With the Oscars little more than a month away, now is the time to catch up on the nine movies that are up for the coveted Best Picture award. To kick off the countdown, I would like to take a look at comedian Jordan Peele’s directorial debut film released early last year, Get Out.
Jordan Peele is best known as one half of the comedy duo Key & Peele, whose brand of humour does not shy away from issues of race relations and ethnic stereotypes. Finding the logical connection between his comedic past and his foray into horror filmmaking isn’t as difficult when you consider the exploration of these social issues being at the centre of both.
In recent years mainstream movies have conditioned us to associate racism with slavery or intentionally ignorant discrimination. What sets Get Out apart from these films is its examination of a brand of racism that is so deeply ingrained in our culture that white liberals, who often view themselves as allies, are often its worst transgressors.
We are forced to confront our own subconscious prejudices, as the cinematography expertly positions us to see the world through the eyes of our young African-American protagonist, Chris. This in itself turns out to be a key plot point, with blind art dealer Jim attempting to steal Chris’ body out of envy for his sight.
The full effect of Peele’s decision to position us in such a way is demonstrated in full force by the end, when the police car arrives at the scene. In any other movie we would be relieved to see authority come and put an end to whatever criminal activity is going on, but this time these red and blue lights take on a very different meaning. They are no longer a symbol of safety – they now signify an institution that is notorious for its unjust shootings of young African-Americans.
At its core, Get Out is about giving agency back to the disenfranchised racial minorities, whose rights to self-determination have been slowly stripped away. There is a great irony here, because as someone who has come from a privileged background I realise that my interpretation of this movie isn’t exactly uncommon in the sea of white movie reviewers.
For white liberals, Get Out is a direct call to check their privilege; yet for the ethnic audiences who are able to more closely identify with Chris, it becomes a dark satire of a whitewashed world that they are all too familiar with.