“Get Out” plays with the horror of race relations

“Get Out” opens with a terror no black person wants to see: a car leisurely rolling up behind you on darkened street, in a predominantly white suburb. From the get-go, “Get Out” viewers know just what they’re in for. Being black in America? That’s a real American horror story.  

Earning a juicy 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, Jordan Peele’s foray into horror balances suspense, humor and social commentary in a nuanced way.

Meeting the parents is nerve-wracking. It’s even more so for Chris Washington, a young black man in an interracial relationship. He’s not entirely convinced that the family of his girlfriend, Rose Armitage, will be accepting. But it’s all good, Rose assures him. Her dad would have voted for Obama a third time if he had the chance!

The more menacing parts of “Get Out” are kept at bay by gentle, NYC hipster exposition. To the tune of Childish Gambino’s “Redbone,” we see Chris and Rose’s sprawling minimalist loft. The decor is straight out of a Pottery Barn catalogue. The sunlight streams in at Instagram-worthy angles. And the Armitages turn out not to be so scary after all.

Against an idyllic upstate New York backdrop, we meet Mr. Armitage is a little forward and Mrs. Armitage is a little quirky. Rose’s brother, Jeremy, is a coked up lax bro who crashes onto our screens in a more visibly displeasurable way. But what’s a family reunion without a little conflict, a little tension, a little dysfunction?

As Chris picks up breadcrumbs about the dirty, dark secrets of the Armitage estate, viewers get a lesson in race as a performed identity. Peele sows seeds of comedy and conflict when Chris comes in contact with Georgina, the black housekeeper and Walter, the black groundskeeper. They’re stilted, awkward, plastic.

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Jordan Peele commissioned visual artists to contribute to a gallery of Get Out fan art. This post’s feature illustration is by Jermaine Rogers.

One of the most painfully awkward and delightful moments comes when Georgina struggles to translate modern AAVE into 1950s-flavored English — “Snitch? Oh, you mean tattletale.” We also see a kiss of death when a brother named Logan, who seems to be under the same spell as Georgina and Walter, grabs Chris’ fist when the protagonist goes in for a fist bump. 

The inability of these black folks to code-switch lets Chris know that for sure something’s just not quite right about the whole situation.

Even more terrifying than the black automatons keeping house are the ugly microaggressions from the folks at the Armitages’ party: dehumanizing inquiries about whether sex is really better with black men and insinuations that being black is now advantage in a widely progressive America.

Of course, when things really hit the fan and we see the phrase “Get out of my Caucasian house!” taken to a new level.

I recommend this film for cinephiles who like their comedies with a pinch of satire and who are looking for a horror flick where the black character doesn’t die first.

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