A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste: The Social Commentary of Get Out
Whether it's exploiting personal anxieties or the current fears and uncertainties of the public, horror is sometimes the only genre to bring up points that we would dare not bring up in any other situation.
Wednesday, May 24
Horror movies work best when the horror in question can serve as a metaphor for some aspect of society. These types of films are often the best way to address the concerns of the audience that consumes them. Whether it's exploiting personal anxieties or the current fears and uncertainties of the public, horror is sometimes the only genre to bring up points that we would dare not bring up in any other situation. Jordan Peele's directorial debut Get Out is just such a story.
The film follows a young man named Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) who is heading out of town for the weekend to meet his girlfriend Rose's family for the first time. This situation is already what plenty of people would call awkward, but it is doubly troubling for Chris for one simple reason: Chris is black and Rose is white, a fact that Rose hasn't told her family yet. Rose assures Chris that this won't be a problem for her family (even stating that her father "would've voted for Obama for a third term if he could"), but Chris still has his misgivings. His fears are confirmed when he actually meets Rose's family only to find himself in increasingly bizarre and frightening situations throughout the course of the weekend.
Without spoiling anything I'll just say that Rose's family is not what they seem and they have sinister intentions for Chris. Now, in a regular horror film, the family might just be depicted as typical bigots who resent Chris merely because he's black. But this film has much deeper concerns. It isn't that Rose's family is racist per se, it's that they're so non-racist that they actually come back around to being racist again. In other words, they're the dangerous inversion of racism: people who have so idolized and fetishized black people that they don't even treat them like human beings anymore. In a lot of ways they are more terrifying than the snarling bigot because they come at you with a smile. However, placing people on a pedestal still dehumanizes them and it is obvious that Peele detests this sentiment entirely. The film works as an interesting metaphor for a big problem with race relations today: people who try so hard to not be racist end up being the most condescendingly racist people in the room.
Beyond that however, the film also works wonderfully as a straight horror film. Peele is clearly a fan of the genre and makes great use of some old horror tropes. The film owes a tremendous debt to paranoid horror movies like the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, there's a hypnotism sequence that is straight out of David Lynch, and it even has a strange, twisted sense of humor that reminded me of suburban horror flicks like Brian Yuzna's Society. All in all, Get Out is a fun, creepy little film that leaves plenty of material for the mind to chew on long after it's over. – Forest Taylor
7:00 p.m. // Erie Art Museum, 20 E. 5th St. // erieartmuseum.org