Jordan Peele’s movie, “Get Out,” explores blatant and subtle racism, opening the dialogue for current social issues. According to The Guardian, Peele’s directorial debut grossed $30 million in its first weekend alone.
The comedic thriller centers on a black man with a white girlfriend who is meeting his girlfriend’s parents and extended family at a gathering. Her family’s interactions reveal racist undertones as they poke and prod at his muscles and make inappropriate comments when referencing black culture.
In a podcast interview with NPR, Peele said that the party scene addresses forms of cultural appropriation through these actions.
“It’s all a form of the very true cliché of, ‘Can I touch your hair?’” Peele said. “This is about the African-American experience. It’s about the feelings of being an outsider, of being the other that we confront.”
According to NPR, the opening scene of the movie was meant to echo Trayvon Martin’s death. Martin was a 17-year-old unarmed boy shot by a police officer Feb. 26, 2012. The premiere of “Get Out” was on Feb. 24, almost exactly five years later.
“I wanted to represent the fact that what many people may not understand is the fear that a black man has walking in a white suburb at night is real,” Peele said. “And I wanted to put the audience in that position so they could see it and feel it.”
Peele’s movie allows people to gain perspective on modern racism in America in its less apparent forms. It highlights the way that people hide their racism in subtle assumptions or comments, and displays the way black culture is appropriated.
By giving us a glimpse into racism’s forms, it affirms that racism is still prevalent in America and shows the need for change in Americans.
“Its real appeal may be in its originality and the way it raises issues about race and fitting into society – that is, it makes you think about who and what you are,” Herbert Gooch, who has a doctorate in political science, said in an email interview.
“Get Out” challenges the way that we view racism in our society and redefines the stereotype of who a “racist” can be.
“The villains here aren’t southern rednecks or neo-Nazi skinheads, or the so-called ‘alt-right’,” Lanre Bakare said in his article for The Guardian. “They’re middle-class white liberals. The kind of people who shop at Trader Joe’s, donate to the ACLU and would have voted for Obama a third time if they could. Good people. Nice people. Your parents, probably.”
It forces the viewers to contemplate their own jokes, actions and the effect that it can have on other humans.
Parents, friends and the viewers themselves foster racism in a seemingly joking or harmless way. These “harmless” jokes perpetuate discrimination and stereotypes. They are a facet of the reckless way that Americans keep stereotypes about race alive and thriving.
Gooch said that we can further the conversation about social issues by “encourag[ing] others to talk about the movies they see. They should not be bubblegum for the eyes of the individuals but also invitations to feast collectively with others.”
“Get Out” is a great way to open up this channel of communication because it presents these issues in an accessible and entertaining way.
“Movies may be a form of entertainment, that doesn’t mean it can only serve to make us feel things – it can also exercise the mind,” Gooch said. “Ideally, it should do both: make us feel and think.”
Acknowledging racism in all its forms is the first step. Peele’s movie gives us a taste of it, but it’s up to everyone to pursue education on racial sensitivity.