Analysis of the horror film “Get Out” about Racial Discrimination, Slavery, and Stereotype The film “Get Out” is an American horror film written and directed by Jordan Peele. The film is about a male black photographer, Chris, and her female white girlfriend, Rose is taking Chris to their home for the weekend to meet her parents for the first time. Chris is anxious about how her family would treat him because he is black, and they are all white. He felt unwelcomed in the family’s home and noticed that the family is surrounded by black servants. The weekend progressed, the friendliness of the family and the unusual behavior of the servants felt threatening to Chris. He unraveled the strange reality of what is really going on and he thinks it is time for him to leave.
This analysis is to show the different forms of racism depicted in the film, to portray the discrimination experienced by the black people in the film, to explain how the concept of American slavery was portrayed in the film, and to show how black people were stereotyped in the film and why were they stereotyped in such a way.
Critical Race Theory
The Critical Race Theory (CRT) started from a collection of scholars and activists concerned in transforming the relationship among race, racism, and power. The theory reflects many of the same issues that conventional civil rights and ethnic studies discourse take up, then puts them in a wider viewpoint that contains history, economics, context, group- and self-interest, and even feelings. (Delgado, 2017)
Critical Race Theory theorists believe that racism is engrained in life, is supported by legal structures, and there is the unequal distribution of power and resources (Olmsted, 1998). Whites are those who are more privileged of power and resources while persons of color are those who are marginalized (Richmond & Johnson, 2009). CRT is a theoretical discipline the declares the society is divided into racial lines which include black victims and white oppressors. According to Olmsted (1998), here are some basic principles of CRT:
- Racism is prevalent, innate, and normal in the US.
- Through a process of hegemony, both white supremacist and persons of color support racism.
- Words should be utilized in creating counter-accounts of social reality because words are powerful.
Critical Race Theory has been utilized to analyze racist pictures in entertainment media. This analysis will get perceptions from CRT to analyze scenes, pictures, and dialogues that can be read as racist and discriminating particularly in the film “Get Out”.
Racial discrimination is when a person is treated less favorably than another person in the same scenario because of their race, color, ethnic origin or immigrant status. Racial discrimination is portrayed in the scene where the police officer wanting to see Chris’s driver’s license even though he was not driving the vehicle, but the officer was not even interested to see whether Rose even had a driver’s license. In this scene, the film shows how police officers automatically see that it could have been the black guy’s fault and be wanting to investigate him by taking his driver’s license or ID. Another scene where racial discrimination was depicted is when Rod got in trouble for patting an old lady at an airport for security protocol purposes. Rod was just following security protocol, but because he a black guy, he gets in trouble for that which a white security officer probably would not get in trouble for.
The sunken place is one of the most iconic parts in the film. The sunken place is like a metaphor for the racial discrimination experienced by black people specifically in film representation. It is a place for the marginalized. The director of the film Peele said that “No matter how hard we scream; the system silences us.” According to Peele, this sunken place symbolizes the lack of representation in films of black people. They are part of the society, but they do not have the right to change or say anything about it. As it is said in the film, “Your existence will be as a passenger, an audience”. Their presence is there, but they are not the one controlling what is going to happen.
Lastly, in the last scene where Chris was on top of Rose while she’s bleeding to death and she was asking for help. Their facial expression changes when they hear and see a police car. Chris’s face became nervous, and Rose asked assistance even though she is the criminal in this scene. It kind of portrays that black people are automatically the criminals and white people are victims.
The Film “Get Out” is a film that is also about the American Slavery. According to Stuart Hall (1997), slavery and the slave trade is one of the three significant moments in the history of ‘race and racism in the West. The film shows similarities in the American Slavery-like the slave auction. Just like in the 1859 slave auction, when news has spread that slaves are going to be for sale, it draws a lot of potential buyers. Prior to the auction, buyers would examine and assess the slaves to determine who they want and obtain a suitable bid for the slave merchandise. They were examined with no regard; potential buyers would jerk their mouths to inspect their teeth, squeezing their muscles to see how muscular they were, ordering them to talk to see they are limping, looking at their whole body to see there are no wounds, and asking them questions about qualifications (Hart, 2002). Just like in the film, Chris’s body being observed by the white people. An old white guy who likes golf asked if he could take a look at his golf driving form. The women who touched and inspected his muscles without his permission. The man who was admiring his dark complexity. This scene shows a lot of similarities what happens in a slave auction. While Rose distracts Chris by inviting him for a walk, the auction was conducted. The auction was a silent auction and was facilitated by Dean Armitage. A big picture of Chris was beside him while the auction was ongoing. Instead of catalogs and pencils, the buyers had bingo cards. The winner of the auction would be the one who will attain the body of Chris. At the end of the auction, the auction winner was Jim Hudson who was blind and wants Chris’s body, specifically his eyes.
Many stereotypes about African Americans’ conduct and skills existed since the time of slavery in America. According to Punyanunt-Carter (2008), stereotypes of black people are mostly negative personality traits such as immorality, stupidity, dishonesty, and low-achievers. These stereotypes influenced and led the portrayals of black people in television.
The mass media carry the impression that black people are somehow basically different from white people. There were also claims that white people expect the typical black to be a member of the serving class. These can be seen in the film where Georgina and Walter are servants of the Armitage family. Georgina’s role is more of a house helper who helps inside the house, and Walter’s role is more of an outdoor helper. Negative images in media present results “Black people appear more threatening, less sympathetic than Whites” (Entman, 2001). These negatives stereotypes are the reason why Rod, a black security officer, got in trouble for patting an old lady in the airport, and why Jeremy asked Chris if he is an MMA fan or if he ever gets into street fights as a kid.
This paper analyzed and explored the concept of racial discrimination, slavery, and stereotype in the film “Get Out”. The film shows many different forms of racism in the workplace, police encounters, and crime scenes. The theoretical framework used was the Critical Race Theory. CRT is can be defined as society is separated by racial lines that include black victims and white oppression. The film conveys symbols of discrimination like the sunken place, where it symbolizes the lack of representation of black people in the film industry. The sunken place is where people could only hear and see, but never be heard of their calls. The Film portrayed slavery in the America, where slaves are inspected, scored, interviewed to determine their appropriate bid in auctions. The film shows similarities in the American Slavery-like the slave auction. The scene where Chris was inspected, observed, interviewed, and auctioned were similar in the slave auction back in 1859. There were also many stereotypes depicted in the film. These stereotypes may become racists if people are judged by them, and in turn, are treated in a different way. Black people are stereotyped as having negative personality traits, threatening. Stereotypes began from the time of slavery, continued through then negative images presented in media.