What A Viewer is Supposed to Get Out of the Film
“I do not like the deer. I’m sick of it. They’re taking over. They’re like rats. They’re destroying the ecosystem. I see a dead deer on the side of the road, I think to myself that’s a start.” This statement from Jordan Peele’s record-smashing movie, Get Out, seems to be a simple opinion. However, one must understand that nothing said in this is merely a statement, but actually, everything has been calculated with meaning. Upon deeper observation, one can see that this movie is a symbolic showing for what is currently happening in the United States for minorities, specifically in black America. Chris Washington, the movie’s protagonist, is a young African-American male who seems to be simply visiting his current white girlfriend’s parents for the first time. The only thing Chris expects to do is capture pictures of the nature surrounding him in the forest of the Armitage family. When he reaches the home, Chris meets an interesting clan— a mother who is a mysterious yet notable psychiatrist who is Roses’ mother and an “eclectic” father who is a neurosurgeon, with a son in training. Two people who join this bunch are a petite maid who is as sensitive as a mouse and a distant gardener who can’t take his mind off running.
The focus of the trip soon turns to be an annual family gathering that Rose had apparently forgotten full of welcoming members, yet, the trip that Chris goes on becomes a symbol for the minority consistent struggle against systemic racism. This theme is developed throughout the film by way of the experimentation and brainwashing done to the African American within the film, the sunken place hindering them powerless, and by way of showing the current mindset of many “Woke” African Americans today.
Whenever one looks back at history, it seems as if those of African descent, traceable or not, are often handed the “short end of the stick.” From the slave trade to imperialism, this trend has continually grown and became worse through scientific development. A large portion of this movie is focused on taking the genes from a black person, as well as experimenting on the minds of this tormented race. This abuse links to systemic racism in that, viewers can see how being of a different race than white was made a biological separator, referring to things such as Social Darwinism, and gave reason for African American experimentation.
As a whole, the Armitage family represents this scientific dominance embraced by those who have held power over African Americans. The entire purpose of the weekend this the Armitage family was not to meet Rose’s current boyfriend, but to fulfill a jealousy within the family. Grandpa Armitage lost the qualifying round of the 1936 Olympics to a black male, Jesse Owens, and Dean Armitage says, “He almost got over it.” (Get Out, 19:55) This envy is what caused the research and interest in lobotomizing black people for their genes. Another aspect of this symbolism is the fact that members of the family are all interconnected in the medical field in some way, mainly focused on the brain. When thinking of purposed racism, this can be an allusion to the late 1700s through early 1800s when brain size and shape were believed to show racial dominance. This genealogical summarizing was one of the key factors that led to systemic racism in medicine that still occurs today in medicine. An example of this unfair domination can be seen in the Tuskegee Experiment of the nineties. For over 40 years black males in the Tuskegee community were unknowingly given syphilis with no cure by the U.S. Department of Public Health. These men were misled about the purpose of the study and never actually gave consent to participate in the “treatment” they received – just like Chris in the film. Chris believed he was being hypnotized just to be rid of his addiction to cigarettes, however, the true purpose of this experiment was to place Chris into the “sunken place”, so he would be under their control.
Adding to the explanation of the purpose of this films exposing of the systemic racism throughout history would be the use of the sunken place. When one feels that they are below others and only watching the world move around them this is what can be considered a sunken place. The sunken place is something that many African American have experienced while living in America, specifically living with a judicial system fighting against their success it seems. A growing problem in America is the war on drugs, to be specific— marijuana. THC consumption has been a growing epidemic within the black community since the last century. Millions have been unjustly jailed for years for carrying the most minuscule amounts of the drug, simply because it uses were looked down upon by the white race in power. Now that many people of the race have begun partaking in the use of marijuana it is slowly being legalized and made into a business. The black community, however, is still being jailed for having this substance and continuously held if they have been jailed before this legalization. This has caused a fall into the sunken place. Those imprisoned have no ability to resist the United States’ invincible judicial system and the people who have evaded arrest aren’t able to help their family in bonds. Here we can see this problematic hold portrayed in Get Out by the relationship with Logan/ Andre and Chris at the cookout in the movie. While both men are oppressed, Logan is the symbol for the trapped male who has no way to fight the system because they, the Armitage family, have a hold over him and when he tries to leave his sunken place they bring him back in. Chris represents the other side of the sunken place because he is only able to watch his fellow black male be held in the clutches of the system put in place for their failure.
The sunken place is also shown within inner-racial relationships throughout the film. After Chris’ best friend Rod understands the risk of his friend losing his life while visiting the Armitage family he immediately goes to the police for help. However, upon telling the story twice to police force members, all of which who were minorities, he received nothing but laughs. This shows the sunken place that people sometimes try to put people of even the same racial community as them. In this case, Rod is oppressed by those who are so used to oppression, that when someone decides to call out the system’s problems they are blind to the true problems. The detectives see Rod as the crazy TSA agent looking for attention, not as a young male caring for his friend because that is often a rare thing in today’s society. When Rod viewing the movie, Rod is one person who always frets Chris’ journey to visit the Armitage family, which one could consider as “woke.”
The song “Redbone,” by Childish Gambino was, and still is considered, a knockout musical sensation because of its simple lyrics and subtle message. This song warned to beware of those you surround yourself with because you never know who really is or isn’t on your side. This song is played in the movie at one key point in time when viewers first see Rose driving to pick up Chris. Upon deeper observation, one can see that this song isn’t just merely played because it was popular at the time, but it is foreshadowing that Rose may not be all for Chris.
Building upon the fact that Rose drives Chris’ life to his potential demise, we see this in more ways than one such as when they are initially driving to her parents’ house Rose hits a deer. While viewing the damage, the camera pans and one can see that the only side of the car that is impacted is Chris’ (13:25). This too foreshadows that the only one who could be damaged by these travels are Chris. Another striking image at the wreck is that the deer Rose hits is a one that has no horns, meaning it is a young deer. However, as we fast forward to the end of the movie, while Chris is fighting for his life he uses a deer head, with full horns to save himself. The thing that was supposed to kill him, and what his enemy most hated, was the thing that saved Chris. The change in the age of the deer from the beginning to the end of the film is a symbol of the way Chris is now “woke.” He has seen the plans of his enemy and is fighting the battle for his life. This connects to systemic racism in now, being “woke” is the only thing one wants to be politically and socially. Society is changing and people now are seeing and learning of systemized oppression that many people of color live under and as a whole people are rallying. There has been a larger presence of black people in things such as voting, which is how one can take their deer and fight for their civil life rights. Power is also being gained within the black society as more people are using their voice to warn others of the way racism has been embedded to seem natural within the United States. Authors such as Michelle Alexander and writers such as Jordan Peele are using massive outlets to reach the broad general public and show what can happen if the racism continues.
Get Out isn’t meant to be a horror film that entertains the masses, but actually a movie to warn the masses. It unmasks societies systemic racism using something seen as one of the weakest members of society, a white female, to fight one of the most feared persons in society, a young educated black male. One must remember though, that her family portrays key points in systemic racism, such as unjust experimentation, the shrunken place, and the way in which one must grow to understand the problems in society.
At the end of the film, there is a short moment of tension because these roles in society are potentially fulfilled when the red and blue lights flash in the distance. One immediately thinks that Chris will be taken to jail because of his compromising position with his potential assassin, because of the way the characters have been portrayed in everyday society. Thankfully, the crisis is averted when one sees that it is Rod arriving in the vehicle. This is potentially a way to quickly remind you to stay woke. As a viewer, someone can watch an entire movie exposing systemic racism in today’s society, yet can immediately forget these warnings when the scenes get too close to reality.