'Peele offers a vital counter-narrative to the ‘angry black man’ stereotype so often co-opted by the media'BlumHouse

You watch as a young African-American man walks down a suburban street at night. You’re tense as a car crawls alongside and someone jumps the man. A manifest aspect of today’s screen culture is that the scene just described would not seem out of place on our news feeds. The sadness of this fact is overwhelming, but the power of anyone with a smartphone being able to film and expose racist attacks is undeniable. Yet the scene just described is a work of fiction: it is the opening of Get Out. First-time director Jordan Peele is not simply provocative in his choices. He utilises a feature film to cause us to question further, to be newly horrified by, commonplace racism and the violence routinely done to black bodies.

“Peele’s direction and script have created one of the most intelligent, poignant films of recent years”

Anyone familiar with Key & Peele will know that Peele is more than capable of composing perceptive, razor-sharp comedy. Get Out maintains this discerning nature and frequent laughs but gives the term ‘razor-sharp’ a whole new meaning. The opening premise is of a black man preparing to meet his white girlfriend’s parents for the first time. Spoiler: his girlfriend’s family are not good people. Using this, Peele tells a story so socially relevant and multi-layered that to label Get Out simply a schlock-horror would be reductive. On a surface level, Get Out does utilise horror tropes very well. The masked suburban attacker, an unfamiliar, wooded environment, a gruesome denouement – there are echoes of Craven and Carpenter aplenty.

But the true horror of Get Out, rather than the formulaic one,  lies in Peele’s social observations and astute use of metaphor. He has gone onto speak of how the ‘sunken place’ of hypnosis represents marginalised experiences where ‘no matter how hard we scream, the system silences us’. This implicitness corresponds with the implicit racism present throughout the film’s first two acts. Chris, played excellently by Daniel Kaluuya, has to listen to professions of love for Obama, knowledge of Tiger Woods, curiosity about black men’s sexual virility.

“But the true horror of Get Out, rather than the formulaic one, lies in Peele’s social observations and astute use of metaphor”

Peele’s final act makes explicit the racist violence that lies within that smiling liberal gaze and, furthermore, the anger that it can inspire. Importantly, Chris does not descend into killing for the sake of killing: unlike his captors, Chris’s violence is committed in the name of survival. Through this characterisation, Peele offers a vital counter-narrative to the ‘angry black man’ stereotype so often co-opted by the media. From beginning to end, then, the social currents running through Get Out are palpable and help to ensure that it will remain powerful for years to come.

A masterful feat of storytelling, Get Out forces its audience to face the fact that we need not imagine monsters – they already dwell among us. For those who had already figured that out, Peele’s directorial debut offers a standout satirical representation of how racism is perpetuated and literally bred across generations

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