Jordan Peele is the quiet superhero I’ve been waiting for. I say quiet because his movie “Get Out” sneaked up on me. Not that there wasn’t noise surrounding this film… there was… everyone was talking about it. It had a perfect positive review score on Rotten Tomatoes until one guy’s negative take ended the streak. What can I say… everyone’s a critic – including me.
To summarize, “Get Out” is about a young, black photographer named Chris who is dating a white girl named Rose, and the duo depart for the weekend to visit Rose’s family (the Armitages) at their sprawling, suburban estate. Chris has initial concerns about the trip because Rose never mentioned to her family that she was dating a black man; however, Rose assures Chris that her family is not racist, and he therefore should not have anything to worry about.
Upon arrival the family seems normal enough; they are progressive, nice, and even border on entertaining. But as the plot furthers and their racism becomes increasingly revealed, the movie transforms from a fish-out-of- water “meet the parents” story into a spine-chilling thriller involving blood, murder, and hypnotic enslavement.
Among the film’s numerous allusions to racism – the policeman’s unwarranted request for Chris’s ID; the family’s employment of only black help; Rose’s brother’s assessment of Chris’s inherent athletic abilities – one quotation that particularly piqued my interest was the ending line of the official trailer: “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste.”
This slogan, coined in 1972 by Arthur Fletcher, head of the United Negro College Fund, was important for two reasons: 1) it was created to promote the funding of scholarships for underprivileged black youth who would otherwise be unable to afford college and 2) it acknowledged that the potential of a mind does not hinge upon the race of its host, and that every mind should thereby be entitled to further cultivation.
What I find most interesting about Peele’s inclusion of this slogan (and its periodic repetition throughout the film and trailer) is that it perfectly echoes the commentary Peele makes about racism through this movie. Minds of black people are literally wasted as they are hypnotically enveloped within “The Sunken Place” – a darkness in which the mind is deprived of control over the body, and this imposed deprivation is largely representative of the systemic racism that plagues our society.
Although the capability of a mind is not dictated by race, the system has nonetheless created the illusion of white superiority by marginalizing black people and casting them into a void of shadows. And, while an occasional glimmer of reality (in this case, provided by the flash from Chris’s camera) may motivate black people to sometimes fight against it, the system ultimately triumphs in restoring its prejudiced order.
Speaking from my perspective – a bi-racial, brown-skinned teenager living in Los Angeles – I have been fortunate enough to not have personally experienced the same degree of marginalization as other members of the black community, or even within my own family. But this movie nonetheless still displays several facets of my experience. I attend a school of predominantly white students, and I can attribute many of my own feelings of being “other” to a feeling of being overshadowed by my white peers. I say many, and not all, because the alternative is a feeling of scrutinization that stems from being the only black kid in the room. Peele illustrates this aspect extremely well through the Armitages’ fixation on Chris. What I think therefore is so special about this film is that it weaves together these (and so many other) different dimensions of discrimination, and pretty much anyone of color can find some identification with Chris’s experience.
For those who still have not seen this movie, the purchase of that ticket would undoubtedly be money well-spent. If thought-provoking and intelligently constructed films intrigue you, watch “Get Out.” If films that tackle racism move you, watch “Get Out.” Even if you are merely into the horror genre, watch “Get Out.” From its amazing acting – Chris (Daniel Kaluyaa), Rose (Allison Williams), the brilliantly hilarious TSA agent Rod (Lil Rel Howery), etc. – to its perfect pacing, “Get Out” merits its commercial and critical success for its unique, alluring, and thoughtful portrayal of the underlying horrors that constitute being black in America.
Note: If my antistrophe in the last paragraph was not enough to persuade you (did I mention I’m a college-bound high school senior? Words like “antistrophe” live in my brain daily, so I can’t pass up a chance to use one in context), hopefully the trailer linked below will be: