the two have in common is the “questioning of of the values at the heart of American culture and civilization, but also to draw the attention to the politics of representation” (270). Fittingly, Get Out addresses an issue that is embedded at the heart of American culture and civilization, racism. Typically, horror films appeal to your fears of the dark, unrealistic monsters, or getting murdered in an unrealistic manner but in Get Out, the horror lies in the targeting and fetishization of the black community and it’s especially terrifying due to the fact that this antagonism is common in America.
Sometimes as a person of color, you wonder if your partner is attracted to you because of who you are as a person and not because of their subconscious fetishization of your race. Understandably, before leaving for the trip, Chris asks Rose if her parents know if he’s black since she told him that he was the first black man that she’s dated. Her response was “no” and went off on a spiel along the lines of how she doesn’t see color and her parents aren’t racist. She even mentioned how her dad would’ve voted for Obama a third time to prove that they aren’t racist, stating that the “love is real”, basically the equivalent of “I can’t be racist, I’ve got a black friend”. The couple leaves for the trip to visit Rose’s family, along the way they hit a deer on the road which could have been seen as a premonition and sets an underlying tone of discomfort.
Later in the film, we are introduced to Rose’s brother, Jeremy, who reeks of white privilege. At dinner, Jeremy, gets drunk and starts telling embarrassing stories about his sister then challenges Chris to jujitsu, making the entire scene entirely uncomfortable. In addition to these painfully awkward comments to come out of Jeremy’s mouth, when the topic of sports comes up, he asks Chris if he is an MMA fan. Immediately, Rose tries to stop Jeremy from continuing to speak but he ignores her so their father attempts to change the subject but Jeremy becomes defensive and continues to question Chris. Jeremy proceeds to ask if Chris had ever gotten into any street fights as a kid and in response, Chris said that he did judo after school. With this information, Jeremy goes on about how “someone with [his] genetic makeup” with proper training could become a beast. After dinner, as Rose is brushing her teeth, she starts venting and going off about how her family is pretending not to be racist or their “racial flaws” as mentioned by Chris.
After having formally met Walter and finding out that his bizarre dream featuring Walter and Catherine hypnotizing him, Chris escapes to Rose’s room, looking for his phone charger. He is met by Georgina whose demeanor is unnerving, defending all white people and then says no repeatedly. Under his breath, Chris whispers, “this bitch is crazy,” and he’s not wrong. As to be expected, the party is full of old white people trying to prove how they aren’t racist and how progressive they are. After this encounter, he returns to the party and Rose’s father calls him over to introduce him to a bunch of his friends. It’s important to notice that amongst the group of white people, there is one Asian man. This is subtle but it’s a representation of how Asian people, as well as other non-black people of color are prejudiced against black people. The Asian man asks Chris about the “African-American experience” and not knowing what or how to answer, he throws the question to another young black fellow who is literally one of the five black people attending the shindig, and if you looked closely, this young man is the man from the beginning of the movie, the one who gets abducted by the stranger in the white convertible, only now, he’s clean shaven, dresses like a tacky old white man, and is on the arm of an older white woman. As this young man is speaking, Chris sneaks a picture of him and the flash goes off, the young man’s nose starts to bleed, he then lunges at Chris. It was probably the old white man fighting the host’s body for control.
When the whole picture ordeal passes, Rose pulls Chris away to go on a walk. Rose’s father then goes into the yard and hosts this ominous game of bingo, a cleverly disguised silent auction, where Chris’s body is the prize. That is not yet told to the audience, but it will become apparent soon. Chris claims that after being hypnotized, Rose’s mom got into his head and eventually tells Rose everything about his mother’s death. Afterwards, Chris goes up to Rose’s room and finds a box of pictures. Pictures of Rose and her past lovers. All black men, and Georgina. Now it’s obvious that Rose has a fetish for black people. Chris now wants to leave and hurriedly gathers his things and tries to leave but is halted at the door by Rose’s psychotic brother who has a bat in hand. Catherine offers Chris tea, Jeremy asks what the rush is, Dean asks Chris what his purpose in life is, and Rose pretends to look for the keys that were in her hand the whole time.
As Chris asks Rose for the billionth time where the keys are, her entire demeanor changes as she pulls them out and asks “you know I can’t give you the keys right, babe?”, it then becomes painfully obvious that she was in on this the entire time. The entire Armitage family creeps in and surrounds Chris as he becomes increasingly confused about the entire situation and who these white people really are. Jeremy, bat in hand, swings at Chris, while Catherine returns him to the sunken place through hypnosis and drags him downstairs.
Chris’s friend, Rod, who is a TSA agent, calls him repeatedly and becomes suspicious when he doesn’t answer any of his calls or texts. At the beginning of the movie, he warned Chris not to go to a white girl’s house, and he was brushed off by Chris, saying that it was fine. While watching Chris’s dog and watching TV, Rod looks up “Andre Hayworth” on a search engine. The pictures and links that popped up belonged to a missing person. The same young man at the beginning of the movie and the one that appeared at the party and was introduced as Logan. The scene then cuts back to Chris who is strapped down to a leather chair in the basement.
While trapped in this armchair, a video of Grandpa Armitage talking about how Chris had been chosen due to his physical advantages plays on the TV. The spoon circling the rim of the teacup which signified the Chris’s return to the sunken place due to Catherine’s hypnosis. Meanwhile, Rod goes to a detective and claims that Chris is missing after leaving for a weekend with his white girlfriend’s family. He also shares his theory about how white people are abducting black men and brainwashing them into becoming their sex slaves. Although this is true to a fault, they’re really just taking over their bodies because they envy people of color’s culture as well as literally everything else that they don’t have.
Due to the realistic nature of the bigger issue of racism in Get Out, the Parodic Gothic Influence proved to be the most effective at truly making the contemporary racism and the appropriation of black culture. Everyone wants to reap the benefits of black culture but they don’t actually want to know what it’s really like to be black in America.
Beer, Janet, and Avril Horner. “This Isn’t Exactly a Ghost Story’: Edith Wharton and Parodic Gothic.” Journal of American Studies, vol. 37, no. 2, 2003, pp 269-285. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/27557331.
Peele, Jordan, director. Get Out. Blumhouse Productions, 2017.