Image from Vox.
Jordan Peele’s contemporary horror film, Get Out, offers a look into the internalized racism of the modern-day United States. When Chris, a Black man, meets his White girlfriend Rose’s parents, the initially subtle microaggressions and mild discomfort reveal an iteration of modern-day slavery and Black-body commodification, all made possible by the enticing apparent safety of White women professing social justice.
Rose is a key figure throughout the film, luring Chris and other Black people in, and actively enabling the continuation of her parents’ sickening practices. Stereotypically, women are caretakers and nurturing figures of goodness and innocence, expected to be loyal and compliant to their male counterparts, so when they break out of their traditional expectations and roles, they are deemed dangerous, i.e. femmes fatales.
Rose initially appears as a figure of compassion and liberalism, an example of modern Feminism and social justice advocates. She stands up to a police officer asking to see Chris’ I.D. without a legitimate reason, and she constantly apologizes for and angrily comments on her parents’ microaggressions. She appears to be the ultimate lover for a Black man, someone who understands oppression in the form of male hegemony but can use her White privilege to help her Black partner. This is exactly what makes her, a White woman, the ultimate femme fatale for a Black man. She eases Chris’ concerns and dismisses his worries, turning the narrative to her and their relationship, and uses her status as a seemingly innocent, well-meaning girlfriend to manipulate Chris into submission.
Feminism in post-modern times has come to be associated with consumption, the core of White Feminist privilege. Rose seduces her victims through a sexually liberated, liberal persona of tolerance and advocacy, enabling the consumption of Black bodies and lives and perpetuating colonial ideals of White domination. Chris is led to believe that because of women’s oppression by men, Rose can relate on some level to the feeling of subjugation, much like White Feminism tends to neglect the disadvantages of racial prejudice Black, Indigenous, and Women of Color face in a dangerous expression of “colorblindness.” The movement preaches inclusivity and liberation for women but fails to acknowledge the advantages of Whiteness and the privilege of White women over BIPOC men.
Also important is Missy’s role in the manipulation of Black victims. She transgresses her role as a caretaker and mother figure for Chris by using her status as a seemingly harmless, nurturing woman to tear down Chris’ walls and gain his trust long enough to “get inside his head.” Note that the subjugation of Black bodies starts through the subjugation of Black minds, visualized in the scene where Chris first sinks into the Sunken Place. Missy is placed literally and figuratively above Chris, whose autonomy and freedom are compromised by her absolute control over his body.
Get Out, whether intentionally or inadvertently, points out the dangers of White Feminism and its “colorblindness” in its perpetuation of White supremacist ideologies and ignorance of the Black experience. It also denotes White women as the ultimate femmes fatales in their identities as women in a state of oppression by men. They can use their status of “oppressed” and their apparent harmlessness to create a sense of trust from Black men, using their seductive or nurturing power to ensnare Black men and manipulate them into perpetuating the White hegemony.
Interestingly, the film does not have any redeemable female characters, and even supports a sexist hegemony of male supremacy. While Rose and Missy are explicitly villains, Georgina’s character is somewhere in-between. While her body is Black, her mind has been Whitened, replaced with a White woman’s mind, metaphorically assimilated to Whiteness. She is an unsettling figure, always looming in the background, never quite acting “normal,” and is one of Chris’ first clues as to the strangeness of the Armitage family.
Though technically Georgina is a victim, she is the only “Whitened” character who fails to break free of their hypnotic trance. Both Walter and Logan have brief moments of clarity where they warn or help Chris — Logan tells him to “get out,” and Walter issues the deathly shot that leads to Rose’s demise — but Georgina remains her hypnotized, Whitened self, issuing an implication of mental weakness or inferiority. In other words, she is a woman and thus is not “strong enough” to break free.
Another character, though minor, that perpetuates male superiority is the detective that Rod seeks out when Chris is trapped in the Armitages’ house. She, a Black woman, pretends to listen to Rod, a Black man, as he expresses his concern for his friend. Rod seems to believe that since the detective is Black, she can understand the oppressive fear Black men live in, but she does not. Not only does she dismiss his concerns, but she also invites other detectives to laugh in Rod’s face. This character is the embodiment of people, whether Black women, BIPOC, or White people, actively disregarding the Black male experience and concerns.
Women, in turn, are depicted as heartless, incapable of empathizing with the Black man, too focused on their separate fight for liberation to acknowledge the inherent privilege they carry. Additionally, Rod’s comic relief and funny delivery lead to an initial dismissal of his concerns by the viewer, pointing to the audience’s own internalized racism and disregard for the fears and concerns of the Black male experience. The opening scene gives the audience a look into the daily plight of Black men since we see a Black man, Andre/Logan, walking through a White suburb in fear. While the common trope is the White woman walking in the dark afraid of “the other,” here, the Black man’s constant fear of being villainized by White people, police officers, and women is showcased in a prime example of why Get Out is horror vérité, i.e. horror that reflects an uncomfortable truth of real life.
Jordan Peele’s Get Out forces the viewer to confront their inferential racism and notice its presence in liberal discourse. Through its depiction of microaggressions as the unsettling, uncomfortable racist manifestations they are in reality, the film uses horror to portray the ugly truth about the United States and its post-colonial society. Get Out’s portrayal of the White woman as a femme fatale denotes the danger of White Feminist discourse, which turns a blind eye to the racialized experience of women and men alike and neglects to acknowledge the White privilege from which Feminism was born. Problematically, the film does not offer a female character to relate to or sympathize with, covertly progressing male supremacy ideologies that paint women, White and Black, as distrustful and conniving manipulators compliant in the subjugation of Black men.
What are your thoughts on Get Out?