‘Get Out’ finds horror in post-Obama white liberalism
Jordan Peele’s first film reveals an unspoken side of racism
Film: “Get Out”
Release Date: Feb. 24
Studio: Universal Pictures
Comedian Jordan Peele came into this year with the potential to cause ripples in the movie world and he accomplishes such with his socially powerful directorial debut “Get Out”.
“Get Out” finds an interracial couple - Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) - cast off on a getaway to meet the Armitage family at their home away from the city.
The trip frightfully becomes an uncomfortable setting for Chris - a black man - who is trapped within the confines of a white home and can run nowhere.
The visit sets the scene by painting the white liberal family, often considered to be good intentioned, as the masters behind a multi-step hypnosis process.
The process finds Chris and other black people in the film subject to mind erasure and extreme emotions - a process that Chris must fight as he becomes conscious of the white liberal efforts early on in the film.
Rose’s father Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford) warmly invites Chris into the Armitage household upon arrival and is quick to mention he would have voted for Barack Obama if he ran for a third term.
Chris swiftly realizes the painfully awkward utterances of Dean, an old white guy, who resorts to micro-aggressions.
Dean’s obsessive attitude toward blackness carries over into other characters and their feelings toward blackness. At a party thrown by the Armitage family, partygoers make Chris aware of their love for golfer Tiger Woods, how black men are strong, and how black is in “fashion”.
The sentiments reflect just how problematic ‘exceptional’ white ideals can be when it comes to black people - by idolizing blackness and emphasizing black features, you unearth a fetishized racism that played out during the slave era.
Chris sees this early on in the film and, literally, wants to “get out” - getting away from the overbearing whiteness that is symbolically and literally brainwashing his “brothers” like Andrew “Logan” King (Lakeith Stanfield).
The brainwashing of black people is the result a multi-step hypnotic process that begins with Dean’s wife, Missy Armitage (Catherine Keener), manipulating minds through spoon taps in a tea cup.
After a late night walk to smoke a cigarette, Missy taps into Chris’ mind and transports him to “the sunken place”. Chris is, of course, brought to this place of doubt and sorrow by white people who attempt to cause fear amongst the black people in the film.
Missy herself is a psychologist and this process could be seen as a remedying one in a medical setting. This process, however, is for the purpose of enslaving the black mind and body - a mind and body that is up for grabs in the film’s bingo scene.
The Armitage partygoers make their way to a gazebo after Chris’ mind is enslaved. Bingo cards are used to bid on Chris in a slave auction-like setting, the winner of the auction being Jim Hudson (Stephen Root) - a blind art dealer.
The earlier white desire for black features comes into play here, especially considering Jim’s yearning for eyesight. Things then come full circle - the ‘good nature’ of white liberals throws off black people who thus become susceptible to a racist agenda.
The film’s honest depiction of the Armitage family’s racism is thoughtfully met with humor, especially through Chris’ friend Rod Williams (LilRel Howery).
Rod is TSA agent who looks after Chris’ dog while he’s away, often calling Chris to check-in with him and have conversations that rip on the strangeness of white families. Rod acts as a voice that nearly symbolizes the conscience of black America with jokes that command laughter but demand a level of respectability.
When Chris is held captive and brainwashed by the Armitage family for days, Rod reports his disappearance (and the disappearance of Andrew “Logan” King) to the police. The police take his report in jest but ultimately, Rod comes to the rescue in a relieving ending which frightens due to the defiance of an expected outcome.
Elsewhere, Chris’ build-up of displeasure toward the Armitage family’s racist vision is unleashed toward the film’s closure.
Chris beats up Rose’s brother Jeremy Armitage (Caleb Landry Jones) and stabs Dean with a deer head in the film’s high point of action.
The film is flawless conceptually but has ups and downs in the visual department.
The “sunken place” scene - as symbolically heavy as it is - is poorly conjured up and finds Chris falling similar to Kendrick Lamar in his video for “Swimming Pools (Drank)”.
On the other hand, a scene like Andrew “Logan” King’s attack on Chris at the party shows a memorable, enraged reaction to the very hypnosis dividing black people in the movie.
Nonetheless, “Get Out” is packed with racial concepts and funniness that draws shades of acts similar to Peele and like Dave Chappelle. The film is horrifically pleasant in its delivery and brings to light ideas not often discussed when talking about racism in America.
Benjamin Blanchet is the assistant arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org