“Get Out”: New film shows the horror of white liberals’ racism

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut has shattered cinematic barriers with the intoxicating and wildly captivating Get Out. With 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the horror/thriller film does not disappoint even the most cynical of viewers. In the film’s combination of shock, terror, realism and social discourse, Peele is launching an entirely new genre of horror for generations to come.

Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) are a young interracial couple that plan a weekend trip to visit Rose’s parents. Things get off to eerie start when Chris begins to realize the only other black people in Rose’s hometown are “workers” for the residents of the estate. Despite his initial anxieties, Chris’s concerns are smoothed over during a chat with Rose’s mother and father, Missy and Dean (played by Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford), as he learns that they are both seemingly liberal folks who enjoy cultural exchange and afternoon tea. While on a walk with Dean Armitage, the patriarch of the house proudly proclaims that he would have voted for an Obama third term if he could have.

Get Out immediately delves into the complexities of white liberalism and the insidious ways in which racism manifest itself in our modern society. Dean seems eager to prove himself, greeting Chris initially with an abnormal salutation (“my man!”) and constantly berating him with examples of his “conscientiousness” and tolerance. It is this interaction in which the viewer begins to see the formation of a central undertone in the movie.

Jordan Peele confessed in a Q&A panel that he came up with the concept for the film after Obama’s election, during which time people began to conceptualize a “post-racial America.” It is clear throughout the film’s progression that inhabitants of the town hold similar beliefs, even going as far as to ask Chris if he believes it to be ‘advantageous’ to exist as a black man in society. During a large family gathering scene various of Rose’s relatives directly project their own misconceptions of blackness upon Chris; hyper-masculinity, sexualization, objectification, fetishization. It’s clear these characters think of their remarks as “complimentary,” although Chris is clearly made to feel uncomfortable.

What makes Get Out truly cutting edge in horror is the fact that it echoes an existing fear that many black individuals, who reside in a predominantly white society, face. It perfectly encapsulates the quiet apprehension that lies under the surface, especially when confronted with white people’s assertions of power. The film directly tackles topics that permeate black communities; fear of the police, white women’s false claims of being victimized by black men (e.g. Emmet Till), the infatuation with ‘wearing’ blackness. These are issues that Peele could have tiptoed around through allegorical symbolism, but instead, chose to explicitly direct attention to by showing the grotesque nature of racialized power dynamics in this country.

Several previous horror flick directors have dabbled with the notion of whiteness as an oppressive and destructive force in horror (see Kevin Smith’s “Red State“) but not with such transparency and vigor. Peele sets himself apart by daring to take the viewer to some of the deepest and most disturbing parts of our psyche, and challenging us to reevaluate our own dogmatism. Get Out directly confronts the violence of white liberalism, allowing us to fully experience the sweeping pervasiveness of racism beyond ultra-right fascist tropes.

Get Out leaves you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. The film is an exact reflection of the pervasive ideologies of modernized bigotry. Though light on jump scares or gore, Get Out strays away from the typical elements of horror, and makes room for an entirely original work of cinema. The film relies on the intricately written storyline and a cast of powerful leads and supporting actors to extract emotional truths from our heavily layered social discourse.


CONTRIBUTOR

Michelle Zacarias
Michelle Zacarias

Michelle Zacarias is a staff writer at People's World. A graduate of the Univ. of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, Zacarias has invested her time in raising awareness on issues of social justice and equality. She has written and conducted research in several parts of the world; most recently Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where she presented on disability awareness at the U.S. Consulate. Michelle self identifies as multi-marginalized: as a Latina, a woman of color and a person with disabilities. She considers her experiences a privilege, one that she hopes to use as a platform for spreading socio-political consciousness. In her spare time Michelle enjoys drinking pricey wines and watching old school zombie flicks.  

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