Spoilers ahead! If you haven’t seen Get Out and don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read on.
I have a sneaking suspicion that many (non-woke white) people who’ve seen Get Out absolutely loved it, but left the theater oblivious to the size and importance of its satire.
I’m not talking about the middle portion of Get Out — the party scene where our protagonist, Chris, suffers through an endless stream of racist microaggressions at his white girlfriend’s family estate.
“Black is in fashion!” one partygoer says. Another squeezes Chris’s arm, exclaiming, “Not bad, not bad!” before asking if black men truly have “better” manhood. Yet another asks Chris to demonstrate his golf swing while professing his love for Tiger Woods.
Clever and relatable as those scenes are, the genius of Get Out exists in the final half of the movie, when the secrets and purpose behind the Armitage’s mysterious family estate are revealed.
Let’s set aside, for now, the cathartic, empowering experience of seeing a black man triumph in a genre in which he is always (ALWAYS) disposed of first. What’s most important about Get Out, and what elevates it beyond any average horror movie, is the way in which the microaggressions of that party scene become the macroaggression of the secret behind the family estate — the way that this movie doesn’t stop being about racism once the every-day life stuff ends and the horror begins. The way it becomes even more about racism when its conflict amplifies, and how it demonstrates the ways in which low-key racism is only a ripple of a much larger, life-threatening issue.
If you’ve seen the movie, you know the Armitage family offers a brain transplant service that gives white people black men’s bodies while dooming the black man’s mind to a state of partial consciousness known as “The Sunken Place”. The white people in this town steal black gifts — athleticism and artistic talent, namely — and in the process, dispose of the black person who naturally possesses them. They leech off of what black people have to offer the world while killing black people, themselves.
So I encourage you, America, to hold this movie like a mirror to yourself now, because I don’t think there will ever be another that allows us to ponder cultural appropriation while having so much fun. Get Out is funny and scary without being campy or shallow. It’s a horror movie that doubles as a master class in what it means to live in a country that likes what you can do, what you have to offer, and simultaneously, systematically demonstrates that it doesn’t actually give a shit about you as a human being.
In front of its message, Get Out is popcorn entertainment. It grants its audience permission to enjoy it — to scream, laugh and rejoice with the characters as the story winds toward a satisfying conclusion. Its outrageous entertainment factor is precisely the reason it will be skipped over for awards.
At the preface, Get Out does what any good horror movie should — conjures real fears and tragedies to put a character in a place of desperation so that it can examine the character via his reaction to this desperation. What makes it subversive in the horror genre is that it recognizes a black person as a substantial human being — one with fears, personal traumas and talent, who deserves to survive in his body — while demonizing the real and large portion of white America that would rather own that body for itself.