Featured, Movies, Race & Politics

“Get Out” Takes Cultural Appropriation To The Cultural Harvest Level

It seems like every other day a new initiative or podcast or deep-dive interactive project is launched in an effort to shed some understanding on race in America. Well look no further, because Jordan Peele’s Get Out is a capital “A” accurate understanding of race in America and the not even slightly exaggerated psychosis it has bred — not least of all because it’s told through the only lens that frankly matters on the subject: a black one.

On its own, Get Out is blisteringly clever, but that Peele, who wrote and directed the film, chose to tell this particular story at this particular time as a horror movie is damn near genius. And I don’t even like horror movies. I find them to be either egregiously gory, super dumb, or irredeemably disturbing with ghosts and zombies and unimaginative plots. But even beyond that, horror movies as a genre have historically been predominantly white, killing off what few black characters are included, and that are, in any event, often cast as the bad guys.

What makes Get Out so genius is that the premise is an actual legitimate fear of violence and psychological warfare that exists for black people in a systemically racist nation, whereupon white people want to simultaneously demonize us and appropriate our talents and gifts and resilience. Get Out takes cultural appropriation to the cultural harvest level, and Peele pushes it to such an exacting pageantry of smug white people privilege that you can almost see him exorcising the white part of his biracial makeup (his mother is white and his father is black).

The timing of this film could not be more preternaturally on point. We’re coming off a year when black poet Claudia Rankine won a MacArthur “genius” grant and plans to study whiteness with the $625,000 monetary award that comes with it, when, from Kerry James Marshall to Barry Jenkins to Beyonce, all of the best art was made by black people, and we found out it was actually black women who put John Glenn into space. As one white character notes (and I paraphrase): “It’s cool to be black now!” Even as the white characters in Get Out continue to see us as reductive stereotypes (specifically black masculinity and sexuality), that we have surmounted and continue to surmount those stereotypes that makes us the objects of white people envy. Who can blame them?

The masterful touch is that Peele flips the script in such a way wherein white people want to be all-the-way-in black — skin color included. The Armitage family ethos: The power of our internalized privilege will best whatever racism we might be subject to as black people, because we will still be white in our minds.

The film starts with a young black man walking on the sidewalk of a deserted suburb at night — he’s lost and is talking on the phone with his girlfriend, lamenting that “they got me out here” trying to find some old thing, doesn’t matter what or who “they” are. We can pretty much deduce. Sure enough, next thing we know a slick sports car with tinted windows comes out of nowhere and slows up to a roll behind him. The beauty and takeaway of this scene [semi-spoiler alert] comes through at the moment this brother decides to turn around and walk in the other direction, and says: “Not today.” But yes, today, because even when we try to respectfully remove ourselves from white people’s line of vision and fire, we still get snatched up and messed with.

Cue the soundtrack. “Run, Rabbit, Run” plays under that scene — a song written in 1939 and performed by white, British comedy duo Flanagan and Allen: “On the farm, ev’ry Friday/On the farm, It’s rabbit pie day … Run, rabbit, run, rabbit, run, run, run/ Run, rabbit, run, rabbit, run, run, run/Bang, bang, bang, bang! goes the farmer’s gun”. It’s giddy, hum-drum vocals are haunting and sublime. The entire soundtrack is both cerebral and perfect. “Redbone” by Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover) plays through the opening credits and establishing shots, which includes gritty black and white photos of urban street life that we soon learn were taken by the main character, Chris.

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is a black millennial with a seriously dope apartment in some nameless city that lets us know he is selling the hell out of his photographs. His girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), is a white millennial … well, we don’t really know what she does, and if it’s mentioned, I don’t remember. Clearly, her line of work is peripheral. But they’ve reached the meet-the-parents mark in their relationship, so it’s time for Rose to take Chris upstate for a weekend visit with her family.

There is plausible chemistry between them, and to great effect, there’s a good bit of Marnie (from Girls) in Williams’ Rose. Kaluuya plays Chris with alluring focus, lowkey chill, and just the right amount of vulnerability and independence that could only come from deep loss.

As Chris packs a bag for the weekend, Rose lounges on the nearby couch, snuggling his dog Sid, her body lithe and obvious in the teeniest of denim dresses H&M or Madewell or J. Crew has ever made. Chris asks if her parents know that he is black — Rose has told him he is her first black boyfriend — to which she responds, sarcastically: “What would I tell them? ‘Mom and dad, I’m coming with my black boyfriend, a blackman.’” Rose goes hipster rogue to point out that her parents are totally cool and it would actually be racist for her to tell them her boyfriend is black. They laugh it off with a kiss, falling back onto the bed like the 21st-century lovebirds that they are — racism be damned.

Things get weird pretty quickly at the Armitage estate. Passed down through the Armitage family for generations, the estate is separated from the nearest town by an entire lake and is maintained by black help — who defy description. Everyone is touchy-feely friendly when Chris arrives with Rose, but something is off and he knows it. Thank heavens for Rod (LiRel Howery), Chris’s TSA working best friend, who intermittently chimes in over the phone with just the right amount of petty, skepticism, and arrant homie aplomb.

Bradley Whitford as Rose’s father Dean is both awkward and vile, and Catherine Keener as Rose’s mother Missy (Missy!) is diaphanous, literally hypnotic, as if she’s leading a perpetual seance at the center of the universe. Caleb Landry Jones plays Rose’s lacrosse stick-wielding, crazy-ass brother Jeremy straight out of A Clockwork Orange, and you cannot look away.

The tension is palpable, white-knuckle and on point. And the payoff, although fairly gory and in some ways predictable, is deeply gratifying. Most people who watched the Comedy Central series Key and Peele already knew that Peele is brilliant. But listen. This is Jordan Peele’s movie (his first) and Jordan Peele’s moment. Historically, we’ve usually been on the outside looking in when it comes to creating horror films, but we have centuries of material to draw from. Also, if Leonardo DiCaprio is the only breathy, anxious voice that’s stuck in your head calling out “Rose!”, things about to change.

Rebecca Carroll

Rebecca Carroll is Editor of Special Projects at WNYC New York Public Radio, and the creator, producer and host of two live conversation series -- How I Got Over: Reinventing Language Around Race, and Dear President: What You Need to Know About Race, which is being developed as a podcast. She is a Critic-at-Large for the Los Angeles Times, and a former Opinion Writer for The Guardian. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, New York magazine, Ebony and Harper's Bazaar, among others. She is the author of five narrative nonfiction books, including Uncle Tom or New Negro? and Sugar in the Raw.

  • TJ

    Honestly, the theme of the movie is “You hate us, ’cause you ain’t us.” You want this “genetic makeup,” coolness and je ne sais quoi soooooo bad.

    Going to see it again at a Magic Jonhson this weekend. I feel like I need that experience.

    Completely off topic, but was lathering Chris in Shea butter thematic? I think they did it on purpose. I’m not complaining, but I can see intention with the moisturization.

    • BrothasKeeper

      Slaveowners would strip the “chattle” and oil their bodies before they were placed on the auction block so that buyers could better examine the muscle definition and imperfections, if any.

      • vanessa197676

        I was reminded of all those roles Cicely Tyson played when younger, sweating in the fields. But your point makes more sense.

      • TJ

        Bruh. You hit it on the nail. I’m illuminated.

      • Lego

        The thematic callbacks to slavery were so profound and artfully subtle that I’m still piecing together stuff after two days.

        • Shannon Key

          The fact that he had to literally pick cotton to save his life….dI’d me in!

          • Lego

            Exactly, it goes so deep!

          • ThatJerseyGirl

            Picking cotton to save his life…
            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/974cb2f4b508d024eae8a5706fd17d19ba96b4e561c84d2ed9d83dfe7bf8de71.gif
            Yeah…definitely gotta see this movie again!

            • lynn1066

              The ancestral fabric.

          • RuDi Devino

            I’m still trying to figure out how if his wrists were strapped he got the cotton in his ear!

            • Deeds

              Yea, I was wondering that too. The only thing I can think of is he bent down in the chair and was able to go low enough so his hand could reach up and put the cotton in his ear.

              • RuDi Devino

                You know what? That does make sense now. Only his wrists and ankles were bound

        • BrothasKeeper

          I need to see it again. I know there were some other things I missed or thought about right after I left the theater, like Chris picking the cotton out of the chair he was bound to in order to block the sound of the teacup, a parallel to the life-and-death matter of labor.

          • Lego

            Think about the deer too. Parallel with his mom at the beginning and the “buck” getting its revenge at the end. So much

            • Mary Burrell

              When Rose tells her folks she hit a deer and the dad says “Good I hate them I wish we could get rid of all of them.” This to me is code language instead of deer insert black people.

          • kingpinenut

            *nods solemnly*

      • La Bandita

        You’re a deep man.

    • pls

      I knew from the previews it was gonna be on some body snatchers type deal, but I’m so glad Peele didn’t sugar coat anything for the white folks in the audience.

      Also, when he went upstairs and every one of them jokers got silent? baybeeey I was like “message!”. No matter how nice they are to your face they still watch and wait for you to do something. obsessed!

      • TJ

        I would love to know what white people are thinking about this, because I was definitely sitting next to the Golden Girls in the theater.

      • NotyoKneeGrow

        that reminded me of the Eddie Murphy as a white dude on the bus ride as they give everyone back their tokens when the one brother gets off…..cotdamn classic

    • Jennifer

      He was buttered on Black Mirror too. I just think it’s his excellent moisture regimen. That young man drinks his water. Mmmmm!

    • La Bandita

      Or You hate us, because you’re really, really, really mean and bad people. But that doesn’t rhyme and such.

  • Smith Jane

    Excellent film. Thinking about seeing it again to pick up all the innuendos that I may have missed the first time around. Whoever said watch it in a black theater first was correct lol. The hijinxs were hilarious!

    • pls

      Oh we were cheering at the end while all the white people in interracial couples looked uncomfortable af. I wonder what that car ride home was like. #nobuns

      • BrothasKeeper

        Might be a few break-ups after this film.

        • pls

          “So am I really the first black guy you’ve dated?”

          • BrothasKeeper

            And how do you love someone after 4 months? What have y’all been through? Jussayin.

            • Val

              I haven;t seen the film but falling in love with someone in 4 months is not unrealistic, Broham.

              • BrothasKeeper

                I know that, Vallerina. But doesn’t it make you wonder, though?

                • Val

                  With older folks, yes. But younger people routinely fall in love in very short periods of time.

                  • BrothasKeeper

                    When you were 26 last year, did you find yourself falling in love quickly??

                    • Kylroy

                      sharitaatx was pointing out that the protagonist has essentially no family. When someone is offering you a home when you have nowhere else to go, I can see falling hard and fast.

                    • Val

                      Lol Yes, Broham. :-)

                    • Mochasister

                      You’re only 26? Dang, I feel old.

            • I have done the meet the parents thing at the same stage. That isn’t unusual.

              • BrothasKeeper

                I see that. I’m talking about love, though. I fell in “love” with the first girl I kissed (I was 14). My feeble old brain can’t conceptualize falling in love after four months, one of those months being February.

            • Brother Mouzone

              We knew it after 2 months…sometimes you just know BK.

            • La Bandita

              I knew. I looked at him and said, ” You so crazy, I think I wanna have your babies…” And here we are – haha.

            • pls

              Oh, you’re one of those? How long does it take you to recognize sunshine?

              • BrothasKeeper

                I’m not “one of those”. You could say I’m a romantic cynic, if that makes sense.

                • Brother Mouzone

                  To be clear, the meeting parents stuff and actual wedding planning wasn’t that fast, that took a year. The “so, are we gonna get married or what?” conversation happened after 2 months.

            • Mochasister

              I agree. That’s still the getting to know you stage.

          • #facts LOL

      • Looking4Treble

        Died at #nobuns

      • LilMissSideEye

        Seeing those post movie convos is why dash cams were made.

  • Brooklyn_Bruin

    Nice piece

  • vanessa197676

    The movie even started out eerie with music reminiscent of a slave working song, sung in minor key, while the camera pans by trees in a forest. Totally gave me an Underground Railroad vibe, and made me uncomfortable from the first second. Excellent film that I may pay to see again.

  • Brina Payne

    I want to see this again with a black crowd….

    NYC: are there any BLACK theaters to see this at?

    • Jamaica Ave

      • Val

        Is there still a Magic Johnson theater in Harlem?

        • I don’t venture up there

          • Kim

            Omg it’s not that bad, not bad at all. They also have funnel cake.

            • It’s not that. I just live on the edge of queens so it’s a long trip unless someone picks me up by car.

        • Yes there is, and it stays packed.

        • La Bandita

          Yes. And if you’re feeling hood and about ‘that life’ go. But if you’re Bougie….

  • Junegirl627

    I love how one critic said in their synapsis (i’m paraphrasing) he spent so much time making sure the white people didn’t feel uncomfortable or endangered by his blackness in their all white space that he didn’t recognize the danger he was in as a black man entering their all white space until it was too late.

    • pls

      Yes!

      ******************************SPOILERS*******************************

      Now are we gonna talk about how even at the end he couldn’t choke the bish out? Or how he could accept his gf’s family being obviously weird about race but didn’t once suspect she could also be racist until he found all them pics in the closet? Or how he said Georgina must be feeling some kinda way about him being with becky cuz “that’s a thing”?

      • vanessa197676

        Or how this fool can’t leave his girlfriend behind after only dating for FIVE MONTHS! GTFOH

        • Junegirl627

          You know!!!!! i mean that’s her FAM!!! they ain’t gonna kill her. He needed to act like he was gonna take some more photos and bounce!!!!

        • Who meeting parents that early?

          • vanessa197676

            It almost makes me wonder if she deliberately chose Black men whose parents where out of the picture early, so she would be seen as their whole world like Chris did.

            • Deeds

              Would definitely make sense. It would make mom hypnotizing them easier. H#ll, she was looking at NCAA prospects, she knew how to pick em.

              • vanessa197676

                Considering the fact that not every loop hole was resolved, I also wonder if this was set up for a sequel. There could be a network of sites pumping out people. I hope Peele doesn’t go that route, though.

            • sharitaatx

              This was my question as well…did she pick black men that were “damaged” so that no one would come looking for them.

              • Kylroy

                Not even damaged so much as without family. Doesn’t matter what the guy’s mental state is, just that he doesn’t have folks inquiring too hard when he vanishes.

                • sharitaatx

                  I think it could be either he was vulnerable because of the trauma from his mom’s death added to not having any family. I think that he had some abandonment issues which made him more likely to fall for her fast.

                  • Plus she was able to snitch to her mom about what his trauma spots were so that Missy could trap him with it in her hypnosis.

                • kingpinenut

                  Or try to get them to distance themselves from their family.

              • “M”

                #Insight

              • La Bandita

                Don’t they always pick Black men that are damaged… I mean…

                • sharitaatx

                  Bol! Riiiiight!

            • “M”

              lawd

            • La Bandita

              Wooooo – they said that about Kayne. Like Kim would never had gotten her hooks into him if his mother was alive. His mom was a Uni professor and he was engaged to a Black girl. Then his mother died unexpectedly and he’s with a stripper. (I know she did a sl@t walk and such and should be a feminist, but…)

            • pls

              Kardashian style sorcery?

          • Junegirl627

            Yooo depending on how far away you live the mom is calling you directly and sending invitations to dinner within weeks. Like “I don’t know him and you want me to get to know you?”

      • ThatJerseyGirl

        I thought he stopped choking her because she started to look like she liked it. That’s what threw him off and made him stop.

        • Lex

          I thought I was the only one who noticed this.

          • ThatJerseyGirl

            I’m glad I’m not the only one. There are so many layers to all of this…I’m going to have to see it again because I know I missed stuff.

        • deitybox

          I thought he stopped because he saw that she started smirking (which was terrifying), and then we hear the police siren. She thinks she’s won.

        • pls

          I caught that but I was in the hood theater, I couldn’t even hear the sirens. ninjas was cheering too loud lol

      • Jennifer

        Thank you! I honestly wondered if Peele thought having Chris kill Sarah Jane was a bridge too far.

        For a minute, the ladies behind me were yelling, “Pick up a gun! don’t leave any fingerprints!” I guffawed.

      • Shay

        I found him not killing her representative of two things: 1) the fact that after all that has been done, and continues to be done, we haven’t turned into raging murderers and monsters (even if well within our rights), 2) it was poetic that she was now going to bleed to death on the side of the road helpless and alone just as his mother had.

        • Madam CJ_Skywalker

          Really? Imma push back a little on #2, cause remember the only reason he got out and saved Georgina was cause the memory of his mother dying on the side of the road messed with him.

        • Shay

          No I didn’t mean that was why he didn’t kill her, I’m referring to how poetic it was for me as a viewer that this is exactly how his mom died.

        • kingpinenut

          That’s how I read it too…

      • LilMissSideEye

        I thought he stopped b/c he heard the sirens and went hands up.

      • Liz

        SPOILER ALERT
        Yes!!! The “Rose, the keys?… The keys, Rose!” scene to be like, “Really N****a? She ain’t gonna come up with those keys man. Just run!”

        • MaiB

          You know I thought that was symbolic of how we are consistently begging fite wolks to see our humanity.

          • Liz

            You know what? You’re absolutely right. I’d also recently read a movie review where a Black writer said they’d fully expected Rose to come up with the keys and then when she didn’t, they were shocked. They’d said that it reminded them of so many situations where their yt friends betrayed them and how they never saw it coming. The fact that anyone could see that movie and expect Rose to give dude the keys is still mind-boggling to me, but the symbolism is totally there and I can definitely relate.

            • Ax

              I was shocked, too. It made me realize how I have been taught over and over again to both trust and victimize white women. I thought she had been hypnotized by her mother after bringing home every boyfriend.

              And then I realized she even suggested that they go for the walk to take Chris away from the auction… at the time I was thinking, “She is such a good girlfriend!” and not, “OMG she is in on everything.” Learning better.

              • Liz

                !!!!! She sure did take him for that walk to get him away from the auction. Totally missed that. My distrust was heavy handed so I didn’t even take the time to dissect her actions. I feel like this movie is teaching me a lot about myself, lol.

      • lynn1066

        He was complicated and not without faults. Which was part of the movie’s greatness IMO.

      • heyheyno

        True!

    • grownandsexy2

      I saw that synopsis. I just chuckled as I know a few real life situations like that.

    • I learned that lessin in HS that White people are going to be scared no matter what you do as a Black man. I’ve just learned to work with it, and move on. Spending emotional energy trying to calm their fears is a mug’s game.

      • Junegirl627

        exactly. white people are the only people i know who will beat you in the head with aintshitness and then say that you scared them when you become frustrated with their aintshitness.

        • Or…”why so aggressive?”

        • HiddenCybFigure

          Mediocrity on steriods! I struggle with their fear of us when they have been the most violent group in the history of civilization!

  • Mika

    I guess I need to go and see this.

    • Val

      Same.

    • You and me both. I’m tired of commenting on the aftermath, lol

  • pls

    “ROSE, the keys!!!” He put that base on it but it was too late.

    I loved every second of this movie!

    • Jennifer

      And, this is why I always bring me my own car!

      • “M”

        *And* your own keys.

      • heyheyno

        When visiting someone’s family out of town?

        • Jennifer

          In Trump’s America, yes!

  • Lara

    Is black people are so much better than white people, then why does he have a white girlfriend? In fact, why even bother having white people in the movie at all.

    • vanessa197676

      It’s the White characters that think Black people are better, not the Black people.

    • pls

      Because he isn’t racist -__________-

    • “…why even bother having white people in the movie at all…”

      The film wouldn’t work if we were just in it hating ourselves.
      #thatsYOURjobdumbazz

    • Shannon Key

      Rose girl you in here?

    • Mary Burrell

      You are such a lame.

  • Val

    Study Whiteness? I thought every Black person had a doctorate in Whiteness already, learned via osmosis and passed down as a birthright.

    • Brooklyn_Bruin

      Ben Carson seems to have gotten a D minus

      • Val

        I mean, he got a job. Lol

      • La Bandita

        I am so surprised his wife is Black. But she wears those duggar style religious dresses – so idk…

        • Brooklyn_Bruin

          He’s white girl bait? I’m surprised that Michelle was black. As was everyone else.

          The true key to their universe seems to be a black woman in your corner

          • La Bandita

            Yes! A Black man with a job? I have cut through beckys on a daily basis – jk!! (not really).

            • Brooklyn_Bruin

              *scans horizon*

              Welp

              • La Bandita

                Just remember you do all the cooking and cleaning. And you’re wrong about everything. every. thing. And your mission if you choose to accept – is to worship her.

                • Brooklyn_Bruin

                  *reads over list of ultimatums*

                  *books flight to the old country*

    • Jennifer
      • She seems to be smarter than I am. The section about the way White artists address Whiteness is brilliant.

        • Jennifer

          Claudia Rankine is not to be toyed with. I really respect her work.

        • Kylroy

          About the only White artists who do address Whiteness are skinhead bands and similar explicitly racist groups.

          • That’s telling though. The only artists who explore it are those who are decidedly outside of the mainstream. Very interesting.

            • Kylroy

              Agreed. And not just outside of the mainstream (heII, I think the mainstream only encompasses ~30% of pop culture at this point), but aggressively so and in a patently offensive way.

      • Val

        I think she’s going to find out that most of what she discovers through her studies are already known. But she’s the academic, so I’ll assume she has an angle I’m not considering.

    • Seriously though, the academic study is real and should be encouraged. The construction of Whiteness was part and parcel of White people wanting to maintain their connections to their European roots while not living there. A lot of White supremacist rhetoric is ultimately about a longing for their roots, but they demand that anyone who isn’t like them assimiliate…like they fear outsiders want to make them do. There’s a lot of work to be done.

      • Val

        Yeah, I get that. But when you;re Black in Merica you are forced to study Whiteness from day one. We’re forced to study it on both a micro and a macro level just to survive.

        So, considering that I don;t really have any desire to study it any more than I have to.

      • La Bandita

        I agree. And those who pretend not to study or ignore usually are sooo angry but at Black people and the opposite gender. 2 Blacks a boy and girl grew up in all wyte area they hate the other gender. And they are over accommodating to wyteness almost to like it is a psychosis. So too much wyte when too young to defend can be deferential. I worry for my baby bunny. She’s the only brown bunny. But I will beat a wyt bunny… jk!!

    • Brother Mouzone

      Every Black person 16 and over has AT LEAST an Associates degree in whiteology. By 30, most of us have either a Masters or a Doctorate, depending on how much exposure we have to dwights.

      • Val

        What’s interesting is that many Black folks who grow up in exclusively White environs tend to not know anything about them at all.

        • Brother Mouzone

          They have bad teachers (parents).

        • La Bandita

          They do know that don’t like Black. And they always hate the opposite Black gender – funny that. Remember the Black girl at xojane who wrote an article about not liking Black guys, growing up ALL wyte area and having a baby out of wedlock with a White guy. I was like soooo your parents worked so hard to get you into a good neighborhood and then you worked hard to get a scholarship and all you got was a light skin baby? If my baby bunny came home unwed by a wyte dude I would be so mad – I can’t even see straight.

          • Val

            Yeah, I remember that post. She was clueless.

            • La Bandita

              But was she? She hated Black men. And she was soo happy to have a light skin baby. She said, “He’s so wyte.” What was her lesson? Black is bad and wyte is good. Internalized racism. Her parents worked so hard only for her to hate herself? She got a scholarship to Uni as well. The perfect kid.

      • La Bandita

        I think I have a Doctorate. I think you are correct it depends on your association. Some Black and many wytes have no association with each other. 100% segregated by choice or circumstances from school to love to work and talking to either in their 30’s would be a very good movie.

      • Looking4Treble

        Especially if you work in the corporate world. I’m 50, work for an international oil and gas company and am presently at post-doctoral level.

    • kingpinenut

      We do…have to have the education just to survive…forget prosper

      we talkin survival

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