Get Out Takes Cultural Appropriation To The Extreme
Jordan Peele might seem like an unlikely candidate to tackle the subject of racial inequality head on, but in his new horror film Get Out (reviewed here), Peele proves that the social awareness and clever thinking needed to excel in the comedy world comes in handy when creating a horror feature that’s as racially conscious as this one.
Get Out tells the story of a young man named Chris (Sicario’s Daniel Kaluuya), who reluctantly agrees to meet the family of his girlfriend after learning that she hasn’t told her parents he’s black. Even though his girlfriend, Rose (Girls’ Allison Williams), assures him that her parents aren’t racist, Chris starts getting weird vibes the moment they pull their car into the driveway of her family’s massive countryside home. It turns out those weird vibes aren’t coming from nowhere (shocker) and that Rose’s family is involved in something much darker and more elaborate than even the savviest filmgoers will see coming—so if you haven’t seen the movie yet (a lot of people have), here’s where you should quit reading.
In several interviews, Peele has explained that the true villain of Get Out is the white, liberal elite—not the stereotypically bigoted and ignorant Southern white man or woman, but the seemingly socially conscious white folks who condemn the actions and beliefs of the openly racist Southerner but see no need to reexamine their own.
The subtly racist behaviour of the white liberal comes in the form of racial microaggressions and there are several examples of this in the film: the elderly white man who decides to bond with Chris by mentioning that he knows Tiger Woods, or Rose’s asshole younger brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) who antagonistically tells Chris that he could be a good fighter because of his build and genetic makeup.
But what’s more interesting to examine is Get Out’s implicit exploration of cultural appropriation. Viewers eventually discover that every member of Rose’s family—including Rose—is involved in a decades-long scheme. Rose lures black men to her parent’s house only for them to be hypnotized, taken hostage, and have their brains replaced with those of aging white men who want to exchange their bodies for figures that are stronger and more powerful.
At first, this just seemed like an appropriately creepy twist in an already unsettling movie, but after thinking about it more, I realized that this might be the most literal representation of cultural appropriation I’ve ever seen on screen.
Think about it: the antagonists of the film aren’t capturing and abusing black men because they dislike them or because they think black men are inferior—it’s because they think black men are actually superior, and they want something that they don’t or can’t have.
The real-world instances of this are endless: Kylie Jenner repeatedly wearing her hair in cornrows despite receiving public backlash and Iggy Azalea being accused of using “verbal blackface” are just a couple of examples.
Chris definitely knows that something weird is going on, but contrary to the harmful stereotype of the angry black man, remains eerily calm and cautious up until his suspicions are confirmed. The only one who immediately recognizes that Rose’s family is up to no good is Chris’ best friend Rod (stand-up comic Lil Rel Howery), whose claims that Rose and her parents are creating an army of hypnotized sex slaves initially seem laughable but end up being not that far from the truth. But Rod, like Chris, is a black man, emphasizing the idea that the dangers of microaggressions and cultural appropriation are difficult to recognize unless you’re part of the group that’s directly affected.
Get Out can definitely be enjoyed as a straight-ahead, cleverly plotted horror movie, but it becomes even more enjoyable once you start to understand how and why the film uses the genre’s conventions to address racial issues in a unique and poignant, yet completely entertaining way.
Catch Get Out in theatres now and check out the trailer below: