Horror movies may not always lend themselves well to research paper topics, unless the horror movie you’re considering is Get Out by writer-director Jordan Peele. A surprising success, Get Out had earned over $100 million in the box office as of March 14, at which point Peele became the first African-American writer-director to have a film cross that threshold. While many horror movies offer monsters and shock-a-minute thrills, Peele’s Get Out film has a more insidious darkness lurking beneath the surface: racism.
If you are considering research paper topics in your contemporary studies, current events or film courses, take a serious look at how Get Out questions the idea of a post-racial America.
The premise of Get Out
Chris is nervous about going to meet the family of his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams). When he asks her if she’s told them he’s black, she seems genuinely, naively perplexed that it would matter. After all, her parents would have voted Obama in for a third term. Chris is not reassured, but because they’ve been together for five months and he’s committed to their relationship, he agrees to go. Early on, Peele sets a tone for every day interactions of casual racism to feel even darker than they already are. When a police officer pulls over Rose, who is driving, but demands to see Chris’s driver’s license, is that everyday institutional racism? Or is something else going on? “Each uneasy encounter Chris has with a white person could be run-of-the-mill racism, or it could be something far more sinister. Articulating either concern makes Chris sound paranoid,” wrote Jessica Goldstein in her review, “White Lies Matter: ‘Get Out’ knows no one is as woke as they think they are,” for ThinkProgress, February 28, 2017.
At first, Rose’s family seems very welcoming—overly so, at times seeming to want to impress Chris. They have two live-in help, both black: a groundskeeper and a maid, both of whom display unnerving, zombie-like behavior. Again, however, Chris finds plausible reasons that there’s nothing more to fear here, staying with his girlfriend despite his best friend’s over-the-phone warnings that he should, as the title warns, get out.
When the visit coincides with a family gathering of more rich, white, self-proclaimed liberal guests, Chris suffers through comments about his physique, his sexual prowess and even his golf swing. And not long after, the movie shifts from creepy suspense to its full horror movie genre, in which Chris is held captive for a nefarious science experiment and must fight back to make it out alive. But even that choice may lead him to an unhappy ending.
Cultural context of racism
Peele, previously best known as half of the Comedy Central team Key and Peele, planned the film to be released during the Obama administration. It was meant to be a commentary on how racism continues to lurk beneath the surface, even as many liberal Americans celebrated the existence of a post-racial America. “The villain isn’t just racism, it’s institutional racism,” New York Times cultural critic and co-host of the Still Processing podcast Wesley Morris told Kai Ryssdal in a March 15, 2017, interview, “Let’s talk about the real monster in ‘Get Out,’” for Marketplace. Morris noted, “I know white people who’ve seen this movie and have been surprised by the way that racism functions in that it’s not the obvious way they’ve been told racism works.”
Get Out also comes after other very successful African American led films have made news: Moonlight was the best picture Oscar winner for 2016, and Hidden Figures took in nearly $163 million at the box office, beating out super-hero and action films that were its competitors. As a horror film, Get Out also questions a criticized convention of the genre: “It’s long been a lamentable joke that in horror films—never the most inclusive of genres—the black dude is always the first to go,” Jake Coyle explained in his review “In ‘Get Out,’ the Two-Faced Horrors of Racism,” published in the St. Louis Dispatch February 24, 2017. “In this way, ‘Get Out‘ is radical and refreshing in its perspective. The movie is entirely from Chris’s point of view; his fears are ours.”
For more on African Americans in motion pictures, visit Questia.
How effective do you find the social commentary in Get Out? Tell us in the comments.