Jordan Peele’s thriller film, Get Out, is number one in the box office and has earned over $30 million during its opening weekend. Audiences are curious to see Peele’s non-comedic perspective on racism completely outside of what we’re used to seeing in his skits from MADtv to his own show, Key & Peele. I must admit when I first saw Get Out’s trailer I wasn’t excited to see a horror film framed around a Black man’s love for an (undeserving) white woman but the more buzz I heard, the more interested I became forcing me to look up the production details. To find Jordan Peele as the sole director and writer for the film was a pleasant surprise. Now the film is a more than framed around a Black man, rather it is told from the perspective and narrative voice of a Black man and that is something I want to see. “It’s a great advantage to feel the confidence to change something on set and know that you’re not missing something the writer intended,” Peele states in an interview with IDMb.
As the director and writer of the film I trusted Peele to present me with a relatable alternative to horror movies that Americans aren’t use to seeing in a horror culture where the Black person is the first to die, the comic relief, the empty sacrificial character Peele offers us a powerful alternative in this scary movie. Get Out is narrated from the perspective of a Black man, Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington. This allows for the fullness of his person to shine through, a privilege the majority of Blacks portrayed in the media do not have. In this movie we see Chris’ life, friends, he owns a dog, we learn about his family history and his hobbies; we experience many different areas of his life and as a result become attached to his character. The fact that we become attached to this Black male character, that is most usually portrayed in the media as the least relatable due to their distant and negative portrayal, plays a valuable role in the film.
The movie begins with a look into the interracial relationship between Chris and his girlfriend, Rose Armitage played by Allison Williams. We see their love for each other but are quickly disturbed by Rose’s lack of awareness when it comes to introducing her boyfriend to her family without any ‘warning’ of his being a Black man, especially since she’s never dated a Black man before. As we go continue to watch the film our discomfort grows as we watch Chris squirm in his shoes as he’s forced to confront several incidents of ignorant and micro-aggresive comments while trying not to upset his girlfriend. Is there a way to peacefully navigate this arena? I’d think not, and the movie unfolds to prove my instincts true. The film navigates the boundaries of Chris’ discomfort between being surrounded by ignorant white people and being unable to relate to the few Blacks he sees, the feeling of isolation is strong*. The Black’s that he interacts with Georgina, played by Betty Gabriel, and Walter, played by Marcus Henderson, are odd in their inability to recognize slang words and social cues. Peele mentions in the interview, “The movie reflects real fears of mine and issues I’ve dealt with before.” The isolation in the home adds an element of horror that Blacks are all to familiar with in Western culture. For example, in corporate in America where Blackness is regulated to dismissal as courts rule that traditional Black styles like locs are legal to discriminate in the workplace.
The Armitage’s host an annual get together that Chris is forced to attend with his girlfriend. The discomfort that arises from the ignorance of the Armitage family’s wealthy White house guests is so scary that it’s funny. I squirmed in my seat as guests seem to interview Chris, asking personal questions and touching him without permission. The interactions remind me of when people go to touch my hair without permission or ask me, “Is that a weave?” without even knowing my first name. Peele threaded actual horrors into this film, showing behaviors that would obviously be inappropriate to any person of color while Whites sit in their chair and wonder, What was wrong. “I think horror and comedy are very similar” Peele explained in the interview, in one you’re trying to get a laugh and in the other you’re trying to get a scare. We’re familiar with Peele’s experience with provoking laughter, but can we trust him to scare us with the same skill set? To answer this I’d like to refer to the uncomfortable topics that Key & Peele are able to seamlessly manipulate into laughter, like an abusive breakup or Nazi Germany, Peele takes liberal racism to another level.
Peele ends the interview, “I hope that they have a discussion about race or horror films that they haven’t had before.” There was a packed theatre of a diverse audience when my father and I saw the film in the Seattle suburbs. I’m sure the seats were filled with interracial relationships that left in either heartbreak or enlightenment. Get Out is a must see and definitely worth supporting in theaters. I saw the movie twice this past week and was not disappointed. I hope we won’t try to find reason to excuse ourselves from supporting this movie, like we’ve seen in other cases with Black directed films. I can honestly say that this is the best horror movie I’ve ever seen.