"Get Out"—A funny anti-racist horror movie?—Or an inspiring DIY for white maniacs?

Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) screams in silence as he falls into the "sunken place".
Among the many funny things in or about Jordan Peele's new horror movie (Get Out)—or "social thriller" as Peele calls it—is how people who haven't seen the movie react to the title.

For a lot of people, their expectations are that the title must refer to some kind of demand made by white people to black people in the movie. That's what their social conditioning leads them to think would make sense.

Part of what makes Get Out work so well, is that it takes serious and playful account of what audiences are bringing to the table, and then it skewers these prejudices with anything sharp and deadly it can find handy.

The protagonist, Chris Washington (played by Daniel Kaluuya, who was so good in one of the best Black Mirror episodes, "Fifteen Million Merits"), decides against his own common sense and the advice of his best friend Rod, to travel home with his girlfriend Rose Armitage to meet her parents.

The problem?

Chris is black and Rose is white.

Right there, in the beginning of the movie, we get a little taste of what is coming, a hint of our own expectations and fears played against us by Peele.

Because, think about it for a moment. Why is Chris being black and Rose being white still a problem in 2017? And so intense is the provocation of that question, Chris is pained to bring it up at all, because he knows what the subtext of that question to Rose is going to be. It's like asking her: hey babe, so are your white parents who live in the woods the usual white racist rednecks or what? Not exactly a romance builder.

But Rose not only is cool and reassuring in her response—hey, they love Obama, they aren't racists, relax!—but on the way out to the house she totally stands up for Chris when he gets harassed by a white cop. It seems like Rose is the ideal white girlfriend, understanding, and not bothered at all about employing her white privilege to help a brother out.

Except, she's not really helping a brother out. As she says, she's helping out "her man". And there is definitely something creepy and menacing when a white woman of wealth and privilege says that about a black man. And the creepy and menacing bits just keep coming.

At one point, Rod tells Chris, in the plainest, most reliable advice anybody is ever going to get from a true friend:
"Look, Jeffrey Dahmer was eatin' the shit out of niggas' heads. OK? But that was after he fucked the heads. Do you think they saw that shit comin'? HELL NO! OK? They was comin' over there like alright let me just suck a little dick. Maybe jiggle some balls and shit. No! They didn't get a chance to jiggle shit, because they head was off they fucking body. I mean they still sucked the dick, but without the heads. It was fucking weird, detached-head shit. You know that's Jeffrey Dahmer's business."
A little later, Rod makes it plainer:
"Oh shit! Chris, you gotta get the fuck up outta there. You in some hi-wire-shit situation! Leave motherfucker!"
Or, as another character, who has momentarily come to his senses screams at Chris:
"Get out! Get out! Get the fuck outta here!"
Yep, that's what the title is really about.

As with that little signal at the beginning of Alien—it's a warning.

It's just that, like the crew of the Nostromo, Chris can't quite believe until it's too late that the threat is as horrible as it turns out to be.

Now, a lot of people are writing a lot of crap about racism regarding this movie, whether or not it's a fair depiction of racist memes regarding white people, or whether the movie is some kind of reverse racism and a bunch of other stupid, totally wrong, shit.

I'm gonna tell you what it's really about. And no, I don't care whether you've seen the movie or not. So, be adults and figure out what to do next.

The real threat in Get Out is not that Chris will get his feelings or even his femurs hurt by racism. Chris is a smart, insightful, young black American, a man with "eyes", because he's also a successful photographer. So, he's prepared by experience and vision to deal with white Americans being racist imbeciles. That's just the default social fabric for black people in the USA.

Indeed, the racist imbecility of white people in Get Out is used to distract Chris and the audience from what is really going on. Because the real threat to Chris is not racism at all, at least not as we usually think about it, but instead it is what underlies racist sentiments, at least as many black people might view these matters in 2017 America.

Because, Peele’s movie asserts in bold, bloody terms that what white people are really after is not to segregate and otherize black people, but to appropriate their bodies, to conquer and reprogram blackness and black identity itself, so that it becomes a physically stronger, more alive, bearer of white identity, white vitality, and white consciousness.

The slavery that the white people in Get Out mean to inflict on their black victims is worse than bondage, worse than rape, worse than murder. Because it is the lifelong imprisonment of black minds inside their own bodies, which bodies have been (almost) completely taken over by white masters and their sick, twisted schemes.

Indeed, the image of Chris falling into what Rose’s headshrinker (and evil hypnotist) mom calls the “sunken place”, is that of a slow-motion descent into the very worst and deepest dungeon (of the mind) imaginable.

Chris screams in rage and horror the first time this happens to him. But his screams are silent. Nobody will ever hear them.

That this happens, and Chris does not immediately exit the Frankenstein or Armitage castle tells you something about Jordan Peele's critique of black people's complacency and naiveté in this allegedly post-racial era.

Of course the movie was shot before Trump became president, and so if anything the facts on the ground seem to scream in loud terms that Peele's warning had better be taken seriously.

The only real concern I have with this movie, and it is already one of the great horror movies of all time, is that if white people are as monstrous as Jordan Peele argues they are, a whole lot of them might be watching and enjoying Get Out for all the great tips it offers prospective or active monsters in how to go for the truly monstrous bleachers.

Why limit yourself to cross-burnings and lynchings, after all, when you can perpetrate demonic possession?

Tea anyone?


prissa o said…
I really enjoyed your take on this movie. Great insights!!