Get Out: On White fear and remembering Trayvon Martin in a post-Obama world

When I saw the trailer for Get Out I knew that I had to make an effort to see this film when it was released, so I did just that Friday afternoon after my morning classes. I was a little anxious on my way to the movie theater and I wondered if it was as good as everyone claimed it would be. I needed this film to be great because Black folks don’t typically do horror films, Jordan Peele whose work you may be familiar as part of the comedy duo Key and Peele have bunch of skits they produced together, they are brilliantly funny but I was hesitant to watch a horror movie. So I hushed all voices and bought my ticket and snacks. Get Out is the directorial debut of Jordan Peele who also serves as the screenwriter. The major actors starring in this film: Daniel Kaluuya who portrays Chris Washington and, Allison Williams who portrays his white girlfriend Rose Armitage. As I sat in the theater waiting for previews to start I thought about when I first the trailer. The trailer was released last October and introduced us to an interracial couple preparing to embark on a weekend getaway ala Guess Who’s Coming to dinner. The 2-minute 32-second trailer convinced me it was the perfect film we need in a Post-Obama world crippling with White Fear and the prominence of Black Lives Matter.When I left the movie theater Friday afternoon after watching Jordan Peele’s Get Out I was astonished. I sat in my car for at least 20 minutes trying to process the thriller that lasted for 1 hour and 43 minutes.

As someone who consumes a lot of media and studies race and gender relations for my academic career I can attest to you that Get Out is one the most important films of the last 10 years. Honestly, I am not a horror fan but I grew up watching Wes Craven films and I grew up in the age of zombie breakout movies. So Get Out is refreshing in a genre the is seemingly cliché and stale. Get Out to me for all-too-familiar in the 2017 thriller, as being black in all white space is scary enough. The film focuses on Black Brooklynite Chris Washington and his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage, who is planning a weekend getaway to meet her parents in her affluent suburb. Chris’s girlfriend reveals that she has not told her parents that he is a Black man but Chris insists that is important to share his identity with her parents so they are not alarmed. Chris in so many ways represents our brothers or cousins and even some of our closest friends. He’s an avid photographer that’s trying to make a name for himself. He’s artistic and intellectual, however, his character is nothing short of realistic. Rose seems very familiar to me, she is a representation of a “good” white. She’s kind and assuming, distancing herself from those hard conversations about race. Chris convinces himself he’s overreacting and overlooks the naivety of his partner. It is not stated what she does for a living but we can assume that somehow she and Chris cross paths in Brooklyn or maybe met an artsy gathering.

Before their departure, Chris calls his best friend Rod to tell him his hesitance but also to be reassured. Rod, a TSA officer forewarns Chris about going into unfamiliar territory but assures Chris that he’s got his back. The two leave the city traveling to upstate New York, on the way they meet some close encounters: a deer and a police officer. The two eventually makes it to the Armitage household, where we meet Rose’s seemingly normal family. Rose’s father is a neurosurgeon and her mother is a psychologist. Rose has a brother that’s mentioned but does not appear in the film until later. Chris by chance meets two black people, whom he then learns are the in-stay groundskeeper and maid. Rose apologizes for having them staffed by her family, profusely apologizing saying they aren’t racist. Chris doesn’t question it any further as the two prepare for the weekend.

We needed a film Get Out to be released in the age of post-Obama is important to assert black folks’ humanity in all aspects here. In the age of Black Lives Matter, we have seen black deaths become publicized and shared through viral videos. We’ve sat in our classrooms, workplaces, and public spaces questioning whether we have the right to exist as human beings and not as target practice. In this age of BLM, I found myself more and more tired by the lack of indictments and overall injustice. The uprising, the sudden outrage, and hopelessness, and the circular conversations. I remember organizing a rally at my university post-Ferguson and looking up at the dormitory windows, seeing the white faces look down at me, seeing blinds pulling tightly closing themselves from an issue they don’t have to experience. That night like many others my friends and I pleaded for our voices to be heard. We are Black in America. Our ancestors stolen from our homelands, our lineage disrupted. We were too aware how visible we were that night as w e declared our humanity to be seen. However, that night was heckled by the police, yelled at by older white people who said we were rowdy kids, or the worst if *insert person* complied with the police they would have been living. In ‘Get Out’ there’s this overwhelming feeling that Chris is being watched at all times, his humanity questioned which is too familiar. This sentiment is expressed in a dialogue that he has with Rod before his departure, we know the repercussion of Black men going into the white neighborhood, Trayvon Martin. We knew the repercussion of black men engaging in a relationship with white women, Emmett Till. As a black child, you are taught that white people at most tolerate you but don’t upset them.

As a black mental health advocate and as a student I cannot recall the number of times I have experienced microaggressions at the hands of an unassuming white person. “Can I touch your hair?”, “ you’re not like the other Blacks…” and “ You’re the whitest black person I know”. These statements are often met with an off-putting a smile. Whilst the intention may not be harmful, the impact is one that is damaging. Existing in a black identity in a post-Obama world often causes you to second guess. I censor myself not out of choice but out of self-preservation and navigation. While doing this you trust yourself less and less. You are in a double bind, policing the discomfort you experience to appease white people around you. That was the main component in Get Out, white people’s comfortability is always considered even when things are not right. Like Chris many black millennials are subject to white people’s fascination; we’re either cool, strong, or fashionable, often being gazed as objects or being another. Seemingly it’s all cool until you express your discontent with microaggressions, then white people get defensive. “I can’t believe you think I’m racist”, “I have a Black friend!” or “I voted for Obama!”. I’ve heard those statements a number of times but what is it about white privilege that white people can’t confront? In my opinion that’s the real monster in Get Out.

There were several moments in the film where I clenched my chest, moments where Chris was met with some uncomfortable truths that every black child is taught. The pervasiveness of anti-blackness that grips at your feet, the trance-like state the black characters operated under as they live their lives in “harmony”, the trance state represented white approval and assimilation and how rigid the code switch Black people have to undergo to be seen as non-threatening.

Seen in the strange behavior of Leon a young black man in Rose’s neighborhood, the grounds keeper, the maid and Georgina. The invasion of space, the sense of entitlement that white people feel about being around black people.

The tango of benevolent racism, when you’re young and black is hard to grib, the reality is that racism has taken a new form from our grandparents. Where the boogeyman isn’t a burning cross in your front yard or the impending lynch mob. The modern day monster under the black millennials’ bed is the idea that white people love blackness when it performs for the white gaze and nothing else. There are many scenes where there’s no dialogue that amplifies this, where Chris is alone in this all white world, unsure whether or not he can confide in the only black people who refuse to acknowledge the circumstances at hand in the Armitage household. Chris is shrouded in the color blue which brings out the undertones of his dark skin. The color blue represents the isolation Chris feels, paralyzed by his fear and isolation. At moments the film becomes increasingly dark, but not as dark as other horror films in this genre. The film’s setting is impeccably clean and bright, even cozy at times. Sound wise the film relies on screeching stringed instruments, and often leveling the sounds to be lowered almost to a hush or even mute. The film is pretty consistent in production quality, relying on the psychological aspects as opposed to gore. I definitely enjoy looking at the film in that aspect. I definitely recommend this film, I’ve stated my personal reasons for why I enjoyed it but I know this is a film black millennials will crave.

In conclusion, Get Out is nothing short of amazing. It delivers a thriller, social commentary and satire all in one. I cannot overemphasize that this is a film that needed to be made, it touched me deeply at the core and I am happy that it’s doing well at the box office. It’s a surprisingly good horror film that relies on something other than cheap gimmicks to push the story forward. I felt that the film was well thought out, and the actors portrayed their roles well. It’s reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock films, it’s own entity. My general thoughts overall the antagonist is antiblack racism, which takes forms in a multitude of ways as portrayed by various characters I know this film is a dialogue starter, people reviewing is saying is anti-white which is expected. It tackles some uncomfortable truths that we often laugh off or shut out when it comes to race and assumptions about race. Get Out is familiar to me and so many of my peers who occupy white spaces. I know after listening to Peele on an interview this past Saturday his main inspiration was the Trayvon Martin case, and how that shifted a dialogue about race in this country. I applaud of Peele for creating a film that was necessary and addressing the fears often at the forefront of Black people.

Author: Brittney Maddox

Editor: Han Angus

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Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a med student tuned Executive Director of Off Colour!

You’ve probably seen her on Twitter and TikTok, both @MxKantEven, or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels.

From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.

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