With much current buzz concerning Jordan Peele’s major summer blockbuster debut, Nope (2022), one can circle back to his first directorial debut of Get Out (2017). Peele exhibits his talents as a creative visionary with Get Out (2017) through landing an Oscar at the Academy Awards in 2018 for Best Original Screenplay. Not only that, but the film itself serves as an exceptional social commentary concerning the state of modern Americans’ perspective on race. Get Out is a psychological thriller and American horror film that follows Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), who is meeting his girlfriend Rose’s family (Allison Williams) for the first time. The tension when Chris meets Rose’s family is chalked up by Chris to be the family not knowing how to adjust to the interracial couple being together. However, Chris is soon fated to learn the disturbing truth behind the Armitages’ real intentions.
The opening of the film establishes the tone of the narrative seamlessly. An African American man is seen trying to navigate his way around a suburban neighborhood at night when he is kidnapped by an unknown person. The tune “Run Rabbit Run” plays eerily in the background. When put into context, the song represents how the kidnapper (white man) is the farmer who indulges in the hunt for pleasure. While the kidnappee (black man) is the rabbit who fights to survive against hunters and other dangers that nature may present. Consider the setting that the kidnapping takes place in as well––an American suburban neighborhood. Most Americans would attribute suburbia to a higher standard of living for middle to upper middle class families. Not only that, suburban neighborhoods are considered to be very safe. Peele himself was most likely aware of the irony of the situation that the opening of the film presented itself to be in. A kidnapping that takes place in seemingly safe suburbia.
One thematic pattern that is seen throughout Peele’s directorial filmography is his use of animals to represent characters and or to serve as foreshadowing for the plot. In Get Out the deer is used as a metaphor to parallel Chris and the traumatic death of his mother. Rose accidentally kills the deer with her car, representing how Chris’s mother was also murdered in a hit-and-run. A stag head is seen as a wall mantle display while Chris is being held captive. The stag is used to aid in his escape as he runs the head through the Armitage patriarch.
Other strokes of creative genius are seen in the subtle foreshadowing of the script that gradually clues the audience to the fact that the Armitage family is not entirely innocent. Another foreshadow can be observed through the cinematography as well. Instead of the usual close-up shots one is presented with when introducing new characters on screen, the audience first sees the Armitages through a long shot that emphasizes the grand estate Rose’s family lives in. Peele likely intended to parallel the Armitage woodland estate to plantations owned by slave owners––a façade of the family’s twisted intentions hidden in plain sight.
The message that Peele wants to convey to the audience is made inherently clear. The microaggressions and backhanded actions and remarks toward Chris woven into the script solidifies this. The line said by Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford), “I would’ve voted for Obama for a third term if I could.” says it all. Peele deliberately targets post-racial white liberalism, the idea that society has truly progressed and fully moved past racism because America elected a black president.
Furthermore, Get Out highlights current social issues such as the appropriation and fetishization of black culture. The film does this through the characterization of Walter (Marcus Henderson), Georgina (Betty Gabriel), and Logan (LaKeith Stanfield). Most notably is the scene where the groundskeeper Walter is seen running around the estate at night. As Roman Armitage has taken over Walter’s body, he uses Walter’s “stronger and faster” black body to try to beat Jesse Owens’s record. Owens was a black man who outran Roman during the 1936 Olympics––a feat that has since compelled him into taking such nefarious actions.
During the party that features white liberal party guests, negrophilia is put onto full display. Negrophilia is a white person’s fascination with black people and their culture to a degree that is objectifying. A white perspective determines how blackness is to be defined. The party guests’ remarks concerning Chris’s body is disconcerting as a kind of ethnic fetishism is exhibited. For example, when one of the guests, an older white woman, asked if Chris was “better in bed”. Fetishization of any kind is dehumanizing and refuses to acknowledge the persons being fetishized as a normal human. Instead, they’re used as a scapegoat to fulfill the fetishists own desires and fantasies.
The reveal that the true purpose of the party was to have Chris auctioned off in a twisted type of human trafficking scheme revealed much of the unusual behavior of the Armitages and the party guests themselves. The antagonists, white liberals, don’t seek to respect black people as human beings, but to add them to their collection of subjugated black individuals. The Order of the Coagula is a literal manifestation of the colonization of the black body.
Moreover, the blind man who plans to possess Chris’s body distinctly uses colorblind rhetoric. He is a reflection of colorblind ideology in the film, which is another detail of brilliance on Peele’s end. This kind of ideology was perpetuated by conservatives backed by Reagan in the 80s to invalidate and erase acknowledgement that race has an impact on how one is perceived in America. Racialization, which is perceiving a person specifically for their race, and its influence serves as a valid counterargument to colorblind beliefs and values.
The Sunken Place as explained by Jordan Peele in this tweet:
The Sunken Place means we’re marginalized. No matter how hard we scream, the system silences us.
— Jordan Peele (@JordanPeele) March 17, 2017
There are many layers to unpack upon watching Get Out (2017), so it is highly encouraged to watch it a second time if you have already watched it first. Jordan Peele has proved himself to be an outstandingly talented individual with his directorial debut Get Out, which I believe to be his magnum opus.