In a debate on the subject of being Black in America, James Baldwin once said, “To be a Negro in this country is really… never to be looked at. What white people see when they look at you is not visible. What they do see when they do look at you is what they have invested you with.” There is a choice among some white people, to stand in their apathy and ignorance, clinging on to stereotypes about other groups and races in order to continue to make themselves feel superior. What comes forth in the wake of this, are ideals that are entrenched in both bigotry and white privilege, which are so horrifying that they are often borderline amusing.
First-time director Jordan Peele of “Key & Peele” explores modern-day racism through his hilarious and witty satirical horror film, “Get Out.” Brilliantly written, “Get Out” follows Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya in a career-defining role), a 26-year-old Black photographer who goes home with his girlfriend of five months, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) to meet her family for the first time. Chris’ initial apprehension about the trip grows, especially after his homeboy, TSA agent, Rod Williams (Lil Rel Howery) warns him about going home with a white girl. His unease eventually prompts Chris to ask Rose, “Have you told your parents I’m Black?” Though she assures him her parents are not racist, Chris doesn’t seem too convinced. As expected, the duo barely reaches Rose’s parents secluded lake house before the micro-aggressions begin to swallow Chris alive.
Despite the warm welcome from Rose’s parents, Missy and Dean (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener respectively), Chris immediately starts to feel uncomfortable and out of place. (Hell, so did I.) The Armitages are almost “too nice” as if they are overcompensating for something. Their Black “hired help” also does little to put Chris at ease. The groundskeeper, Walter (Marcus Henderson), displays a quiet stoicism that appears to barely mask an underlying burning rage. Likewise, Georgina (the sensational Betty Gabriel), the housekeeper, embodies a Stepford wife, who hasn’t quite perfected the correct dosage of her happy pills. Right away, Chris feels that there is something off about the Armitage household. And yet, in the midst of such an awkward social and racial space, he tries to both ignore and justify their odd and often offensive behavior. This is particularly evident when Missy, a psychotherapist, tries to convince him to undergo hypnosis to cure his smoking habit.
The number of red flags that Chris chooses to disregard here are alarming, but it’s also something many people of color do on a daily basis. Like many horror films, the charming Norman Rockwell-esque façade shatters quickly. Rose’s creepy younger brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), arrives at the family home and begins quizzing Chris on his genetic makeup and knowledge of mixed martial arts. Shit really hits the fan when Chris encounters one of the Armitage’s party guests, Logan (“Atlanta’s” Lakeith Stanfield), who doesn’t quite seem to be present in his Black body.
Masterfully acted, “Get Out” forces white viewers (particularly liberals) to confront their own racist views while eviscerating those who continue to proclaim “All Lives Matter” as Black and brown bodies pile up at their feet. Peele showcases himself as a superb filmmaker in this wondrously written portrayal of racial hypocrisy in our society. Additionally, Peele manages to consider the palpable tension in our current political climate. I won’t give anything away, though, in all honesty, I wouldn’t even know where to begin if I wanted to. However, I will say as someone who scares quite easily, I’ll continue to feel unsettled for some time to come.
“Get Out” certainly isn’t “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?” but then again, the 1967 film exists as a sort of relic of what this country could have been. This film, despite being insanely creepy and perpetually gruesome, walks a thin line between comedy and horror. (Lil Rel Howery is a scene-stealer here, providing much of the comedic relief and best one-liners.) It’s also great to see veteran actress Erika Alexander popping up more and more on the big and small screens. The brilliance of “Get Out” is that you won’t even begin to guess where this film is heading. Riveting and groundbreaking, Jordan Peele’s horror film is a ferocious analysis on race and racism meant to shock you to your very core.
Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” debuts in theaters Friday, February 24, 2017.
Aramide A Tinubu has her Master’s in Film Studies from Columbia University. She wrote her thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger, and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can read her blog at: www.chocolategirlinthecity.com or tweet her @midnightrami