Some horror films have been great in adding a spice of social commentary to the genre. The Stepford Wives was a poignant film about the feminist movement and its male backlash. District 9, which centers around the living conditions of Aliens living on earth really addressed the plight of living conditions for many blacks in South Africa. The latest in this line of cinematic social commentary is Get Out. It lifts the veil of “post-racial” America to reveal its underlying ugliness. The dialogue is sharp and pointed…culminating in a daring portrait of American society
The story centers around Chris and his girlfriend, Rose, who are going home to meet Rose’s parents for the first time. In any budding romance the trip would be a rite of passage; but, Get Out has an added dimension: Chris is black and Rose is white. While she thinks nothing of the trip but Chris is clearly worried about what her family’s reaction might be.
Upon meeting Chris, her father seems a bit too hip, immediately addressing Chris as “my man” and making sure to point out that he “loved Obama” and “would have voted for Obama for a third term.” The father’s continued efforts to appear “not racist” makes him seem foolish. The mother, a hypnotist, seems unaffected by race but is eager to get her hands on Chris in order to hypnotize him.
The family has two housekeepers, both black. This clearly makes Chris even more uncomfortable. Both of them seem quite out of place, They are extremely subdued in their expressions and attitudes, which seem completely out of place.
Chris’s growing concern throughout the weekend becomes more heightened when a slew of people descend the second day for the family’s annual party. For the most part, the party goers are all white, successful and the take quite a liking to Chris. He is prodded and poked by the guests about typical black stereotypes such as his prowess in bed and his enhanced physical prowess to the point of absurdity.
While the director could have taken the easier and more oft-taken Hollywood route of exposing the racism of rednecks, Christians and Conservatives, he decided to target the underlying bigotry of rich, white liberals. In doing so he has made a bold and original movie. The guests don’t consider themselves racists; but, their incessant comments about how much they like Tiger Woods, Jesse Owens and Barack Obama expose how they view the world along racial lines.
As all of these incidents begin to add up, Chris decides to leave the party. In some ways , Chris’s experience becomes a sampling of what many Black people experience in their daily lives. But the director isn’t interested in purely making a point, he’s out to make a horror film and he doesn’t disappoint. Chris, by his nature and disposition, calmly and glumly accepts the rampant racism around him before letting his anger take over. NO SPOILER here. But, the film’s combination of racism and control of others is at the heart of this horror movie.
Get Out mentions the presidency of Barack Obama repeatedly and so I want to address the director’s vision of it. Obama was elected, in some ways, as a symbolic gesture to show how far America had come…that we could elect a Black president in a post-racial society. The dialogue in the movie pokes fun at this idea through by the many comments people make about how they voted for Obama and, therefore, can’t be racist.
Some might chuckle and view the comments and message of Get Out as simplistic and far-fetched. In reality they are all too common. A few years ago when I accompanied a rich, white liberal from Boston to meet an Indian client, the head of the financial desk where we worked had to tell the salesman, “For God’s sake Billy don’t tell the client you can relate to him because you saw Slum Dog Millionaire.”
Here is the irony: thinking and voting for a candidate because of his color as a testimony to your lack of concern about it. If they (we) were truly color blind, Obama’s policies would have been the deciding factor, not his race. Here is where liberal America fell short while at the other end of the political spectrum even his detractors were afraid of being called racist if they opposed him on substantive matters.
We were so busy denying racism we made fools of ourselves committing it.
Get Out is a clever movie that speaks to all the subtle forms of racism to which we remain blind and that we dare not mention. In the end, the horror of this horror film is the real, unaddressed discomfort between races and the twisted lengths to which we go to prove it doesn’t exist.