The real message behind the movie 'Get Out'
Jordan Peele, best known for his comedic talent and his spot-on impressions of former U.S. president Barack Obama, just upped his resume to a whole new level with the directing of his new film ‘Get Out’.
Chris, a photographer with a keen eye, played by Daniel Kaluuya, and his girlfriend Rose, played by Allison Williams, are an interracial couple who are headed to upstate New York to meet Rose’s family. The beginning of the movie makes light of stereotypical fears and anxieties he has about meeting the parents. But Chris really had no idea what he was in for.
The meeting went well, at least it seemed at first, but things got a little strange when Chris met ‘the help’. Georgina and Walter, played by Betty Gabriel and Marcus Henderson, are the Armitage family’s black house and grounds keepers that were a little bit too standoffish and out of touch, to say the least, for Chris’ comfort. He was quick to bring his concerns to his girlfriend, who reassured him that he was just imagining things. He would be told this again and again with almost every single thing that didn’t sit well with him.
It was something so familiar for minorities, especially black people, who are constantly told that their lived experiences of racism are nothing more than figments of their imagination, that they’re ‘playing the race card’, or ‘looking into things too deeply’. Rose’s father tried to reassure him that it wasn’t what it seemed, addressing the optics of the situation right off the bat and reassuring him that he was ‘down with the culture’. He reaffirmed his support for Obama, calling him the best president ever and reassuring Chris that he would’ve voted for him a third time if he could have.
It was very reminiscent of the ‘I’m not racist, my best friend is black,’ type of racism we see all the time. The idea that if you support a black person or two, or multiple, or have a couple black friends, that there is no way that you could possibly be racist. But the subtlety of the racism that Peele weaved into this film like a magnificent, bone-chilling tapestry was so reflective of the state of our society.
During a party in the film, the white guests were in awe of Chris’ blackness. Women reached for his muscles, asking he and Rose if the sex was really better, talked about his genetic makeup and DNA, the men and women fawned over his stature, Rose’s own brother suggesting that Chris would be a ‘beast’ if he took up UFC or boxing.
At this same party, Chris meets a blind gallery owner who he highly respects. A few minutes later, viewers learn that this party is really an auction. Which one of you rich white folk can bet the highest for this black man? Because money trumps black lives and no, they don’t matter.
This instance, and many others throughout the film, highlighted that the main theme of this film: cultural appropriation. And Peele brought it home, albeit with what some might call an extreme or hyperbolic illustration, but one that made the case.
The cultural appropriation this film illustrated was so much more than Kardashians doing their hair in cornrows and being named ‘trendsetters’ or ‘trailblazers’ by Hollywood magazines that need a history lesson. It was so much more than a white person having dreadlocks and being called ‘cool’ or ‘hipster’ while a black person with the same hairstyle might be denied a job, called ‘ghetto’ or be subjected to Giuliana Rancic’s accusations of smelling like ‘weed or patchouli oil’ on ‘Fashion Police’ (we still haven’t forgotten what you said about Zendaya, fool). This type of cultural appropriation was the actual removal of our organs, our souls, and white people taking over and taking credit.
At one point in the film, the blind man actually says to Chris, after initially complimenting his eye for astounding photography at the auction, ‘I want the things you see through.’
Take a second to look at this particular photo above. Have you ever seen such horror? Such fear? Such anxiety and discomfort as you do in this man’s face?
This movie wasn’t just a movie for black people who had their eyes open. It was an experience. A testimony, I would call it, told through art. Tragic, but genius art.
In one way or another, this comedic horror told the story of black people and it told the experience of the black experience. The fear that lives within us, even in places we’re supposed to be safe, even when we’re in the presence of people who are supposed to protect us. In fact, when a cop car came with flashing lights, despite nearly being killed and dissected by Rose’s entire family, it was Chris who put up his hands to surrender in order to not get shot.
Even in the heat of the moment, on the verge of what could have been death, he couldn’t forget what it meant to be black in the face of authority. Sad, huh?
It was his constant awareness of his blackness that made this movie such a deep experience for black people. Never once forgetting who he was, where he came from and how different he was, especially against the backdrop of Rose and her white family, their big house and Walter and Georgina, the help.
But what made this horror movie a work of glory was that even in the face of adversity, racism, blatant and subtle, he fought, he made it home. He persisted. He prevailed. And he survived.