Get Out Explained: Symbols, Satire & Social Horror


Jordan Peele’s “Get Out”
is more than a horror movie The story of a black man’s visit
to his white girlfriend’s parents gone horribly wrong
is also a biting, absurdist satire that captures something in the zeitgeist For that reason “Get Out” is the spiritual descendant of two other more-than-horror classics 1968’s “Rosemary’s Baby” and especially 1975’s “Stepford Wives” both adapted from the writings of Ira Levin. I would describe this movie as a classic horror film in the vain of The Stepford Wives or Rosemary’s Baby But whereas those films used frightening analogies to dramatize women’s issues “Get Out” cleverly addresses today’s climate
concerning race This was a movie that reflects real fears of mine and real issues that I’ve dealt with before Let’s talk about some of the film’s key elements and how it draws from Stepford and Rosemary Watch out – there will be SPOILERS “Get Out” is loaded with symbols and imagery that remind us of the history
of slavery and the Old South Starting with the plantation-like Armitage Estate and some older-looking costumes The echoes visually remind us that our society’s past is ever interwoven into our present The first sign of something wrong occurs when the deer runs into the car The gentle deer is linked to our protagonist The accident is an omen of what’s to come The innocent creature’s sacrifice The omen is later fulfilled when after he’s tied up by Rosa’s family Chris sees the head of a deer
mounted to the wall the dead trophy that Rosa’s family would like to make of him as well come and sit with me please When Rose’s mother Missy hypnotizes Chris she uses a teacup as her weapon The dainty cup and stirrer are symbols of civility revealed to be hostile and aggressive Drinking tea strikes us as a refined, harmless activity but global conflicts and colonial dynamics have long been projected onto the trade and consumption of tea The Boston Tea Party helped launch
the American Revolutionary War The hypnosis gives Chris the feeling of falling The imagery suggests the family’s ulterior motive to push him down and suppress his will Sure, you won’t be gone I’m completely a sliver of you will still be in there somewhere limited consciousness You’ll live in a sunken place Within, the plot the sunken place is a visceral state of dimmed consciousness but it’s also evocative of pushing back
against forward progress Closing his eyes here symbolizes removing his consciousness and it makes us think of the historical withholding of education to disenfranchise black people I’m happy The family’s housekeeper Georgina is the image of a Stepford Wife vacant, inhuman and strained The Armitages are so good to us Then we meet the equally robotic Walter With these characters, Peele is explicitly
updating Stepford Wives Instead of robotic homemakers They’re robotic servants Instead of evoking dolls They evoke slaves Rose’s father Dean holds an auction with Chris’s photo which is disturbingly reminiscent of a slave auction The reveal that these white people are taking over black bodies stands in for white people using black people as slaves to use them for physical labor while retaining all power despite their own physical ailments after he’s briefed on how his body will be surgically taken over by the man who purchased him in the auction Chris looks at the cotton coming out of the chair It’s a visual reference to the Old South
primary slave labor – picking cotton Chris uses the cotton to plug his ears
and resist the hypnosis so the symbol of slavery is inverted to become his tool of escape Not unlike the deer antlers The movie also starts to introduce imagery concerning movie-going and audiences The surgery prep shows bright lights staring into camera like on a movie set You know what? Your eye, man I want those things you see through Hudson wants to take Chris’s eyes which symbolized through his taking pictures are a key part of his identity as an actively looking individual It’s significant, too,
that Hudson is an art dealer This is a person who sells his artistic tastes without really being able to see art He’ll now be making commercial profit off of appropriating Chris’s artistic insight The surgery will make Chris a backseat driver or passive audience Your existence will be as a passenger Peele is suggesting that consuming entertainment can be passive or hypnotic if we allow our minds to be controlled by whatever images we’re fed But the flash of the camera wakes us up like the hypnotized Logan whose real name is Andre and later Walter who’s long been taken over
by Rose’s grandfather Peele intends his movie to be like this flash not hypnotic entertainment that lulls us into submission but a jolt that wakes us up to reality While the plot eventually escalates into
a full-out race war “Get Out”‘s satire isn’t really targeted at overt or obvious racism in our society Many have interpreted the movie as a commentary on a certain kind of smug white liberal mindset Rose’s family appear at the start to be nice people who believe they’re forward-thinking By the way, I would have voted for Obama
for a third term if I could Best president in my lifetime hands down Yet they’re nervous tolerance is strained Their outlook can be oblivious and self-congratulatory and ultimately they’re uninterested in any deep understanding of inequality or any meaningful action All of us might have like little racist things in us and really that’s what the movie is kind of whether they’re conscious or unconscious and that’s what the movie really brings to light Early on we get a few dropped hints
of what’s to come in small, off comments it was up there with always perfect Aryan race bullshit black dude comes along proves him wrong from the entire world Dean mentions black mold down in the basement which will later take on a double meaning of a mold for black people Jeremy associated with his white signifier
the lacrosse stick brings his hate out into the open launching quickly into discussions of genetic makeup If you really push your body If you really train yeah and no pussyfooting around you’d be a fucking beast Later the racist obsession
with black people’s physical strength and equating them with animals
becomes even more explicit The movie also hints at the way that black culture can come in and out of trend and be co-opted
by white society When Chris asks “Why black people” People want to change some people want to be stronger, faster, cooler And through characters like the hypnotized Andre It’s also touching on the pressure on middle-to-upper-class black society to assimilate into white culture The literal plot of Rose’s family attempting
to sell Chris’s body symbolizes a more subtle reality A world in which white people are still happy
to benefit from their privilege And their liberal ideals are limited by their attachment to a status quo that makes them the dominant class Both Stepford and Rosemary can likewise be read figuratively as commentaries on how society traps women In real-life, suburban wives aren’t really
turned into robots and urban women aren’t impregnated by Satan But in Stepford the community pushes women to put their family’s needs first transforming them into perfectly servile homemakers And in Rosemary, a woman’s husband is also
willing to use her to get ahead in a hyper-competitive twisted society And Get Out beautifully updates Ira Levin’s tradition The movie follows from Black Lives Matter in the same way that Stepford Wives embodied the slogan Sisterhood is Powerful How long have you known that guy Like today, why? This is gonna sound weird but when you came at me it felt like a new one Get Out’s Chris Washington is in many ways an update to Stepford Wives’ protagonist
Joanna Eberhart Both are sympathetic, educated characters who are aware of the social issues at hand Doesn’t it ever bother you that the most important organization in Stepford is sexually archaic? Chris admits his discomfort about whether Rose’s parents will accept their interracial relationship Do they know I’m black? No. Should they? So our first impression is that both are savvy, informed, not seemingly naive Yet the absurdly sinister and corrupt situations
both eventually fall in to prove that neither’s liberal urban outlook is actually paranoid enough Both are city dwellers transplanted to the suburbs a place that makes them instinctually uncomfortable and they’re both photographers story-wise the camera symbolizes an original perspective, a free mind watching them look through the camera puts us in their point of view so we feel attacked ourselves Rosemary’s Baby’s protagonist does strike us as more naive and childlike but she follows the same journey too of discovering too late the horrifying betrayal around her Here like in Stepford or Rosemary the plot is masterminded by a white male
patriarch villain Coincidentally Get Out’s Roman Armitage even shares the first name of Rosemary’s Baby’s Roman Castevet A key difference though is that in those previous films the white women were victims Here they’re villains Fans of Rosemary and Stepord who spotted the similarities as they’re watching will likely anticipate one of the film’s major twist as we start to suspect that Rose is Chris’s betrayer She seems to have escaped her family’s issues The rose who stands out from the thorns But she simply understands very well how to convincingly play the progressive young liberal He wasn’t driving I didn’t ask who was driving I asked to see his ID Yeah, why? That doesn’t make any sense Here.
No, fuck that You don’t have to give him your ID if you haven’t done anything wrong Rose, like the husbands in the other two movies feels the most pernicious villainfor her cold duplicity This gets at how political dynamics really play out
on the intimate level In Stepford and Rosemary the betrayer crucially manages to stall the protagonists’ escape Rose does the same when Chris is first captured And at the end, even after he’s killed
the rest of her family She chases after him and continued to manipulate him In Stepford Wives Joanna believes she’s in a loving marriage with a man who respects her and it seems to us that she is but when her husband gets fed up with having to care for the children I played Monopoly with him I didn’t pass goal I didn’t collect I played backgammon I played Scrabble with the goddamn kids they’re in the kitchen now what do you want me to do And annoyed by Joanna’s interest in photography he decides he really wants an obedient housekeeper over an independent-minded wife The scary implication is that even well-intentioned individuals can’t resist the rewards of an unequal society that favors them Rose’s true allegiance is to her class And the privilege she’s happy to enjoy Even the eerie music reminds us of Stepford Drawing out our fear of society’s hidden monsters Horror is an inherently potent genre for dramatizing social issues of the day Scary movies can build our intangible fears into physical exaggerated monsters Comedy likewise can exercise our demons by talking about what’s taboo in society Horror and comedy are very similar In one you’re trying to get a laugh and the other you’re trying to get a scare Get Out doesn’t just draw from both genres but also effectively interweaves them Even its horror aspects have darkly comic absurdist inflections The far-fetched plot of a girl who attracts black men so her family can surgically turn them into robotic slaves takes a cue from Levin’s blend of sinister absurdity Stepford also used unbelievable methods of advanced surgery to heighten the satire The robotics and plastic surgery are flippantly unrealistic The over-the-top absurdity acts like a Trojan horse that sneaks in the incisive political critique In all three stories oppressing the other takes the form of invading and controlling their bodies In our society this control isn’t typically through kidnapping and surgery but via more subtle means Such as turning other bodies into objects of desire or contempt Much of Get Out’s explicit humor comes through Chris’s best friend Rod How can I get in trouble for patting down old lady? It’s standard procedure Terry just think of the elderly bitchin elderly she can’t hijack no motherfuckin plane He serves as the traditional comic relief but he’s also the movie’s heart as the only person who believes Chris Look what I’m about to tell you don’t sound crazy This scene in which the police laugh at his fears has a melancholy echo with the reality that black missing-person cases are statistically far more likely to go unsolved Even his funny references to the TSA build on a joking assumption that the police won’t care about helping Chris When Rose cries out for help The audience knows what’s about to come next if a white police officer steps out of a car Exactly what Rose is counting on Peele said he originally did intend that bleaker ending to remind people who voted for Obama that they weren’t living in a post-racial world But the director said that outrage over police shootings of black men convinced him that the movie needed to counter public anger and pain with an ending that “Gives us a hero Gives us an escape Gives us a positive feeling when we leave this movie When Rod comes to Chris’s rescue He serves as a comic deus ex machina I mean I told you not to go in the house Here the comedy and hope saved the story from the defeats which concludes Stepford or Rosemary Chris’s escape isn’t exactly a happy-ever-after though There’s still a threat implied Underneath our progress there is under the surface that lingering prejudice and antagonism After Get Out we might learn to be a little less naive a little more cautiously paranoid and open our eyes to how potently our history still informs our present

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