Film, just as with most other art forms, is meant to hold up a mirror that reflects the unique perspective of each person that experiences it. If it is a complete film, then it also serves the dual purpose of reflecting society as it currently exists and forces us to bear witness to some hard truths. Get Out, written and directed with great vision by comedic actor Jordan Peele, is such a work of art and social commentary of our times.
If you have not yet seen the film, I highly recommend going to see it as a tabula rasa and let it wash over you. To be brief, it is a story about Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) who goes for a weekend trip to visit the family of his girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), for the first time. It is important to note that her family’s estate is fairly secluded in a rural area. It is equally important to note that Chris is black and Rose is white. So yes, there is a Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner vibe, but Rose insists her parents are liberal to furthest left degree. A line about how her father “(would) have voted for President Obama a third term” is used liberally (pun intended) to the extent that it reminds us all of that one friend who doth protest too much. What begins as an awkward meet and greet with some lighter moments, soon gives way to a more sinister plot line that not everything is as wholesome beneath the veneer of forced smiles and intense interest regarding Chris.
What continues to impress me about Get Out is that it presents very relatable scenarios that most of us have experienced and to which we can connect, regardless of your race or ethnicity. You see, most of us, at one point or another, have been the “outsider” in a situation. It’s an interesting experience being the new kid in school, a recent hire in a workplace, or attending a party where being a fresh face, at times, inspires forced conversation and intense interest objectifies as a novelty. Long story short, we have all been Chris to one extent or another.
To label this film solely, a “Black Horror Film,” as I’ve already heard it referred to, is to diminish the message Mr. Peele is attempting to deliver. Yes, it is a powerful statement to have a horror/thriller experienced through the eyes of a protagonist who is a person of color, as few of those films actually exist, but that is only part of the story. The rest of the story is how all of us receive it in our current lives and delivered on the canvas of a supposed “post-racial” society. It is a great thought experiment to wonder how this movie might have been interpreted 18 months ago and how our national narrative at the time would inform our opinions.
As a society, perhaps unique to our country alone, there is a fixation with labels, stereotypes, and the seemingly inherent response to putting people in our lives, whether it is celebrities, politicians, athletes, or strangers, acquaintances, and friends into groups. How many of us have been at a party and one of the main questions asked of us is “What do you do?” How many of us have smiled and nodded, letting an innocuous comment or an innocent insult masked as a question roll off our backs? How many of us have felt like an outsider in our own country?
Each of us lives in our individual bubbles, navigating this life the best we can, trying to make sense of the world and the nonsensical. Each of us have labeled others, at one point or another, whether consciously or subliminally. It seems to be inherently human to try to understand this world by placing people we do not know or understand into categories. We are not defined solely by our occupation, skin color, religion, or political affiliation. To accept a label as such is to diminish our own humanity, as it is our individuality that makes us human. For that reason and much more, we need more films like Get Out to further understand that we are all more connected than we ever imagined or understood.