Get Out was one of 2017’s highest grossing films and a favorite among critics and movie goers alike. It earned the second spot on Rotten Tomatoes' “Top 100 Movies” of that year, with a score of 98%. It was raved about by everyone I came across. So when I sat down to watch it for the first time, I expected to be completely and utterly blown away. Spoiler alert: I was not.
There’s quite a lot jam–packed into this 1 hour 44 minute film, including elements of several genres: horror, comedy, and sci–fi. Between the jump scares and adrenaline–inducing suspense, frequent comic relief, and thrilling plot twist, it’s easy to get lost in the entertainment value—and this severely diluted the social message for me. I resonated with a reviewer on Letterbox who wrote, “It seemed like [Director Jordan] Peele wanted to cram as much allegory, as much metaphor, as many awkward two sided comments as humanly possible in a little under two hours.” There was so much to react to, and the emotions canceled each other out. Somehow, the overwhelming nature of this movie led me to feel underwhelmed.
A few days later, I watched it again for “research purposes.” Really, I wanted to pinpoint and take notes on exactly what I didn’t like so I could properly debate with my friends. They all thought I was crazy for not liking it, but I was determined to sway them in my direction. Much to my chagrin, I was pretty impressed this time around. I picked up on countless details and messages that I had missed earlier due to the distraction of jokes and jumps fighting for my attention.
After the first watch, much of the plot felt very contrived, and I believed that there was a disconnect between the racial commentary and the whole sci–fi brain surgery thing. If those bidding on and undergoing the surgery wish to prolong their lives or gain some sort of physical advantage, why target Black people exclusively? Couldn’t it just be anyone with certain desirable traits?
What I failed to recognize, though, was that Get Out exposes a duality present in the topic of race. On the one hand—and this is much more obvious throughout the film—Peele demonstrates what racially–motivated anxiety feels like to a Black person: main character Chris is nervous about how his white girlfriend’s family will react toward the interracial relationship and his general presence as the only Black person. Chris feels uncomfortable from the get–go, and the weekend–long encounter gradually goes from manageably awkward to terrifyingly sinister.
The reason that the sci–fi aspect actually does have to do with race is subtly explained in a throwaway line from a party guest: “Black is in fashion,” he says while marveling at Chris. Visibly cringing, Chris excuses himself and soon sees another Black man, Logan. This encounter is so strange and disorienting that the previous comment is overshadowed. But this line functions to point out a less–obvious form of racism: non–Black people exploiting Black bodies, using Blackness as a “token” to forge diversity, and saying that it’s cool to be Black. Though it’s not nearly as antagonistic as other examples of racism, it’s still incredibly alienating. Peele makes those abstract ideas concrete by having white people bid on black bodies for themselves to inhabit, while the soul of the black person remains as a passenger.
As a white person, this second watch forced me to recognize how I have been, and still can be at fault of discrimination, even if it is not my intention. But whether this was purposeful or not, I actually think that the busyness of Get Out functions to cover up this more subtle form of racism—just as it is often covered up in the real world. Racism is so deeply–rooted in our country and others, meaning that much of it is not surface level. But just because it’s not obvious to the perpetrators doesn’t mean it’s not problematic. Peele really asked me to dig here, and I still feel like there’s more to learn from Get Out. Just because you watched it when it came out in 2017 doesn’t mean you’ve taken it all in. This movie is one that majorly benefits from a second watch, and it has so much to offer in terms of racial commentary. As a social satire, I think it’s a total masterpiece, and I’m truly glad I gave it a second chance.