I watched Get Out with two good friends (one fellow Chinese American, another Japanese American) recently, and we all loved it. It’s such an incredibly smart and well-crafted movie, and as it’s full of so much to unpack, I thought it deserved its own links roundup of reviews/analysis.
Be forewarned. This post will have copious spoilers.
It astonishes me that most mainstream news outlets aren’t making it required for an actual black person to review this film, because it definitely seemed to me like this film was made for black people, and that they understand it the most. Just look at this nuanced take!
In this scene, trauma holds the black body hostage. Though at this stage of the film we do not yet know about the personal horror Chris harbors, we do sense the allusion to another everyday black terror. In the next scene, Chris is confronted by the policeman interviewing his white girlfriend, Rose, who was driving the car that killed the deer. Coupled like this, Peele offers two layers of black generational trauma: one that Chris marks on the deer, signifying his orphanage and familial past, and the other that we mark on Chris, signifying his vulnerability to the state and the law. In this moment, Chris begins to assume the role of the deer. He has officially become the hunted.
I cannot, for the life of me, imagining anyone but a black person being able to write this. This film, more than a “horror-satire about white liberalism” that most news outlets are billing it as, is a film about antiblack racism and how it affects black people, written by a black man, for a black audience. The fact that I have to dig through google to find black reviewers of this movie is indicative of the problem that Get Out presents us — that no matter how much we claim to be “post-racial”, we (and I’m including East Asians in this) are complicit in the dehumanization of black bodies, even if we’re not the one in particular who’s cutting them open.
Oh, and I also love these ending paragraphs. It’s wonderful and chilling.
When I saw the film, most people left the theater in relief and with some joy that, while Chris was injured, the familiar slaughter of police brutality did not occur this time for our black brother. But can we be sure Chris is still not a hostage? While he did escape his physical captors, what’s purposefully not made clear is whether or not Chris is really free from the Sunken Place, which only requires the sound of a spoon stirring against a glass to reinstate his captivity.
Of all the horrors in the film, this is the one I find most consistent with the indigestible nature of racism: how soft it can be at first, but then how everywhere, and perhaps, how permanent.
The absolute most sickening aspect of Get Out — and I mean this in the best way; it’s meant to be sickening and it should be sickening — is the larger metaphor under which it is all operating: this is a movie about how black people are denied their humanity by white people. Chris is, as Georgina and Walter are, seen as fit only to serve white people’s needs. This is a nightmare — a viciously unsettling nightmare — about the appropriation of black bodies and black lives by white people that started with the American slave trade and endures today with the mass incarceration of black men (who often then become cheap, near-slave labor for big corporations). […]
There is no way around this: The villain of Get Out is White People, not just the Armitages and their neighbors but all of us. It is white culture and white privilege and white entitlement, and white obliviousness to it all, and sometimes the white deliberateness of it all. What shattered me about this movie is thinking — knowing — that I am included in this villainy.
It’s always heartening to see a white person who “gets it”, who understands that they are not Chris but rather Rose and her family, that the film isn’t about a random mass-murdering family but about whiteness as exhibited via a mass-murdering family. It astounds me how many white people watched the film and went, “That was fun, but it wasn’t that scary,” because it was absolutely terrifying to me and my friends. Unlike other horror films, this film felt real in a way that ghosts — and zombies — and ableist depictions of neurodivergence — never have. And I’m glad that at least a few other white people have seen this realness and taken it to heart.
Nothing really earth-shattering here, analysis-wise. Just a, “The world isn’t as shitty as we thought,” reminder.
I love reading about other people’s conversations. Dialogue just adds a completely different spin than just plain single-person analysis, and I think this film is one that really, really needs to be talked about in dialogue.
Punishing experiments on black soldiers like the Buffalo Soldier bicycle mission, the Tuskegee syphilis trials, the stripping of cells from Henrietta Lacks — these things don’t happen all at once. They happen when a group of people is not seen as fully human by society. That’s when these small things cross into what my wife called the “realm of the impossible” — a realm that black people in particular know from history is actually very possible.
Fantastic conversation. So much so that I don’t have anything to say — just, go and read this.
Robert Jones, Jr.: To me, this was a film for black people. And it spoke to us in our own language and felt no need to explain anything to us. It assumed we already knew certain things and proceeded from that knowing.
And some great critique:
RJJ: One of my critiques of this film is the roles black women/queer people play in it. Peele doesn’t ignore us. And I don’t expect my identity group to be centered in someone else’s experience. However, if you’re going to include my group, please be extra-sensitive. That whole scene about Jeffrey Dahmer, for example, did a multitude of things. It highlighted that black queer people have something to fear from white queer people — and that’s absolutely true! That was something that even James Baldwin noted. But that scene was also couched as comedy relief, which, in my opinion, undercuts its impact and links it to the same kinds of queerantagonistic, Eddie-Murphyesque, let’s-make-fun-of-the-fags-by-mocking-them-and-what-they-do-sexually traditions we often see in comedy. And we say nothing about the inherent heterosexism of such displays because they’re so ubiquitous and laughter is meant to disarm.
(I actually do not remember this scene at all, but I am an absolute scaredy-cat with horror films and had my hands in my face like 80% of the time during the second half of the movie, so I probably just missed it. Like I completely missed Chris burning the house down until my friends told me afterward.)
Law Ware: Let me explain: I saw this film with a mostly black audience. They were talking to the film as we are wont to do, but this time the conversation was about how he was waking to a dangerous situation racially. In other films, the things one thinks is: “Why are you going down those stairs? Why are you in the woods?” etc. In this case, the statements centered on awareness of racialized danger: “Why are you playing along with these white folks? Why are you laughing that off?” Peele gives us a protagonist who is just as unwise as the protagonists in your typical horror film, but his problematic actions stem from a desire to enter into this white world — which, to me, was fascinating.
And this whole conversation just keeps getting better from here. I would be copying the whole thing at this point, so, really, just go and read it.
This article also links to a whole bunch of other great articles about the film that I had trouble finding via google, so thank you very much for that!
This is one of two articles about antiblackness in the Asian community in relation to Get Out. The other one is on Reappropriate, “Unpacking Get Out’s “Asian” character.” Both draw fairly similar conclusions (Asian complicity in white supremacy), but I think both fall slightly short in not addressing, well, the fact that there’s a huge gap between, say, East Asians and Southeast Asians in terms of access. (East Asians are far more likely to be class privileged due to a variety of factors, while Southeast Asians are more likely to be refugees, not to mention darker-skinned.)
Of course, Get Out isn’t really about Asians, though Peele does give us East Asians something to take away from the film, so I’m not super miffed about this oversight. Still, though, is it really so hard to simply add an “East” in front of “Asians”? Choosing a Japanese man was a very deliberate choice, I thought — probably a reference to Ozawa v. United States. I’m surprised that neither of these articles mention this, actually.
Yet more proof that black people should be the ones writing about this film. I learn something new with each new article I read.
What reverberated for me as I watched the film is the idea of white people wanting to be black, desiring to be black in an obsessive way, and the fetishizing of black bodies. There is a deep connection to slavery, particularly with the “bingo” auction block where control of Chris’ body is sold off. There is also a numbness associated with being black when white people attempt to control our bodies (“sunken place”), and an infatuation with anything deemed to be more powerful.
While watching Get Out, I couldn’t help thinking about the long, jealous, bitter historical implications behind Granddad Armitage losing to Jesse Owens (“He almost got over [losing to him]”) and how that became the impetus for taking over black people’s bodies.
I can’t believe I completely missed this little detail. (Another commenter on a different article pointed out how Granddad Armitage’s running was his way of showing off the achievement he has wanted all along — the body of a “strong” black man, like Jesse Owens who beat him.)
Peele’s editorial choices reveals his hand: graphic white male death is okay, and even the fetishizing of the dead body of the one (of two total) black women characters is just fine. But the intentional framing and editing choices Peele makes to conceal and work around the explicit deaths of Missy and Rose show that white women are still valued as fragile and occupy a unique cultural privilege…even in the blackest horror film of this decade.
What a great and nuanced observation. Why is mainstream media not talking about all these great analyses? Why are they stuck on “hurhur this film is satire of white liberalism”?? Why are they not clambering to pay black people to write review/analyses of this movie?
And I believed [Rose]. I believed her even after Chris discovered a box in her room filled with pictures of the other black men and women she’d seduced for her family before getting to him. My brain jumped to the next “logical” conclusion. Clearly Rose’s mother had hypnotized her daughter into being part of their scheme, making Rose forget each time she’d lured a black person home for them.
^ THIS EXACTLY. Even after reading spoilers before going into the film about how Rose was just as bad as her family, my first impulse was, “Oh, Rose has been hypnotized too!” And I actually had to talk myself out of that impulse — “Wait, all these black reviewers have been talking about how terrible Rose is. She’s probably in on it too.” Afterwards, when I was telling my friends about this reaction, I said, “It’s really indicative of how we’re programmed to always sympathize with the white woman, to always see these women as vulnerable.”
But here, condensed into one 10-minute span, I recognized the sinking feeling of being betrayed by a white woman you’ve stanned for, loved, liked, or even simply been mildly okay with.
Oh, yeah, I totally understand this feeling. Not just with actors, but with actual white folks I thought I was close to, and actual white female authority figures I respected and who I originally thought respected me — but apparently not.
In Get Out, whiteness trumps all, and the true horror is leaving the theater knowing that, in this case? It’s not just a movie.
Lots of great stuff here about significant parts (and characters) of the film that really should be discussed more than they are.
I’m not sure that Peele did this intentionally, but Georgina is the embodiment of the two-edged sword that is the “strong black woman” stereotype. It’s this idea that Black women can’t be broken, that we don’t crack under pressure, that we make the best of our circumstances, or that we don’t need support. While this stereotype is founded in some truth (black women are some of the most magical and persevering beings I know), it also builds up a myth about black women and our ability to maneuver through life. We can be broken. We do crack under pressure. Sometimes, our circumstances get the best of us. And no matter how stable we are, we ALWAYS need support.
So, Georgina is every black woman that has lived up to this stereotype while simultaneously being cut down by it. She is every black woman who has fought or is fighting despite being constantly pushed down. She is every black woman who becomes wearier after each push and desperately needs someone to help pull her up. She is every black woman trying to save black men from their own demise only to be met with suspicion and distrust. She is every black woman who has to sustain whiteness for survival while struggling to protect and maintain her black womanhood.
Georgina is all of us.
A nice conversation exploring why exactly the ending chose to subvert all our expectations and end happily.
With all the talk about Get Out subverting the “the black guy dies first” trope, though, I think people are overlooking that this is way bigger than horror. In virtually all modern storytelling, black people rarely get to complete the hero’s journey: They’re killed off, captured, or otherwise sacrificed before making their way home. We need more of these stories—and I don’t mean black triumphing over white, I mean a fully rounded protagonist with the opportunity to come back home with a story of triumph that shames the haters and gives life to fans. It’s about getting to see a cycle of personal growth pay off. That’s truly where the optimism lies.
And now that I’ve done this for Get Out and learned so much from so many great folks reviewing/analyzing it, I’m thinking of doing a links roundup for Moonlight too, especially now that I recently rewatched it on DVD. Moonlight just gets better with each rewatch.