‘Get Out’ reminds us only we can save ourselves
In Get Out, his feature directorial film, Jordan Peele takes us on an intense, don’t-close-your-eyes, emotional rollercoaster. It’s a necessary film requiring close attention to fully understand the complexity — intentional or not — situated throughout the film.
There are many underlying themes: the potential dangers/fetishizations of interracial dating between black men and white women (because: history); understanding that white women can almost cause another’s peril and still survive; and how “nice racism” and white liberalism/progressivism, particularly due to its covert, microaggressive nature, are never to be trusted.
As viewers, we also bore witness to the development of each main character — except Georgina, who’s most intriguing because we literally know nothing about her; the erasure of black women in Hollywood and white women’s obsession, to be sure. Two weeks later, many of us are still connecting the dots and discovering gems from a film that many did not expect to be nuanced and layered.
Peele’s Get Out is more than a thriller/comedy that premiered the final week of Black History Month. The film, in its entirety, has elements of white violence, a consumption of black bodies, and occasionally gives a nod to slavery and anti-blackness. But, for all of the beauty Get Out has to offer, hyper-focusing on this leaves room for missing out on arguably the most important part of the film: a black person saved Chris’ life, and that’s because we are who we need to survive.
Rob Williams, played by Lil’ Rel Howery, the T.S.A. agent who uses his detective skills he supposedly learned on the job, is the unsung hero of Get Out. Considering what we know about the discriminatory, racist treatment of Muslim, immigrant, indigenous, and black communities, T.S.A. should be appreciative of being showcased so favorably.
From the onset, Williams knew something was wrong, repeatedly asking Chris if he was sure going to the woods to spend time with Rose Armitage, Chris’ girlfriend, and her family was wise. But Chris, lost in the sauce, did what most of us do: ignore our gut, go against our better judgment, and eventually regret our poor decision-making.
It’s clear that Get Out rightfully underscores the distrust black people have of white women — and white people writ large — nevertheless, it is the undeniable belief of black people, which was only held by other black people, that was widespread.
Initially appearing as a concocted story, full of conspiracy theories that often turn out unbelievably accurate, Williams makes it clear that he does not trust Rose and believes her family is behind the disappearance of multiple black men — like “Logan,” a missing man from Brooklyn. He does not waver from this position, and we should note how critical this rigidity is for Chris’ survival.
Make no mistake, Williams wasn’t the only black person in the film to give Chris clues that things were amiss at the Armitage estate. Though experiencing brainwashing and having bodies physically controlled by white people — through a so-called coagula experiment (looking at you, Ben Carson) — we see a glimpse into the eyes of the virtually soulless black characters under the Armitages’ spell. As Get Out progresses, through sheer accident of Chris mistakenly leaving on his cellular phone’s flash, we see the real Logan, the person who he was before alteration, experience a nose-bleed then quickly approach/attack Chris screaming “get out!” as a warning sign.
Logan recognized Chris was black, quickly deduced why he was there, and issued an immediate warning, a rallying cry even. That’s because even with whiteness — in its innumerable faulty science and racist experimentations — who we are is still underneath, attempting to warn our own to not fall victim to preserving whiteness.
And some of us still fall for it.
To be clear, the obvious support of black characters doesn’t mean that anti-blackness and pro-whiteness wasn’t also present in Get Out. Even as black people know things can be amiss, we still want to believe that not everyone is out to get us, despite history indicating otherwise. This plays into anti-blackness and hinders the ability for us to save ourselves.
In Get Out, for example, we witnessed this when Detective Latoya, played by Erika Alexander, laughed at Williams’ idea of what happened to Chris. She even grabs two more detectives, both black, to laugh at Williams’ imagination. Perhaps Chris was not sold into the sex trade as Williams emphatically believed, but the idea of white people controlling black bodies was not far-fetched. After all, parts of Chris’ body were being sold to the highest bidder, as we saw with the slavery-reminiscent scene of the bingo auction block.
It’s in the end where we see the importance of Williams following through on his gut reaction to look out for his friend. Chris found himself in a situation where he could kill Rose; he did not, sadly. Suddenly, a police car and sirens appear as Rose, true to form, begins to play the role of her white womanhood and screams for help.
If you were in a majority-black audience like me, you likely heard a heavy groan at the officers’ arrival, knowing where police interactions and black people often lead. But to the audience (and Chris’) surprise, the person who was in the driver-seat was Williams, the same TSA agent who told him time-and-time again that something was incredibly wrong. He saved the day and Chris’ life anyway.
Williams and Get Out taught a critical concept: never underestimate white people’s ability and need to preserve whiteness; and never question black people’s determination to always come through in the clutch to ensure our own safety and security.
Whether intentional or not, Get Out can teach us all that black people are more than enough, especially in the face of false unity.
Preston Mitchum is a Washington, DC-based writer, activist, and policy nerd. He is a regular contributor with The Root and theGrio and has written for the Atlantic, Think Progress, OUT Magazine, Ebony.com, and Huffington Post. Follow him on Twitter here to see just how much he appreciates intersectionality.