If you’re an able-bodied, straight, white dude than Get Out is the closest you (and I) may get to experiencing woeful misrepresentation and underrepresentation in popular culture. And not because of how the movie depicts able-bodied, straight, white dudes.
Writer-director Jordan Peele’s debut film sets the board with a sort of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner scenario: Chris, a young black man played by Daniel Kaluuya, goes to a quaint, upper-class suburb with his girlfriend (Allison Williams) to meet her parents (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford). What follows is a thrilling, thorough and substantive examination of representation. It’s extremely affecting in its ability to not only analogize what it is to be marginalized on film, but to simulate it in such a way as to give even those who are consistently represented (oh, hello) some semblance of an idea of what it is like to see some irrational, funhouse mirror version of yourself projected on a giant screen.
It’s a genre of which an oft-referenced trope is the idea that the black guy dies first. While that adage has proven less than law (Complex ran a pretty interesting piece in which they sampled 50 films and found it to be true of 5, for whatever that’s worth), it’s hard to deny black people have an astronomically diminished chance of making it out of a movie alive, due in no small part to their characters making preposterous decisions no one in their right mind would ever make.
But those black characters in horror films are rarely in their right mind are they? Sure they’re black actors, but their lines, their actions, their decisions, are choreographed by writers and directors who are disproportionately white dudes.
Get Out left me with the notion that perhaps being a black guy, sitting in a dark theater and watching the only black character in a horror movie stubble to an early death you yourself have the sense to see coming a mile away, is in some ways akin to being trapped in a body you can no longer control. Even when you’re represented in the flesh, on the screen, behind the screen the strings are so often being pulled by someone with little to no insight into your own experiences.
Get Out isn’t one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen, but it is one of the smartest. You could watch it on mute and still be left with enough substance to tear apart and dissect for years to come. That this is Jordan Peele’s first film becomes more and more astounding with each passing minute.
Often, when writing about a movie, I’ll have to sit with it for some time before coming up with something I’d like to discuss about it. Sometimes I really have to stretch to have something say other than “I liked it” or “I hated it.” With Get Out I found myself having to pick from seemingly endless threads that kept sprouting (and continue to sprout) before I could make it to the end of any particular one.
Make no mistake, in a hundred different ways, Get Out is one for the books.