There are horror films, psychological thrillers, comedy movies and drama flicks. And then there is ‘Get Out’. Jordan Peele’s genre-bending film that left the audiences with a surprised state of mind was one of the most buzzed-about films of last year.
Drawing inspiration from films like ‘The Stepford Wives’, ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, ‘The Shining’ and ‘The Silence of the Lambs’, ‘Get Out’ exhibits the heavy influence of Stanley Kubrick on Jordan Peele. It is one of those films that require multiple viewings for you to fully comprehend the depth and the intent of its every scene and line. And the more you play it on loop, the clearer it becomes; the more you appreciate Peele’s genius. It turns your head towards the things that have been ignored by Hollywood (and a great part of the society) for a long time. It brings you face to face with reality and doesn’t shy away from bringing forth any details of the message that it wants to convey. And when it all comes together… well, damn!
STAY WOKE, SPOILERS AHEAD!
‘Get Out’, A Summary
There are three things we are told about Chris- he is a photographer, he is black, he has a white girlfriend named Rose Armitage. And he is readying himself to meet her posh, suburban parents. He is clearly at unease with this idea and asks Rose if she has told her parents about him being black. Rose tells him not to worry because her parents are Obama supporters! When they reach the Armitage’s estate-type family home Missy and Dean, Rose’s parents, appear as normal, freethinking people. But, Chris can feel something off about them. Then he meets their black servants with abnormal behavior. Next, it comes to Chris’ knowledge that a family get-together is being held at the house. And the events of that party change the whole world for Chris.
The Dying Deer
Things for Chris seem normal until their car hits a deer. On the surface, it serves as an omen of the bad time ahead for him. But later, it becomes a more prominent symbol in the film. The first thing that it does is remind him of his mother who had died in a hit-and-run case.
The next time the deer comes up is when Rose tells her parents about the incident. And this is the scene that hints at Dean’s true “liberalism”. While Missy shows a hint of sympathy, Dean goes on a rant about why it was a good thing. Rose and Chris hit a male deer, aka a buck. And ‘black buck’ was a common racial slur for black men who refused to submit to the white authority. So, in essence, Dean is actually revealing his actual feelings about the black community. This scene is also a setup for the irony that Chris kills Dean by using the antlers of the deer that was mounted on the basement wall.
And about that mounted deer. It is another point that acts as a connection with Chris. We know that Dean liked to hunt, and the taxidermized deer is a trophy he has mounted on the wall. In a similar fashion, Chris is another trophy that is going to be stuffed with some white person’s brain. The death of the deer is also an indication of the death of innocence. By the end, Chris has lost faith, he has been betrayed, and now he is going to be inhabited by someone else. All the goodwill and virtuousness that he had, in the beginning, is washed away by the end as he fights to survive, unhesitatingly killing people along the way.
Right from the first scene to about three-quarters of the film, we are led to believe that Rose is actually a genuine person. We can sense that there is something wrong with her parents, especially her mother who hypnotizes Chris. The brother, Jeremy, isn’t even trying to hide anything. He is a bad guy, confirmed. But, Rose. She seems like “a rose out of the thorns”. And perhaps, this faith is what makes her betrayal all the more horrifying. By the end, she makes Jeremy seem like a nice guy! And she is one of the prime reasons that you should go re-watch the film.
As the director, Jordan Peele has stated, for Rose’s every action, there is a hidden motive that the audience doesn’t pay heed to because they trust her. The most noticeable example of this is the cop situation Rose and Chris get into after they hit a deer with their car. The cop asks for Chris’ driver’s license, and while he is okay with it, Rose isn’t. She stands up for Chris and makes the cop back off. This was the scene where our trust in Rose was solidified and we began to like her. As Chris said, it was hot! But actually, it was an ice cold, calculative maneuver on her part.
Rose wasn’t standing up for Chris, she was avoiding a paper trail! She was watching out for herself, and the family. Because Chris was going to disappear a day later, she didn’t want to leave evidence for the police to come up to her house and investigate.
Another theory that satisfies this scene is that the cop might actually have been the good guy. Because a lot of black guys have been disappearing around the neighborhood, the cop might have wanted to keep track of the new black guy, in case he too goes missing. However, this theory was rejected on the grounds that the whole point of this scene was to create a ‘bad cop’ image. It is the sound of this scene that echoes in the last one. When Rose is lying on the road with Chris on top of her, after he fails to muster the courage to strangle her, we see a cop car pull up in front of them. Because we know that the cops won’t believe Chris, we hold our breath and bite our nails, anticipating Chris’ miserable fate.
The Milk and The Froot Loops
Rose was, perhaps, the most twisted Armitage of all. Her indifference to Chris’ fate, as he’s trapped in the basement while she drinks milk, eats Froot Loops (separately!) and surfs the Internet for her next target is an unsettling image. The reason behind her separating the milk from Froot Loops, as understood by the audience, was an indication towards the segregation of the colored people from the white! Also, milk has recently been taken up as a symbol by white supremacist groups. So, it was actually a good move to show her drinking milk, rather than juice or beer!
What Peele originally intended was to show Rose’s mental stunted-ness, her psychotic, immature side. He imagined the worst possible food and the worst possible way in which she would eat it. And this is what he came up with.
The Sunken Servants
The eerie behavior at the Armitage estate didn’t just stop at the white people. The servants, Walter and Georgina, successfully managed to frighten Chris before the Armitages began their thing. Dean explains Chris about the presence of the black servants in their home. He says that Walter and Georgina helped care for his parents, and when they died, “he couldn’t bear to let THEM go.” We believed that Dean was referring to the servants. In reality, it was his parents that he couldn’t let go of! Walter and Georgina were actually Grandpa and Grandma! Also, did you notice that Walter, Georgina and Logan/Andrei had their heads covered (by hats or hair) at all times?
When Chris goes out to have a smoke at night, he is startled as Walter comes running Bolt-style towards him and breaks path at the last moment! While this seemed a bit funny, and yes, eerie, this was actually a huge, billboard-ish sign of what was going to be done to Chris. When Dean is giving the house tour, he mentions that his father had ‘almost’ gotten over the defeat he faced against Jesse Owens in the selection for Olympics. And this is why Walter liked those late-night runs. Because it wasn’t really him, it was Grandpa Armitage!
The next scene that indicated Walter’s true personality was the arrival of the guests. Walter welcomes them and hugs them, like an old friend! Why are the guests being welcomed, so affectionately, by the gardener and not the head of the family? Unless he is the head of the family!
Another scene that hinted at this reveal was when Chris chatted with Walter for the first time. While Chris felt like Walter was a black man who didn’t act like one, he was more uncomfortable with Walter’s affectionate words for Rose. He thinks that it might be because he may have a thing for her, but actually, it was Grandpa’s love for his granddaughter.
Now, while Walter seemed more in control of himself(!), it was Georgina’s wavering behavior that kept ringing the alarms. From her entry scene (that calm, creepy waiting by the kitchen table), to watching her reflection in the mirror, in the middle of the night, Georgina had some really spooky moments. The ‘checking out herself in the mirror’ can be explained as her trying to conceal her scars (from the operation) with her hair. But what makes her more instrumental in saving Chris is the tussle in her mind. The photos from Rose’s collection box show that the experiment has been performed on about a dozen people. But it not the guarantee of a foolproof operation. This is where Georgina comes in. She is constantly fighting the Grandma in her head to regain the control of her body and warn Chris.
The first thing that points towards this is when she zones out and spills tea while serving it to Chris. And the sudden clinking of teacup by Missy brings her back. This ‘zoning out’ was, maybe, because of the real Georgina’s struggle for control. Another time we see her contradicting behavior is when she comes to apologize to Chris for unplugging his phone. First of all, she doesn’t understand the word ‘snitch’, and then she smiles with a tear running down her face, saying “no” on a loop. At the time, it was hard to understand her mixed emotions, but it became clear later when the true aim of the Armitages was revealed.
The Sunken Place
So, how exactly was all this happening? How was it possible for them to inhabit someone else’s body? Talking in terms of slavery, it is the colonization of a black person’s consciousness. As Jim Hudson, the blind guy who buys Chris(!), explains in the video to Chris, it takes three steps to acquire someone’s consciousness.
- Hypnosis: While the brain can be transplanted (partially) from one body to another, the true owner of the body can never really leave it. So, what to do with that extra personality lurking around? You send it to The Sunken Place! This is where Missy, the hypnotherapist, comes in. Her job is to take control of a person’s consciousness at the clink of a teaspoon (literally!). She hypnotizes Chris and represses his true consciousness to a place from where he can perceive things but can’t react to them. And this repression, this “driving in the backseat” is the Sunken Place.
- Explanation: The next thing is preparing the subject for what’s to come. The video was the second step for Chris, where Jim explained everything to him. Maybe the purpose of this step was to provide closure for the subject. By telling them everything from the beginning to the end, answering all their whats and whys, it was expected that the person would finally come to terms with their fate and surrender completely. However, we see that it doesn’t really hold. Closest example? Georgina. Any other reason behind this step is not yet in my understanding.
- The Operation: This is it. When the partial brain transplant from the white to the black takes place and everything is set into place. And once this happens there is a very slim chance of going back. Because first, you have to break through the sunken place to dominate the other personality, which doesn’t seem too likely. Especially if a simple teaspoon can slide you right back down. If we are generous, and someone manages to break that barrier, the partial brain is still there. Another operation to get the other half of the brain back seems a pretty far-fetched idea. So, technically, there is no getting out! If you’re stuck, you’re stuck.
The Camera Flash
If the process of gaining back control is so complicated, how did a camera flash do the trick? Well, because it’s in Jordan Peele’s universe, he chose this act to be the spell-breaker. I can’t tell exactly how it works, maybe brain’s reaction to something, synapse, neurons, etc. etc. What I can tell is why Peele chose it.
Mobile phones have become an integral device in bringing out the truth, like capturing pictures and making videos of common mishaps that otherwise go unnoticed. It is a bitter truth that the white society (not all) is biased towards the people of color. In America, the disappearance of or the crimes related to black people is given less attention. So, when their troubles don’t come to light, everyone believes that they are not in problems/danger.
The film artfully covers this scenario, specifically in two scenes. The first one is where Rod goes to the police for help and tells them everything about Chris’ situation. The cops laugh at him.
The second and more impactful scene comes at the end when we see a cop car pull up, and Chris raises his hands in surrender. And this is the most terrifying truth of all. Even after going through all that shit, and surviving by giving his all, Chris knows that if cops come, he will be the one behind the bars. The cops won’t believe him, an innocent black man. They will believe the bleeding white girl on the road, the psycho maniac. And this is how the film was supposed to end. But, the ending was changed because the creators of the film wanted it to end on a high note. And so, Chris got Rod as his dues ex machina, while Rose bled to death on the road (hopefully!)
A camera is a momentous tool for bringing out the reality to the world. Especially, in case of some recent events involving mistreatment of black people at the hands of the cops, and other incidents, were brought into the open because someone recorded it. There is the first significance of the camera flash.
The next takes more metaphorical meaning. The Sunken Place was conceived as an allegory for the feeling that the black community has in the society. The lead actor, Daniel Kaluuya described the Sunken Place as the representation of the times when the black people are forced to remain passive to racism. If your boss is passing a racist remark, you’ll take it in your stride, you can’t talk back or you’ll be fired. And that’s the kind of conditions most people find them in. This is their real life sunken place. A camera flash could be a symbol for the times when sometimes, light falls on important issues and they don’t have to hold back anymore; when they receive a window where they can freely express their thoughts and feelings about their problems.
The Liberal Racists
Now, people will say that there have been better movies made on slavery and racism. Why does ‘Get Out’ get all this hype? Here’s the thing. All the movies, on this issue, that I have ever watched, have always had two things, in particular- a white savior, a stereotypical white racist. That feels more of a balancing act! ‘Get Out’ throws both these things out of the window and turns the pointer towards the racism that hasn’t really ever been discussed before. It’s the chauvinists who believe and behave, as liberal, open-minded people. But actually, deep down, they are racists after all.
‘Get Out’ turns our attention towards the society that wears civility as an act. The Armitages and their white guests are not racist when they are talking or discussing it, but deep inside their minds, racism is rooted and that comes out one way or another. They consider black people to be athletically superior and better built than the whites, and that might not be such a bad thing. But, the act of considering them something that they can auction, buy, own represents the true color (!) of their mentality! They treat Chris like he is a trophy or something in an exhibition. For them, “black is in fashion”. They want to assimilate into the black culture, but in a totally different way. These people don’t actually have standing relationships/friendships with black people. They are taken by the physique of a black person, not his/her humanity.
Their intentions are more pronounced when a lady touches Chris’ biceps and asks Rose if “it’s better with a black man”. The Armitages want him to give up smoking not because it is harmful to him, but because they don’t want him to ruin/poison his body. They want a perfect specimen for their experiment. And even with all these activities going on in their basement, Dean says that “he would’ve voted for Obama for the third term if he could.” This line is an indication of how Obama’s presidency is used as an excuse to believe that America has moved beyond racial barriers.
Another thing that could’ve been easily missed between the white-black scenario is the presence of an Asian guy in the party. His presence was used to show that racism is ingrained in other ethnicities as well. While Asian community is also prone to racism, in one form or another, they try harder to integrate themselves with the whites by sharing their racial beliefs!
Some Subtle Symbolism and Exciting Easter Eggs
- In the party, everyone arrives in a BLACK car. That was intentional.
- In the beginning, Chris jokes that he doesn’t want Rose’s father to chase him across the lawn with a shotgun. In the end, Rose does exactly that!
- A lot of thought went into developing the wardrobe. In the party, everyone is wearing either black or has a touch of red in their dress, including Rose. While Chris is the only one wearing blue. This makes him stand out as a different person. The colors blue and red are used to point out the political divide between the Left and the Right. In the scene, where Rose and Chris are sitting together on the couch, after Logan’s meltdown, the combination of Chris’ blue jacket and Rose’s red top is a faint representation of the American flag.
- In the dinner conversation, when Jeremy tries to intimidate Chris, he fleetingly mentions that in jiu-jitsu you have to think 2-3 moves ahead. Later when Chris is trying to run out of the house, Jeremy shuts the door with his leg every single time, 3 times to be exact. Chris knows it’ll happen again, so he reaches for the door the 4th time, and when Jeremy lifts his leg to shut the door again, Chris puts a knife in his leg. Lesson Learnt!
- There are a few ‘The Shining’ Easter eggs in the film. Like, when Chris and Rose are driving to the suburbs, and Chris is talking to Rod on the phone, there is an announcement in the background about Flight 237. This was a nod to the Room No. 237, the most haunted room in ‘The Shining’. Another reference comes, when Andrei is walking nervously around the white neighborhood, and he says “it’s like a hedge maze out here”. The title card with the trees in the background is similar to the one that pops out at the beginning of ‘The Shining’.
- One of the most integral instruments used by Chris for escaping is the cotton that he picks from the armchair. This is a reference to the forced cotton picking by the slaves. So, the thing that was the symbol of slavery became the means to Chris’ freedom.
- While giving the house tour to Chris, Dean says that there is ‘black mold’ down in the basement. This is a subtle forecast of Chris’ fate. He is going to be the black mold to some white guy’s brain.
- The use of silver spoon by Rose’s mom is an indication of privilege, a representation of the kind of people who are born with ‘silver spoons’ in their mouths. Tea’s symbolism is towards the bloodshed (literally) and the mess made by the colonial powers (mainly British) just to acquire a stronghold on the tea business. The clinking of the teacup to send someone down to the Sunken Place is also well thought-out. The masters/owners used to summon their slaves by clinking their teacups!
- Jordan Peele has made a voice cameo in the film. In one scene, the TV is on as Rod surfs the Internet about Andrei. A voice says, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste”. That’s Peele. And the line also happens to be the slogan for the United Negro College Fund. And, the dying deer’s voice is Jordan Peele, as well.
- The soundtracks used in the film aren’t random, either. Their lyrics are warning Chris to “stay woke”. Just listen closely, you’ll know.
- In the opening scene, when Andrei is captured, we see the kidnapper wearing a knight’s helmet. That’s a nod to the secret cults like the Knights Templar, Ku Klux Klan, etc. And also, the hint at the ‘Coagula’ cult that we’re later made aware of.
- The omega is the last letter of Greek alphabet, an indication of the end. As Chris and Rose approach the steps to the house, we see two omega signs in the front. An indication towards the end that Chris will meet in that house.
Read More: The Shining, Explained