Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Get Out Explained: Symbols, Satire & Social Horror

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Jordan Peele's "Get Out" is more than a horror movie

The story of a black man's visit to his white girlfriend's parents

gone horribly wrong is also a biting, absurdist satire

that captures something in the zeitgeist

For that reason

"Get Out" is the spiritual descendant

of two other more-than-horror classics

1968's "Rosemary's Baby"

and especially 1975's "Stepford Wives"

both adapted from the writings of Ira Levin.

I would describe this movie as a classic horror film

in the vain of The Stepford Wives or Rosemary's Baby

But whereas those films

used frightening analogies to dramatize women's issues

"Get Out" cleverly addresses today's climate concerning race

This was a movie that reflects real

fears of mine and real issues that

I've dealt with before

Let's talk about some of the film's key elements

and how it draws from Stepford and Rosemary

Watch out - there will be SPOILERS

"Get Out" is loaded with symbols and imagery

that remind us of the history of slavery and the Old South

Starting with the plantation-like Armitage Estate

and some older-looking costumes

The echoes visually remind us that our society's past

is ever interwoven into our present

The first sign of something wrong occurs

when the deer runs into the car

The gentle deer is linked to our protagonist

The accident is an omen of what's to come

The innocent creature's sacrifice

The omen is later fulfilled when

after he's tied up by Rosa's family

Chris sees the head of a deer mounted to the wall

the dead trophy that Rosa's family

would like to make of him as well

come and sit with me please

When Rose's mother Missy hypnotizes Chris

she uses a teacup as her weapon

The dainty cup and stirrer are symbols

of civility revealed to be hostile and aggressive

Drinking tea strikes us as a refined, harmless activity

but global conflicts and colonial dynamics

have long been projected onto the trade

and consumption of tea

The Boston Tea Party helped launch the American Revolutionary War

The hypnosis gives Chris the feeling of falling

The imagery suggests the family's ulterior motive

to push him down and suppress his will

Sure, you won't be gone

I'm completely a sliver of you

will still be in there somewhere

limited consciousness

You'll live in a sunken place

Within, the plot the sunken place

is a visceral state of dimmed consciousness

but it's also evocative of pushing back against forward progress

Closing his eyes here symbolizes

removing his consciousness and it makes us think

of the historical withholding of education

to disenfranchise black people

I'm happy

The family's housekeeper Georgina

is the image of a Stepford Wife

vacant, inhuman and strained

The Armitages are so good to us

Then we meet the equally robotic Walter

With these characters, Peele is explicitly updating Stepford Wives

Instead of robotic homemakers

They're robotic servants

Instead of evoking dolls

They evoke slaves

Rose's father Dean holds an auction with Chris's photo

which is disturbingly reminiscent of a slave auction

The reveal that these white people

are taking over black bodies stands in for

white people using black people as slaves

to use them for physical labor while retaining all power

despite their own physical ailments

after he's briefed on how his body

will be surgically taken over by the man

who purchased him in the auction

Chris looks at the cotton coming out of the chair

It's a visual reference to the Old South primary slave labor - picking cotton

Chris uses the cotton to plug his ears and resist the hypnosis

so the symbol of slavery is inverted

to become his tool of escape

Not unlike the deer antlers

The movie also starts to introduce imagery

concerning movie-going and audiences

The surgery prep shows bright lights staring into camera

like on a movie set

You know what?

Your eye, man

I want those things you see through

Hudson wants to take Chris's eyes

which symbolized through his taking pictures

are a key part of his identity

as an actively looking individual

It's significant, too, that Hudson is an art dealer

This is a person who sells his artistic tastes

without really being able to see art

He'll now be making commercial profit off

of appropriating Chris's artistic insight

The surgery will make Chris a backseat driver

or passive audience

Your existence will be as a passenger

Peele is suggesting that consuming entertainment

can be passive or hypnotic

if we allow our minds to be controlled

by whatever images we're fed

But the flash of the camera wakes us up

like the hypnotized Logan whose real name is Andre

and later Walter who's long been taken over by Rose's grandfather

Peele intends his movie to be like this flash

not hypnotic entertainment that lulls us

into submission but a jolt that wakes us up to reality

While the plot eventually escalates into a full-out race war

"Get Out"'s satire isn't really targeted

at overt or obvious racism in our society

Many have interpreted the movie as a commentary

on a certain kind of smug white liberal mindset

Rose's family appear at the start to be nice people

who believe they're forward-thinking

By the way, I would have voted for Obama for a third term if I could

Best president in my lifetime hands down

Yet they're nervous tolerance is strained

Their outlook can be oblivious and self-congratulatory

and ultimately they're uninterested in any deep understanding of inequality

or any meaningful action

All of us might have like little racist things

in us and really that's what the movie is

kind of whether they're conscious or

unconscious and that's what the movie

really brings to light

Early on we get a few dropped hints of what's to come

in small, off comments

it was up there with

always perfect Aryan race bullshit black

dude comes along proves him wrong from the entire world

Dean mentions black mold down in the basement

which will later take on a double meaning

of a mold for black people

Jeremy associated with his white signifier the lacrosse stick

brings his hate out into the open

launching quickly into discussions of genetic makeup

If you really push your body

If you really train yeah and no pussyfooting around

you'd be a fucking beast

Later the racist obsession with black people's physical strength

and equating them with animals becomes even more explicit

The movie also hints at the way that black culture

can come in and out of trend and be co-opted by white society

When Chris asks "Why black people"

People want to change

some people want to be stronger, faster, cooler

And through characters like the hypnotized Andre

It's also touching on the pressure on middle-to-upper-class black society

to assimilate into white culture

The literal plot of Rose's family attempting to sell Chris's body

symbolizes a more subtle reality

A world in which white people are still happy to benefit from their privilege

And their liberal ideals are limited by their attachment

to a status quo that makes them the dominant class

Both Stepford and Rosemary can likewise be read figuratively

as commentaries on how society traps women

In real-life, suburban wives aren't really turned into robots

and urban women aren't impregnated by Satan

But in Stepford the community pushes women to put their family's needs first

transforming them into perfectly servile homemakers

And in Rosemary, a woman's husband is also willing to use her

to get ahead in a hyper-competitive twisted society

And Get Out beautifully updates Ira Levin's tradition

The movie follows from Black Lives Matter

in the same way that Stepford Wives embodied the slogan

Sisterhood is Powerful

How long have you known that guy

Like today, why?

This is gonna sound weird but

when you came at me it felt like a new one

Get Out's Chris Washington is in many ways

an update to Stepford Wives' protagonist Joanna Eberhart

Both are sympathetic, educated characters who are aware

of the social issues at hand

Doesn't it ever bother you

that the most important organization in Stepford

is sexually archaic?

Chris admits his discomfort about whether Rose's parents

will accept their interracial relationship

Do they know I'm black?

No. Should they?

So our first impression is that both are savvy, informed, not seemingly naive

Yet the absurdly sinister and corrupt situations both eventually fall in to

prove that neither's liberal urban outlook

is actually paranoid enough

Both are city dwellers transplanted to the suburbs

a place that makes them instinctually uncomfortable

and they're both photographers

story-wise the camera symbolizes an original perspective, a free mind

watching them look through the camera

puts us in their point of view

so we feel attacked ourselves

Rosemary's Baby's protagonist does strike us

as more naive and childlike

but she follows the same journey too

of discovering too late the horrifying betrayal around her

Here like in Stepford or Rosemary

the plot is masterminded by a white male patriarch villain

Coincidentally Get Out's Roman Armitage even shares the first name

of Rosemary's Baby's Roman Castevet

A key difference though is that

in those previous films the white women were victims

Here they're villains

Fans of Rosemary and Stepord who spotted the similarities as they're watching

will likely anticipate one of the film's major twist

as we start to suspect that Rose is Chris's betrayer

She seems to have escaped her family's issues

The rose who stands out from the thorns

But she simply understands very well how to

convincingly play the progressive young liberal

He wasn't driving

I didn't ask who was driving

I asked to see his ID

Yeah, why? That doesn't make any sense

Here. No, fuck that

You don't have to give him your ID if you

haven't done anything wrong

Rose, like the husbands in the other two movies

feels the most pernicious villainfor her cold duplicity

This gets at how political dynamics really play out on the intimate level

In Stepford and Rosemary the betrayer crucially manages

to stall the protagonists' escape

Rose does the same when Chris is first captured

And at the end, even after he's killed the rest of her family

She chases after him and continued to manipulate him

In Stepford Wives Joanna believes

she's in a loving marriage with a man who respects her

and it seems to us that she is

but when her husband gets fed up with

having to care for the children

I played Monopoly with him I didn't pass goal I

didn't collect I played backgammon

I played Scrabble with the goddamn kids

they're in the kitchen now

what do you want me to do

And annoyed by Joanna's interest in photography

he decides he really wants an obedient housekeeper

over an independent-minded wife

The scary implication is that even well-intentioned individuals

can't resist the rewards of an unequal society that favors them

Rose's true allegiance is to her class

And the privilege she's happy to enjoy

Even the eerie music reminds us of Stepford

Drawing out our fear of society's hidden monsters

Horror is an inherently potent genre

for dramatizing social issues of the day

Scary movies can build our intangible fears

into physical exaggerated monsters

Comedy likewise can exercise our demons

by talking about what's taboo in society

Horror and comedy are very similar

In one you're trying to get a laugh

and the other you're trying to get a scare

Get Out doesn't just draw from both genres

but also effectively interweaves them

Even its horror aspects have darkly comic absurdist inflections

The far-fetched plot of a girl who attracts black men

so her family can surgically turn them into robotic slaves

takes a cue from Levin's blend of sinister absurdity

Stepford also used unbelievable methods of advanced surgery

to heighten the satire

The robotics and plastic surgery are flippantly unrealistic

The over-the-top absurdity acts like a Trojan horse

that sneaks in the incisive political critique

In all three stories oppressing the other

takes the form of invading and controlling their bodies

In our society this control isn't typically through kidnapping and surgery

but via more subtle means

Such as turning other bodies into objects of desire or contempt

Much of Get Out's explicit humor

comes through Chris's best friend Rod

How can I get in trouble for patting down old lady?

It's standard procedure

Terry just think of the elderly bitchin

elderly she can't hijack no motherfuckin plane

He serves as the traditional comic relief

but he's also the movie's heart

as the only person who believes Chris

Look what I'm about to tell you don't sound crazy

This scene in which the police laugh at his fears

has a melancholy echo with the reality

that black missing-person cases

are statistically far more likely to go unsolved

Even his funny references to the TSA

build on a joking assumption that the police

won't care about helping Chris

When Rose cries out for help

The audience knows what's about to come next

if a white police officer steps out of a car

Exactly what Rose is counting on

Peele said he originally did intend that bleaker ending

to remind people who voted for Obama

that they weren't living in a post-racial world

But the director said that outrage over police shootings of black men

convinced him that the movie needed to counter public anger and pain

with an ending that "Gives us a hero

Gives us an escape

Gives us a positive feeling when we leave this movie

When Rod comes to Chris's rescue

He serves as a comic deus ex machina

I mean I told you not to go in the house

Here the comedy and hope saved the story from the defeats

which concludes Stepford or Rosemary

Chris's escape isn't exactly a happy-ever-after though

There's still a threat implied

Underneath our progress there is under the surface

that lingering prejudice and antagonism

After Get Out we might learn to be a little less naive

a little more cautiously paranoid

and open our eyes to how potently our history

still informs our present

The Description of Get Out Explained: Symbols, Satire & Social Horror