GET OUT: FILM REVIEW
I was going to write a review of Jordan Peele’s Us, but the movie scared me so much when I first watched it in a theatre that I can’t bear to search the film on Google. I know, my horror tolerance for films is painfully low. My freshman year college roommate had a red towel in our closet, so every time it peeked out behind the door, I was convinced that I was going to be abducted by the family from Us. Anyways, this review isn’t about Us, it’s about Peele’s Get Out, a cinematic masterpiece that succeeds in dispelling the narrative that we live in a post-racial America.
Get Out revolves around Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams), a young, interracial couple who go on a trip upstate to meet Rose’s parents, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener), who are aggressively white liberals. Before the trip, Chris is anxious because Rose hasn’t told her parents that he is black, and over the course of the trip, weird things start to happen, as the curtain of white allyship begins to fall. Among these suspicious occurrences occur the lurking presence of Rose’s brother, the hidden fear of the black servants employed by Rose’s family, and the evil hypnotic powers of Missy. Initially, Chris tries to convince himself that he’s just tripping, but when he eventually realizes what’s going on, it’s too late, as he finds himself trapped and stripped away of his autonomy.
A major theme of Get Out is its visually portrayal of the concept of double consciousness, a term described in Du Bois’ book, The Souls of Black Folk, where he stated, “One ever feels his two-ness, — an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” While Du Bois’ “double consciousness” did not initially take into account intersectional identities, the term has since evolved to be more inclusive. I don’t want to spoil too much, but let’s just say that towards the end of the film, a white art dealer, who happens to be “blind” wants to steal Chris’ eyes. He says, “I want those things you see through.” The claim of “I don’t see race” is just a trope to "race is the only thing I see." Even when Chris is able to see himself through the lens of both the white oppressor and himself, he is paralyzed, representing the lack of agency that often comes with double consciousness. The art dealer also wants to steal Chris’ body, mirroring the way that the white gaze separates and appropriates black bodies, dissecting and dehumanizing them.
Peele uses cameras and eyes as agents of objectified voyeurism. Chris is a photographer who has a keen eye for observation. At the start of the film, we see prints of Chris’ photography, revealing the unpretentious and honest way Chris views his subjects. This contrasts with the way that white people often photograph, viewing their subjects through a lens that objectifies them, creating unapologetic distance and an unbalanced power dynamic between the photographer and the photographed. When Chris tries to take a photo of Logan (Lakeith Stanfield), the only other black man at Rose's family's dinner party, Logan’s nose starts bleeding as he screams “Get out!” The reaction serves as a warning to Chris to leave the property, reflecting the police force surveillance tools that often serve as the only form of evidence in incidents involving police brutality.
The danger of being a middle-class white liberal, much like being a white feminist, is that it gives people a pass to check off a box and leave. As Rose’s father says right when he meets Chris, being able to tell people “I would have voted for Obama for a third term if I could” is enough to prove that you aren’t racist. Except it’s not. The not-so-subtle perpetuation of racism by middle-class white liberals acts as one of the largest blockades to real change, because the work for change ends once the box of “not racist” is checked off. If Rose’s family were to vote in this year’s election, they would be the people who are too excited to get Biden into office. One of Peele’s strongest assets in showing the way that white liberals behave is through sprinkling in scenes where the only way to describe Rose’s family is "cringe-worthy." The family gets visibly uncomfortable as soon as the black servants come into the frame, and Missy tries too hard to bring in her admiration of Tiger Woods into the conversation.
Get Out provides a stark example of how film can be used to illuminate social issues, as Peele crafts a horror comedy that is so easily understood and entertaining that audiences are forced to grapple with the film’s larger commentary. The effects of films like Get Out are immensely powerful, as it allows disconnected audiences to rethink their actions, their daily microaggressions, and what it really means to be anti-racist. If you think that posting a black square on your instagram and voting for Biden makes you an ally, watch Get Out and think again.