When I first watched the trailer for comedian Jordan Peele’s Get Out, I knew that I had to see it, and I wasn’t wrong. It was as if Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was on some type of horrific steroid.
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams) have been dating five months, and it’s time for Chris to meet Rose’s parents. “Do they know I’m black?” Chris asks as they pack to go to Rose’s parent’s house on some wypipo lake in a wypipo town.
Rose laughs off Chris’ concerns, noting that her parents are fine, even though they “don’t know” about Chris’ melanin, and her dad would have voted for Barack Obama for a third term if he could have.
I’ve never seen a thriller like this one comment so boldly on race. Peele explores in a creepy and exciting way the everyday microaggressions of racism that people of color face.
At one point, Chris and Rose have a run-in with a police officer, and Rose’s white privilege is on full display as Chris attempts to cooperate to defuse any tension between them. You’re aware immediately that Chris knows that he and Rose have two different experiences of dealing with police, which is why she’s able to test her luck and challenge the officer.
It’s 2017, so interracial relationships aren’t shocking or illegal anymore, and Rose’s parents, the Armitages, are perfectly fine with their relationship, but there are moments when Rose’s dad (played by Bradley Whitford) says things like, “How long has this been going on—this thang?” and “my man.”
And the Armitages’ friends—who come over for a yearly party, which just so happens to be the same weekend Chris is in town—ask Chris if there are advantages or disadvantages to the black experience and tell him that being black is “in fashion.” And then there’s the ever-popular relatability tactic, where the wypipo ask Chris about playing golf and then reveal that they love Tiger Woods—you know, one of the most famous black golfers ever.
It may be exaggerated for entertainment purposes, but Peele reveals the routine racism that many of us have to push to the backs of our minds every day. It’s the same type of racism that has President Donald Trump believing that if you’re black, you know and can set up meetings with the Congressional Black Caucus because we’re all friends, right? Wrong. That’s the real horror we’re living in.
The duality of blackness is exposed, too. Chris is thrust into a town where there are few black people. And when he encounters the few who are there, he switches up his tone and handshake, saying, “What’s up?” instead of hello, when addressing a fellow black man. He’s not met with the same tone and inflection. When the other black men respond to Chris, they don’t code-switch. Chris even mentions on the phone to his best friend, Rod (played by Lil Rel Howery), that these black people have “missed the movement.”
Peele makes sure we knew that the other black people around Chris are just plain creepy. They wander about dutifully tending to the Armitages’ home with an almost catatonic demeanor. Their personalities are aggressive and docile at the same time.
The only other black person in the movie sticks out like a sore thumb: a young black man (played by Keith Stanfield of Atlanta) attached to the arm of a middle-aged white woman. He talks in a very proper way—many would call that “talking white,” which sounds a lot like my customer-service voice. Stanfield is first seen at the beginning of the movie, nervously stranded in a suburban utopia. My mind wandered to Trayvon Martin and how his killer passed judgment on him that he didn’t belong there. The scene sets the tone for Get Out’s unflinching reflection of many of the racial issues that plague our country.
At one point, Chris gets to meet Rose’s brother, Jeremy (played by Caleb Landry Jones), who approaches Chris using only machismo and aggression. He even mentions that if Chris trained his body, he’d be a beast. Jeremy’s assessment of Chris’ black body reminded me of Tamir Rice. When he was shot and killed at that park in Cleveland, Tamir was 12 years old, but to the person who called the cops and to the shooting officer himself, Tamir was a man, a beast, and not the child he actually was.
Each encounter that Chris has with someone from Rose’s hometown gives him and the viewer the creeps. He knows something isn’t right, and it’s not. What’s behind the seemingly pleasant visit to meet the parents is some next-level, super-terrifying version of slavery. Peele explores the concept of wanting to wear blackness as a costume and the audacity of that privilege and it makes you squirm in your seat.
Rod is the comedic relief, but also the very loud and opinionated representation of any black person watching any horror film. He’s the type to scream at the screen to tell the white girl not to open that door and to run. He’s skeptical about his buddy dating a white woman from day one and does not hesitate to express his opinion about the crazy things that wypipo are into. In the end, Rod’s (black-ass) skepticism is the hero.
The Root’s podcast, Unique Views, got a chance to talk to Lil Rel about the movie, and he said his character is a real dude. “My character in this movie is what your black family would tell you if you dated a white girl.” We asked him if he’d ever brought home a white girl, and he said no: “It just wasn’t my thing. I love black women. It’s about not being able to relate to each other.”
Black people will never be able to relate to white privilege, and it’s obscenely displayed with violence and complete entitlement in Get Out in a way that’s sure to make folks uncomfortable, but isn’t that a testament to true artistry?
Get Out opens Friday, Feb. 24. Watch the trailer: