GET OUT: A Deeper Examination of Injustice
With all its success over the year and its deep political, racial and socio-economical undertones, and Oscars just around the corner, it seemed an appropriate time to dive back into the horror that is Get Out.
Warning: This article does contain spoilers.
Sundance Film Festival is fast becoming the launchpad for some of the year’s most successful and critically acclaimed horror and thriller films. In 2014, audiences were introduced to It Follows. It was followed by the success of 2015’s The Witch (where it would win The Sundance Film Festival award for Best Director). This past year, Sundance once again delivered, bringing us the surprise hit in his directorial debut – Jordon Peele‘s Get Out.
Reviews for the film poured in, leading up to the film’s U.S.A. Release on March 10, 2017 – the film achieving the rare success of a 100% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I too, when submitting my original review, was blown away by the brilliance and execution of this film – every element of Get Out debated and reconsidered the moment the film had ended. Yet, when writing my review, I found myself barely able to do the film justice; the film had so many elements at play that to explain them and link them together would have spoiled everything for the reader.
Now, almost a year later, the film is turning heads and drawing praise as awards season reaches its climatic conclusion – just the other day adding another win with the Writer’s Guild awarding Jordan Peele with Best Original Screenplay. With the Oscars right around the corner, Get Out is poised to potentially win four awards – Best Actor, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture – the latter, with its nomination alone, putting Get Out in an elite force of horror films that have taken the Oscars by storm.
With all its success over the year and its deep political, racial and socio-economical undertones, it seemed an appropriate time to dive back into the horror that is Get Out.
Slavery, one of darkest marks on the history of humanity, is a topic that is constantly kept in the forefront of modern society – a reminder of how far we have come, but also how far we still have yet to go. With Get Out, Jordan Peele displays a modernization of slavery – enslaving the bodies of unsuspecting black men to fulfill the untapped desires of the white man (or woman). Individuals are sized up, measured and auctioned off.
During a gathering of family and friends, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is introduced to each person attending, their acceptance and enthusiasm at his attendance a little off-kiltering. Little does Chris know, he is on display. A white woman comes up feeling his biceps, commenting on his strength and body image – while it might seem she is hitting on him, she is sizing Chris up, deciding how much he would be worth paying for.
At the film continues, you realize the other black individuals in the film have each had done to them what would have happened to Chris. Walter (Marcus Henderson) lost his body and mind to Mr. Armitage’s father (Richard Herd) due to his athletic ability and strength – his only time to exhibit and utilize this skill at night. Andre Logan King (Lakeith Stanfield), who Chris meets at the party, was auctioned off for his youth and stature. Each one of these men have something that the white men and women desire – and feel they have the right to take away.
Slavery is also symbolized throughout Get Out, most specifically towards the end of the film. Chris awakens to find himself strapped to a chair and forced to learn his fate and purpose in the Armitage’s biological and mental warfare on the black community. The only way he can find any means of escape is to pick the cotton from the armrest he is strapped to and place it in his ears, rendering the sound of the hypnotizing teacup useless. Visually, viewers are reminded of the source of pain to the first slaves brought over to the new country, while at the same time having Chris use the cotton to liberate himself. There is an acknowledgement of what was, but also a desire to be more, to no longer be confined to the symbols of oppression – to fight back.
The Sunken Place
Throughout Get Out, a common occurrence is the disappearance of the mind into “the sunken place”. Entrance is forced through hypnotization and is inescapable without permission for the hypnotist. Wandering the house one night, Chris stumbles onto Mrs. Armitage (Catherine Keener) in her study where she sees her patients. She invites him to join her, Chris reluctantly accepting, her previous offer to hypnotize him to prevent his smoking habit and the strange behavior around the house making him wary.
Chris, however, begins to succumb to the tranquil and rhythmic sound of Mrs. Armitage’s spoon swirling on her tea cup. He tries to fight the oncoming hypnosis, but is powerless. Falling uncontrollably into “the sunken place”, Chris screams, the face of his oppressor seemingly towering over him, peering at him through through a tunneled view. From the outside, however, Chris is frozen in place, his expression motionless, only a small tear reflecting the turmoil from within.
This scene and concept of “the sunken place” was one of the more brilliant and sad cinematic representations of what many in the black community face on a daily basis – forced into a confined area that is seemingly impossible to break free of. Individuals in the black community face difficulty escaping from inner cities, a nonfictional sunken place, once they are placed or born there – children doomed to the same fate as their parents. With many finding themselves confined within city limits, they are exposed, and many times limited, to poorer education, welfare, drugs, increased crime and rundown factory life of an old city whose overpopulated booming industries have moved out. When resources are scarce and limited through funding and political factors, there is little hope to rise above.
Yet, is not only “the sunken place” that represents this inescapable confinement, but also the inhabited individuals within Get Out. Georgina (Betty Gabriel), a maid at the Armitage home, is inhabited by Grandma Armitage – she cares for the home and the inhabitants as she would have when she was in her own body. Yet, even when she is smiling, seemingly lost in the body snatch, the real Georgina can be seen in the eyes of the maid. She is broken inside unable to escape, tears the only thing she can control, knowing that this is where she is to live forever, knowing what has been done to her and never having anyone that she can tell or who can truly understand. She is alone in her inescapable pain, with only the darkness of the mind to comfort her.
Sins of Lust and Revenge
While racism and oppression in Get Out was so brilliantly depicted throughout this horror film, Jordan Peele was clever in not forgetting that evil has always existed, since man first crawled out the ocean and began to think for themselves. Religions were built surrounding the idea of original evils, and the means and power to avoid them. In Get Out, Peele did not forget that lust and revenge play important elements in depicting humanity, as well as motivating and enriching a story.
Lusting what we do not have but want has been at the beginning of some of life’s greatest tragedies and the downfall of many. It’s no wonder it is one of the seven deadly sins in Catholicism. In Get Out, lust plays a vital role in the selection of who you will auction off, putting your money out there to obtain what you do not have but desire the most. For Jim Hudson (Stephen Root), he lusts for the eyesight he does not have – specifically Chris’s eyesight.
A skilled photographer, Chris’s eye and way of looking at life is a desire of Hudson’s – and something that can never be trained or acquired. Chris has a talent you are born with. Everyone eyes Chris at the party, and the men who came before him; each have something they lust for, something they desire and can never achieve. Only through taking what is not theirs can they accomplish the seemingly impossible.
Revenge, in my opinion, was the most overlooked element in Get Out. It is a fleeting moment in the film where it shows its ugly face, but is so quick – this ingenious element in storytelling missed by many. Early on in the film, when Chris is receiving the grand tour of the Armitage home, Mr. Armitage (Bradley Whitford) remarks on a series of photographs hung on the wall, especially one in particular: the photo of his grandfather in the starting position to begin his track race.
Mr. Armitage remarks on how his father had almost gone on to the Olympics that year, unfortunately being beaten out by Jesse Owens. While Chris is impressed, the father stated that his father almost let his defeat go, reiterating almost. It is a quick conversation that seems like a bout of small talk between the two characters, but in retrospect, it was so much more.
This revelation could be an explanation as to why initially black men were selected for the brain transfers. There may have been a personal vendetta that needed to be satisfied. While the grandfather was almost willing to let bygones be bygones, the development of his procedure gave him an avenue and an opportunity to satisfy his need for revenge.
The Embodiment of Evil
At the end of the film, Rose (Allison Williams) is the last to survive the massacre – however fatally wounded. Facing Chris as he strangles her, she smiles. Death does not faze her, and she is not afraid. She is the true sociopath in the film, a predator masked behind innocence.
She hunts her prey, black men who will be brought home for auction and invasion. There is no remorse, no emotion, only a blind focus on her task, follow through and finding the next hunt. She is proof that human predators do not always come with guns or words.
Evil can be the most innocent looking – a person may look and act as though they are not racist or cold-hearted but doesn’t always mean that they aren’t. What is hidden behind words and in thoughts can sometimes be where our true self lies. Completing her task and delivering Chris to his fate, Rose radiates a type of innocence, purity – sitting on her bed, Indian style, hair pulled back. She sips her milk slowly through a straw, eating her fruit loops meticulously one loop at a time – a representation of the calculated and patient nature of her attacks. She has patience and savers her food, much like she does the hunt. As she is innocently jamming and chewing down, she is searching for her next victim. There is no other thought to the man she has just spent months with, just a lioness nature for the next kill.
Get Out: Conclusion
There are so many levels of this film that help it rise above horror films before it. A pleasant and resounding surprise, Get Out deserves every bit of recognition that it has garnered since its release. Jordan Peele‘s cinematic representation of a chastised community still striving for equality and appreciation may just earn him his first Oscar – and I hope it does. This is a film that will not slip through the cracks of cinematic history, but become one that all others to follow will be measured against.
What are your thoughts on Get Out?
Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.