The Horrors of Black Life in America in Get Out
By Paige Mcguire
The film Get Out by Jordan Peele gives us a unique insight into the horrors of black mens life in America. His thriller, although it is somewhat dramatized shows how real and scary it is to be a man or woman of color. Throughout the film, we see multiple systemic racist issues and stereotypes. I plan on giving you an overview of the film and go into depth on a couple of scenes from the film and describe the issues they show relating to discrimination in film, as well as real life. Lastly, I will talk about Jordan Peele’s alternative ending as well as a short review of the film and how it changes the way we look at horror.
In Get Out we get a really interesting perspective into a black man named Chris’s life and his relationship with a white woman named Rose. In the beginning of the film, Chris and Rose are on their way to Rose’s parents’ house in the country for the weekend. They have a brief interruption when a deer runs out in front of them and clips their car. The police came to check out the scene and make sure everything was okay. However, they also asked Chris for his license and assumed he was suspicious due to the color of his skin. Fast forward, Chris and Rose make it to Rose’s parents’ estate. Their house is huge and comes with a pretty large amount of land.
Everyone in the family, including Chris, gather for a welcome lunch. This is when Chris begins to initially become uncomfortable. Chris is starting to realize all of the help Rose’s family has around the house is of color. Rose’s dad does his best to explain to Chris that it is not “like that” they had just been with the family helping with the grandparents before they both passed. The next day Rose’s family hosts a huge friends and family get-together. This is probably one of the most important scenes of the whole movie, which we will get into more later. In this portion of the film everyone is coming up to introduce themselves to Chris with that however there are many subtle and not so subtle hints of racism. Chris finally sees someone at the gathering who is of color and approaches him in hopes of finding a friend. This scene turns dark when Chris notices the man seems off and isn’t acting like how a man Brookelyn would usually act. Chris snaps a picture of the man which sends him into a frenzy. The man tried to attack Chris, and screamed at him to “get out”.
After everything had calmed down with the man Chris still seemed unhappy. He and Rose go on a walk to cool down and talk while the rest of the people gather for “bingo”, or so Chris thought. Chris is able to convince Rose to leave because he isn’t comfortable. The two head back to the house to pack as everyone leaves the gathering. As Chris and Rose attempt to leave the house, things become tense. Rose can’t find the keys. This scene is where Rose reveals her true colors of actually trying to trap Chris. The family knocks Chris out using hypnosis which is previously used in the film. The entire time Rose and her family were trapping black men and women so they could brainwash them and use their bodies to live longer and healthier lives via a special brain transplant. They thought of African-Americans as the most prime human inhabitants; they would be stronger, faster, and live longer in a black person’s body. Chris is able to fight against them and free himself. With the price of having to kill pretty much every person in his way. His friend from TSA shows up cause he knew something was fishy and was able to save him from the situation.
Now that you have gotten the basic overview of the film I want to investigate a couple of scenes from the film and explain their importance. Starting off with the first scene where Chris is getting introduced at the gathering (43 min). This scene was where I felt as the viewer you started to see major examples of systemic racism. It seemed like every person who met Chris had something to say that could be taken offensively. In this scene they mostly used medium close-ups, showing primarily the upper half of the body. The cuts were pretty back and forth cutting from one person’s point of view in the conversation to the others. I feel like this kind of editing really adds to the scene in the fact that you can see one another’s reactions. This is important because some racist discussions occur. A couple examples are a man who said that “Black is in fashion” and a woman asked Rose in front of Chris if the sex was better. These are stereotypes that have been supported by film and other media for years and years. In fact Chapter 4 of Controversial Cinema: The films that outraged America, it brings up the fact that for many years black men and women were portrayed as more violent as well as more sexual. Equality in film is still something we’re working on today in general, and we are getting there but I think it’s important to see how much film and media have influenced us and given us a specific way that we view others. If the media is telling us to view black men as more sexual and aggressive it creates a stereotype in real life.
The second scene that I felt was really worth mentioning was when Chris and Rose go off to talk while the family plays “bingo” (59 min). The reason I say “bingo” is because they say they’re playing bingo, however when the camera begins to zoom out and pan across everyone sitting and playing you find out kind of a scary truth. In the beginning of the scene it starts off with a very tight close-up on Rose’s father, and it starts to zoom out from his face showing his gestures. Well obviously when you play bingo there is talking sometimes even yelling but no, it was dead silent. During this time Chris and Rose are off on a walk having an uncomfortable conversation. Chris feels like something is wrong, he’s not comfortable and would like to leave. The cameramen cut back and forth between these two scenes. AS the cut back to the bingo scene each time more and more of the actual scene is revealed. They are panning outward to show what they are actually doing, which is bidding on who gets to have Chris. A blind art critic ends up winning the bid, which means he will be getting to have Chris’s body to brain transfer into. There was a sort of foreshadowing earlier in the film when this man said that Chris had a great eye, this man quite literally wanted Chris’s eyes.
Now, this bidding and purchasing of people is not a new subject or idea to any of us. We should all be aware of slavery and the purchasing of African-Americans in history. That’s why I feel like it was an extra shock to see this is in this film, set in 2017. The hopes would be that stuff like slavery would not be happening anymore but I feel like Jordan Peele had a specific idea when writing this film to inform others of the struggles of African-Americans of every day and to realize that. Yes, this may be a very eccentric way of explaining it but people want the power of black people, and this is still a problem even if it’s not something on the news every day.
In fact, Jordan Peele had an alternative ending to this film that I felt like I truly needed to include. So, in the actual ending of Get Out Chris escapes the house and Rose comes after him. Chris ends up sparing her because he did love her at one point and couldn’t bring himself to do it. He sees a police car roll up, he puts up his hands and is greeted by his friend from TSA. Chris makes it out a free man. Peele revealed later that he decided to have a happier ending because at the time when the film was filmed was when Obama was still in the presidency and he had seen hope for the country. With that being said 2017 was the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency. Situations in the film like police brutality or racism via a policeman have since been more popular. So I think it’s important to include the alternate ending because Peele felt it was more realistic. So, in the alternate ending Chris makes it out of the house and Rose is coming after him. Chris instead of sparing Rose chokes her to death. A car rolls up, Chris puts his hands up and is greeted by the police. The police arrest him, and take him to jail. Now, Chris had basically been abducted, almost murdered, hypnotized, and more. Yet he was still sent to jail, this was because the house went up in flames. There had been no evidence.
In the world we live in I truly believe along with Peele that this would have been the actual outcome of the situation. Unfortunately, our system is corrupt, and this is the type of outcome many black men and women face every day. We have seen situations like this many times this year with people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Stephon Clark, and many many more. Awful things happen to people of color every day, and I truly believe that that was Peele’s goal to get this across to people. On Rotten Tomatoes, critic Jake Wilson made a remark saying “This brilliantly provocative first feature from comic turned writer-director Jordan Peele proves that the best way to get satire to a mass audience is to call it horror.” Honestly, I really agree with this statement. People don’t want to hear about bad stuff going on in the world especially if it doesn’t apply to them or their race. However, people go to see a thriller to see bad stuff happen, to be on their toes. This method of getting people to sit down to watch a thriller and have it show real problems is entirely the smartest thing I have ever seen.
In conclusion, the film Get Out really makes you think about the life of African-Americans from a new perspective. As a white person, I will never know truly what it’s like or the pressures that arise from being a person of color in society. All I can do is inform myself, and fight for change to be made. I think Jordan Peele is changing the way we see horror. More often than not a horror film is made up of characters and situations that realistically would never happen. Get Out shows problems from real-life situations at an extreme level but it forces people to sit down and actually, truly understand something larger than themselves.
Get Out (2017). (2017). Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/get_out
Phillips, K. R. (2008). Chapter 4: Race and Ethnicity: Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. In Controversial cinema: The films that outraged America (pp. 86-126). Westport, CT: Praeger.