Writer Jordan Peele exploits the horror film genre with his directorial debut in Get Out. On the surface, it’s a film about a young interracial couple where Daniel Kaluuya plays “Chris Washington,” the black boyfriend, and Allison Williams plays “Rose Armitage,” the white girlfriend.
During the weekend retreat where Chris is convinced against his better judgment to meet Rose’s white parents, they hit a deer. Chris is stunned by the deer’s immobility as he is reminded of his mother’s death in his adolescent years.
When Chris and Rose finally reach the Armitage estate, they confess (to the parents) of hitting the deer. Mr. Armitage returns the confession with a striking one of his own: he hates deer and wishes he could kill them all. The uncomfortable incident is a clever foreshadowing, and just the beginning of the film’s upcoming disputes where the usual racists and prejudice topics are presented in an unusual and obsessive way.
In the film, racism is more than a prejudice experience, an outward display of hate, but also an obsession of sorts―rather than admiration―of the black man: his speed, his physique, his sexuality, his intellect, his artistic ability and creativity. When the standout features of the black man (represented by Chris) are inhabited, seized and controlled for monetary gain, it is clear that the film is horrible not because of gory images, suspenseful cues, seemingly fabricated experiences, but because the confirmed detail provided by Mr. Armitage and his desire to wipe out an entire species (of deer) is directly relative to the binding and merchandising of the black man, which is ever present in 2017 America.
In fact, there is an actual scene that finally unfolds at the Armitage’s “get-together”―the racial antics are at first just uncomfortable as the rich white guests make several inappropriate remarks about Chris’ muscles, grip, keen eyesight, and sexual ability―where a portrait of Chris is on display for the white guests, as they bid on him. Sound familiar? This is the modern-day slave narrative, minus the outdated forms, where lynching is replaced with brain surgery, owning slaves is exchanged for hypnosis (owning the mind instead, if you will), the auction block is traded in for a casual get-together, the slave owner is in the form of a white girlfriend.
It’s the sunken state that is so heavy though, first presented when Chris finds himself in an involuntary hypnosis session with Rose’s mother, the psychiatrist who antagonizes him about his smoking habit. In the session, which she claims is to rid his desire to smoke, Chris instead reflects on his childhood, including the traumatizing event of losing his mother and being paralyzed by the stench of danger. This detail follows him and confirms his motives later in the film, but the symbolism reflects the horror of the past and present condition of African American people in the hands of the white oppressors.
Brainwash is shown in the other black characters: the Armitage’s housekeepers, who have essentially been hypnotized and coerced into working for the Armitage’s, believing that they are good people, and in Andre, the black man who is assaulted in the first scene and later paired with one of the white guests at the party as her sex slave. These characters are a bit offbeat as Chris notices at first, but when he takes a picture of Andre at the party, the flash (from the phone) sets Andre off; he becomes the man he was before being a sex slave and tries to warn Chris to get out, though Mr. Armitage labels his attack as a seizure. Nevertheless, Andre returns back to the sunken state of control and manipulation, and Chris does everything to get out, finally noticing the weight of his decision to stick it out.
What’s mind-boggling is that such large institutions, as large as science itself, hypnosis, neuropsychology, brain surgery, all seem to be the only comparable measure strong enough to bind Chris, the strong man. But when these large institutions fail, Peele makes a testimony of the real strength inside the strong man, after all not bound by the monetary advantages―sexual, sociopathical, economical, emotional―of the white counterparts.
Chris’ strength was also made clear in the preservation of Rose’s life. After Rose had been the enabler of the horrific events at the estate, he still could not kill her at the end of the film, thus proving that for all the hate in the universe, there is still a little love left in the hearts of the oppressed, but strong black man. Though he was presented with the opportunity to control her, have the upper hand, and at the very least seek revenge, still, he could not.
The strong man is strong in love, also. In binding the strong man, you have seized many of his attributes, but you have not bound his ability to love. Even in the post-electoral era of Barack Obama, the age of Trump, and the age police brutality and discrimination, the heart of the black man will still decide to conquer all, in the way that it does: love.
Jordan Peele is a legend in the making with this creative, satirical art piece, no doubt a-soon-to-be classic, that is unafraid of confronting territorial differences and interfering with the socio-racial tensions of our nation.