Imagine a world where the leader of the free world is a white supremacist’s wet dream but the hottest movie in that same country is rife with evil whiteys. It shouldn’t be that hard because it’s the world you are currently living in. The reason Get Out, the directorial debut of Jordan Peele, has captured the hearts of Americans is the way it offers a fresh take on the never ending struggles with human racism. Although it was written during the Obama administration when many people thought America was reaching a moment of great progressions, Get Out resonates much more in these past few months when the scope of discrimination in modern times has been brought to the forefront. It’s a lot to tackle in a single movie but with its perfect execution of satirical horror, Get Out gets it done.
There are few things more exciting for film fans than a new writer/director nailing their first movie. That’s why Get Out has me geeked. You can see the effort and love poured into every aspect of this movie. I’ve only seen it once (at the time of writing) but it really warrants a second view at least to see all the subtle foreshadowing. It’s a hell of an introduction to the country at large or at least all the people who didn’t binge Key & Peele sketches on Youtube. It’s also a little frustrating to prospective writers because it propagates the stress of having to make a big splash on your first piece of art but that’s my own problem to overcome. Without worrying about that, Get Out delivers for both horror buffs and normal buffs like myself. I honestly can’t pinpoint a major area of concern because even though I didn’t find this horror movie particularly scary (which some people may nag on), I don’t really like being scared so I’ll take unsettling and thought provoking instead!
The skeleton of the plot is of a black man meeting his white girlfriend’s family for the first time and the anxiety that comes with it. When we are first introduced to Chris (played by Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams), Daniel’s character is bracing for impact. He asks her if she has mentioned to her parents that he’s black but she brushes off the question but he knows better, Unlike most horror heroes who are usually caught off guard by the antagonist, this guy is wary from the start. After meeting the parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener – super solid) and the brother (Caleb Landry Jones – super creepy) it’s slowly revealed how deep the hole goes. Throughout all the reveals to the audience it’s refreshing to watch a protagonist in a horror movie pick up on subtleties for once. No need to yell at your screen to “get out” because he’s trying that from the start and it’s the title of the movie, dude calm down. He isn’t caught off-guard but even with his guard up could not have predicted the eventual, sinister outcome.
Get Out is basically taking normal horror tropes (a couple taking a trip to a foreboding and isolated location) and updating them to better reflect current societal ideals. No one sympathizes with white suburbia being terrorized by masked demons anymore because it’s been done before and we aren’t living in the carefree 80’s. Instead Peele saw a nation with a long history of racism experiencing a shift and evolution of that nature. The big bad of this movie isn’t the outspoken racists or dumb hillbillies (like in The Hills Have Eyes or House of a Thousand Corpses) that you’d expect. And you’d expect that because you’ve seen it before and you’ve seen it before because the people making those movies were white and trying to deflect racist mentalities onto over the top caricatures. Not that any horror movie makers or horror novelists were necessarily racists themselves but it’s easier to direct the attention elsewhere even if subconsciously.
In Get Out we see the “modern racist”-someone who is educated and worldly but still sees other races as Others. Someone who still sees another culture as an adornment for their mantle. Someone who thinks that with a black president we have moved beyond racism so discussing it as an ongoing problem is regressive. That form of racism was a very powerful evil for Peele because it came from a class of people who actually had a voice in this country. To his credit, it isn’t really a topic that has been tackled on this scale and that’s why the movie has resonated with film geeks and your everyday movie goer alike.
I struggle to imagine this movie being such a hit even 10 years ago but people like Jordan Peele and stories like this are finally getting the spotlight they deserve. I mean we JUST NOW have the first black Bachelor/Bachelorette after being on air for what seems like 30 years. You can see the movement blooming and there are examples elsewhere. Donald Glover’s Atlanta had a similar reaction and outpouring of praise last year. It even had an episode with a similar concept (minus the horror). That episode (“Juneteenth”) tackled the same modern racism that Get Out is focused on with a wealthy, white, worldly, and obnoxious antagonist. Also to strengthen this example, both Atlanta and Get Out feature the excellent Lakeith Stanfield in supporting roles. Quick tangent—he doesn’t get enough screentime in Get Out but owns the scene whenever he does and the same could be said for Atlanta.
You could say that the paradigm is shifting or to be less annoying you can just note that the talent pool is growing and becoming more inclusive. People complain all the time about Hollywood’s lack of creativity and focus on remaking, hashing, or booting tired stories. But what those same people are craving is what Get Out is delivering, which is a fresh take by people who are finally getting the opportunity and recognition they deserve. And they’re making a damn fine product with it.