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The topic of racism is not new to the American population. The history of this phenomenon has century-long roots, and over time, many opinions and attitudes have developed. This research paper will focus attention on the way popular culture depicts the idea of racial inequality through a content analysis of the movie Get Out. The 2017 film was directed by Jordan Peele and stars Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington, a young man who experiences certain changes and specific treatment due to the color of his skin. When a black photographer meets the family of his white girlfriend, he cannot begin to guess how dangerous and strange all the members of the household, including the servants, are. Along with a number of horror scenes, a theme of racism develops, turning the concept into a demon of the 21st century. Modern parties are compared to slave auctions of the past, and a fascination for black skin color proves the power of the white race’s decision-making. As Get Out is a unique example of popular culture, the content analysis of this film shows how crucial the idea of racism is through the prism of human relations and police regulations.
The content analysis of the movie was developed in several stages. First, it was necessary to choose scenes where racism is properly depicted. For example, an early scene shows a young black man talking on a phone and demonstrating mild indignation about the name of the street and the location of this “creepy, confusing-ass suburb” where he feels like “a sore thumb” (Get Out). In the end, he is kidnapped by an unknown person in a car. This scene raises the idea that despite evident progress and a lack of obvious racial bias, black people continue to feel uncomfortable in areas where only white people live.
The situation when a police officer asks a passenger for his driver’s license provides evidence that racial prejudice exists in different regions of the United States. A young woman, Rose, expresses concern to her boyfriend about the policeman’s disrespect and tries to change the situation. She tells him that “you don’t have to give him your ID because you haven’t done anything wrong,” and that it is “bullshit” to ask for IDs “anytime there is an incident” (Get Out). Although many people, like Rose, have already discarded racial bias, American society still has many racists and other prejudiced people.
During the party, a climax in the discussion of racial issues is shown. In this scene, a white guest begins sharing his opinion about skin color and its role in the modern world. Chris finds it strange to hear that “people want to change. Some people want to be stronger, faster, cooler. Black is in fashion” (Get Out). On the one hand, such a phrase could be used to underline whatever benefits black people receive. On the other hand, the desire of a white man to see everything through the eyes of a black man shows his egocentrism and selfishness. In addition, the family focuses on the presidency of Obama as one of the best examples in their lifetime.
Finally, communication between Chris and a black servant, Georgina, was chosen as part of a sampling strategy to discuss black-white relationships. In the movie, the woman shares her thoughts about situations involving “too many white people,” which make her nervous (Get Out). At the same time, she underlines that the Armitages have been good to her. Doubtful and uncertain attitudes are evoked in both the character and the audience.
The themes of white-black relationships and the role of the police in racial judgments comprise the two major topics for a thorough discussion. This choice is explained by the necessity to combine human feelings and social norms under which behaviors and relationships are developed. The treatment by police officers or other representatives of the law toward black people varies depending on the decisions of other people. To comprehend better the idea of race and its history, it is important to pay attention to collective and individual thoughts and attitudes.
Description of the Themes
Racism is always a negative quality, regardless of the population it influences and the outcomes it reaches. However, in discussing racism through the prism of horror movies, its impact is difficult to predict and to understand. In Get Out, racism is not the major topic, but it helps the viewer to gain an understanding of the motives of the characters and the ways they prefer to establish relationships. As stated, the movie depicts the central idea of race in the phrase, used by a white man, that “black is in fashion” (Get Out). Notably, black people are not said to be respected or recognized as a race equal to the white race. Although Obama is defined as the best president for the United States, no reasons or additional explanations are given as if this is simply a commonly spoken phrase in the depicted family. Finally, Chris’s desire to know whether Rose’s parents know about the color of his skin shows the fact that sometimes people’s reactions are unpredictable. Any chance to prevent complications or warn about racial differences must be seized.
In addition to everyday human relationships, the attitude of the law toward racism cannot be ignored. The movie contains a short but informative scene with a policeman that demonstrates the potential cruelty and unfairness of people’s judgments. This type of racism may not be obvious, but it cannot be ignored because it also determines black people’s behaviors. In the scene, Rose is driving the car and hits a deer crossing the road. She calls the police and discusses the situation. Even after clarification, the responding policeman asks Chris for his driver’s license, then begins to stutter as he realizes the racial bias evident in his request. At last, he returns the license without looking at it or Chris (see fig. 1). In this situation, Chris has to behave calmly to avoid causing any negative reaction. He follows all instructions and does not find it necessary to disagree or debate, compared to his girlfriend who is eager to protect him and who talks to the officer without restraint.
Both themes in the movie contribute to the discussion about race and inequality. Many black children hear serious lectures from their parents about how to behave with police and how to respond to all official requests. White people are less concerned about the consequences of their communications with police as well as with black people. The level of responsibility, behavioral norms, and respect for each other vary between the representatives of the white and black races, and this paper aims to discuss some aspects of this topic.
Racial biases in human relationships, along with their legal justifications, emerge as serious themes for analysis in the movie Get Out. According to Nierenberg, Peele succeeds in highlighting and satirizing racism in America by “taking certain tropes to their exaggerated sci-fi/horror conclusions,” arguing about “black bodies and who owns them” (500). A slave auction at the party and the desire of a white man to possess the eye of a black man just to see what blacks see introduce the selfish side of the white nation and their compulsion to control everything, even the length of life. Landsberg defines this scene as “an astounding moment, a moment in which a pervasive post-racial discourse coexists with whites stripping African Americans of their civil rights and humanity” (638). Even as the characters express their recognition of the black president and his qualities, they are ready to bargain for his body, physical power, and other distinctive features.
The duty of the police is to make sure that all citizens follow the same rules and behave in accordance with existing laws. However, it is not always easy to prove the correctness of law enforcement actions. Banton says that people have tried “to make bad things better by change of name…to make things disappear by giving them bad names” (21). Although in the scene, such words as “race,” “skin,” or “origin” are not used, these concepts evidently bother all three characters at that moment. Therefore, Peele can easily call Banton’s words into question and prove that bad things never disappear. Boger shows that “black men are at once something to be ridiculed, something to be used for sports or military aims, to be jailed, and to be hated” (150). Even when are no reasons for imprisoning a person, a white man will always try to find another cause to uphold his attempt to control the black body physically or emotionally. Yancy underlines the importance of black resistance to white power in avoiding black people’s disappearance without a trace (1294). Thus, the movie serves as a call to action for black people.
It may be possible that even the creators of the movie Get Out could scarcely predict the impact that the theme of the race could have on this popular culture example. Instead of a cheap and predictable horror movie, the audience receives a captivating story about choices, dependence, and the desire to control everything. Compared to other modern horrors, Get Out reveals the idea that despite their intentions to be united and supportive, people cannot get rid of their racial biases and deeply rooted prejudice. It is possible to hide true intentions by a variety of means, but in the end, a final choice must be made: will the individual be a master or a slave? Racism can exist in different forms, and people are not able to recognize all of them even when confident in their powers and abilities. Black resistance has a long history, and Get Out provides a reminder of causes and outcomes that can be observed in human relationships, police behavior, and political change.
Banton, Michael. “The Concept of Racism”. Race and Racialism, edited by Sami Zubaida, Routledge, 2018, pp. 17-35.
Boger, Jillian. “Manipulations of Stereotypes and Horror Clichés to Criticize Post-Racial White Liberalism in Jordan Peele’s Get Out.” The Graduate Review, vol. 3, no. 1, 2018, pp. 149-158.
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Get Out. Directed by Jordan Peele, performances by Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, and Bradley Whitford, Universal Pictures, 2017.
Landsberg, Alison. “Horror Vérité: Politics and History in Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017).” Continuum, vol. 32, no. 5, 2018, pp. 629-642.
Nierenberg, Andrew A. “Get Out.” Psychiatric Annals, vol. 48, no. 11, 2018, p. 500.
Yancy, George. “Moral Forfeiture and Racism: Why We Must Talk about Race.” Educational Philosophy and Theory, vol. 50, no. 13, 2018, 1293-1295.