When I heard about Jordon Peele’s Get Out in 2016, I seriously thought it was a satire.
It was natural for me to go there, considering that Peele is known for his comedy work on shows like Mad TV and the hit television series Key and Peele. But then I begin seeing the think pieces about the film funnel through my News Feed, thought-provoking commentary dissecting every moment, character, and the symbolism interwoven throughout the storyline. On top of being hailed as a cinematic masterpiece, Get Out seemed to have the majority of my squad shook. Its authentic illustration of Black life exacerbates a deep-seeded resentment many of us have towards White Liberalism and the colorblindness that it accompanies.
But when I finally see Get Out, I am not only shaken, but triggered by the manipulation and trauma the Armitage clan inflict upon Chris Washington (played by Daniel Kaluuya). For nearly a week, my mind ruminates on the film’s symbolism regarding slavery and the treatment of Black people. But I especially pay attention to how the bodies of the Black characters are treated and utilized by the White people in this unidentified neighborhood. Human trafficking, organ harvesting, and even the sexualization of the Black body is evident throughout the entire film. In fact, I notice that:
- Black bodies are categorized as superhuman. Throughout the entire film, the bodies of the Black folks are characterized as superhuman. For instance, Rose’s father Dean and brother Jeremy comment on Chris’s physical strength by not only asking about his supposed involvement in sports, but refer to him as a beast. Jeremy actually challenges the main character to a wrestling match during dinner before attempting to place him in a head lock. At the family’s annual gathering, the White attendees touch Chris without his consent while asking invasive questions regarding his physical state. This behavior towards Chris is reflective of the reality Black men and women have experienced historically. Black men and women—particularly dark-skinned ones—have been described as subhuman, animalistic, violent, uneducated, unattractive. At the same time, their bodies are deemed physically superior to that of Whites to the point of possessing a high pain tolerance and supernatural strength. Perhaps this is sole reason why, during the Slave era, Black Africans are considered suitable for chattel slavery by White plantation owners due to the belief that they could withstand the back-breaking labor. Even in the 21st Century, the body of Black men and women are utilized to generate profit for White capitalists. Whether it be through the sports industry or human services profession, the bodies of Black people are deemed stronger than that of White folks (“hired help” Walter and Georgina are prime examples of this). Perhaps this is why Rose and her family target people with a darker complexion.
- The sexualization/fetishization of Black bodies. More than once, the bodies of the Black characters are sexualized and fetishized in some manner. Towards of the end of Get Out, viewers discover that Rose Armitage use sex and the idea of intimacy to lure her victims to her parents’ home. As mentioned previously, Chris is inundated with inappropriate questions about his body and strength as complete strangers touch him without consent. In one scene, an older White woman squeezes and caresses his bicep while asking him “Is it true what they say about Black men?” She was obviously referring to his size of his genitals, insinuating that he’s “big,” so to speak. In the real world, they not only perpetuate the stereotype that all Black men have big dicks, but that is this the main reason why many White women would even consider being intimate with them. I don’t have enough limbs to count the many memes and comments made about that particular physical attribute on Black men—as if their worth is tucked inside their pants. This ideology is nothing new as Black men are categorized as animalistic—one of many stereotypes introduced through scientific racism. The unfortunate part is that many Black men internalized those messages about their bodies over time. At one point, Chris jokes with Rose about being regarded as a beast by her father—referring to being pleasurable in bed.
- Logan King (formally known as Andre Hayworth), the young Black man who is abducted during the opening scene of Get Out, is another example of the sexualization of the Black male body. He appears as a guest of an older White woman whose behavior towards him suggests that she is utilizing him as a sex slave. Rod Williams, Chris’s best friend and comic relief, mentions the possibility a few times to Chris while warning him of imminent danger. The suspicion regarding Logan is nowhere near surprising: Human trafficking of Black people—women especially—has often been a problem in the United States and internationally. Many are either taken from their homes or leave voluntarily in hopes of obtaining better opportunities. Unfortunately, these folks are often forced into sex, domestic, or other variations of labor.
- Speaking of bodies, those belonging of Black women are often fetishized/sexualized by many White men as their perceptions of us are also skewed. Sex with a Black woman (a dark-skinned woman especially) is considered exotic and erotic, a phenomenon that is deemed impious, yet intriguing as if our vaginas are somehow dissimilar to that of White women. This type of mentality is steeped in the racism and colorism that tends to go unchecked even among our own people.
- The mistreatment of the Black body/mind among many medical and mental health professionals. Get Out highlights how the mental health and medical profession either disregards the emotional wellbeing of Black people or utilize parts of our bodies for profit. Though there is an increasing number of us seeking professional help, there are still many of us who refuse to deal with therapists and medical doctors. The distrust from the Black community is extremely real and stems from a history of nonconsensual medical experimentations on impoverished Black people.