The Oscar-nominated thriller handles hot-button issues in a surprisingly subtle way.
On the surface, Get Out has such a deceptively simple setup. It begins with black photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) who, at the urging of his white girlfriend Alison (Allison Williams), begrudgingly travels to the deep South to meet her parents. Once there, Chris notices odd behavior in the handful of other black people he encounters, but dismisses it as paranoia on his part due to the stressful situation.
However, things get progressively stranger after his girlfriend’s mother hypnotizes Chris against his will, ostensibly to cure his smoking habit. This is soon followed by the arrival of a large cadre of older rich white folk, all with an unnatural interest in meeting Chris and telling him how wonderful they think black people are. It’s only then that Chris is clutched by another black man, who urgently tells the confounded Chris he needs to get out, right now. Anyone who has ever seen a horror movie knows things aren’t going to go well after that.
Obviously, the movie dives headlong into issues surrounding race, but it handles them in a much subtler fashion than its low budget exploitation trappings would suggest. In a year when Black Lives Matter was in the headlines every other day, Get Out could have easily taken the easy route and incorporated scenes of police violence and racial profiling. But that’s not the story writer/director Jordan Peele wants to tell.
Rather than take potshots at easy targets, Get Out actually sets its sights on the soft bigotry minorities often encounter in supposedly friendly faces. In an interview with the New York Times, Peele explains, “The liberal elite who communicates that we’re not racist in any way is as much of the problem as anything else.” Peele wants to poke fun at the patronizing attitude of well-to-do Progressives, many of whom still inwardly view their supposed beneficiaries as inferiors.
(Warning: spoilers follow)
Peele accomplishes this in a clever way by making his antagonists transhumanists. Transhumanism, as you may know, is a movement that purportedly seeks to overcome the limitations of being human by using technology to enhance the mind and the body. The ultimate goal is to develop a method of freeing the mind from the trap of the human body altogether. Basically, it’s the old Gnostic claptrap of the spirit is good, the physical is evil; a direct contradiction of orthodox Christian thought.
This process of separating the mind from the body is exactly what the old white people gathered at Alison’s house have accomplished. The catch is, once freed, their minds have to go somewhere. So, in the name of helping the ‘less fortunate,’ these nice Progressives hypnotically shackle the minds of their black guests, and then place their own minds in the black bodies to control them. In this way, the rich whites gain a type of worldly immortality while the poor blacks get to come along for the ride and enjoy their new rich lifestyle, albeit in a very subservient role. “You should be grateful,” they tell Chris once he figures out what is going on.
What Get Out gets right is the reality that transhumanism and bigotry are related on a fundamental level. In effect, both seek to deny the particular determinations of being a complete human being, one by discounting the worth of the individual body, the other the dignity of the individual soul. Best to stick with a Christian philosophy which recognizes that God, in His wisdom, has given us both a mind and a body to see us through this life and into the next one. So, it’s probably a good idea to accept the challenges that come with having both rather than avoid them if we want to make the cut. There is, after all, a difference between immortality and eternal life, and if the events shown in Get Out are any indication, it’s definitely better to try for the latter.