The surprise horror hit #GetOut — the latest work from writer/director #JordanPeele — centers on a theme not often found in the genre: the complex and still touchy subject of race relations in the United States. However, some of its most uncomfortable sequences don't deal with overt racism, but ignorance of a different mold that is just as prevalent in modern society, that of so called Nice Racism.
When many people think of racism, one often thinks of images of violence and hateful vitriol. While this form of bigotry has done a lot of damage to society and many an individual, it is not the only form of racism. At its core, racism doesn't mean you hate someone based on their skin color or ethnic background. It simply means you assume their character based on those traits. One need not be filled with hate to make such assumptions, and when it comes to so called Nice Racism, an effort is often made by the offending party to appeal to someone using these assumptions.
Jordan Peele's film showcases such racism, and highlights that however well intentioned the person may believe they are, it doesn't make the situation any less uncomfortable for the person on the other end of the conversation.
Nice Racism In Action
Numerous times throughout the film, the main character Chris (played brilliantly by #DanielKaluuya) is subject to such treatment by the family and friends of his girlfriend, Rose. Things first get uncomfortable when Chris meets Rose's father, Dean (played by #BradleyWhitford). Dean assumes Chris's political leanings based on the color of his skin, and goes into a long conversation complimenting the performance of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
As a photographer, Chris shows a greater interest in the arts than in sports, so the conversation is of little interest to Chris. It is simply Dean saying "I like black people" in a supposed effort to bond with Chris instead of trying to learn who Chris is as a person. He assumes, based on his skin color, that he already knows everything he needs to know.
Another, more prolonged display of such racism occurs when Chris meets many family and friends of the Armitages. Those that have seen the film are well aware how cringe inducing much of their attempts to appeal to Chris really are. Hardly anyone asks about Chris's obvious interest in photography and the arts, what he is studying in school, his career prospects or anything that would be a more effective ice breaker. They simply focus on the color of his skin, and the sequence becomes incredibly uncomfortable.
Making The Audience Uncomfortable
What Peele does in the film is what any good film tries to do with their protagonist — put the viewer in their position. Putting the audience in Chris' shoes better displays how disquieting such treatment is to our main character. This is comparable to an earlier film in the horror genre, #SIlenceoftheLambs.
The female hero of that film (played by Jodi Foster) is often subject to comments on how attractive she is and invites to dates by her peers. In one such scene, Dr. Chilton openly flirts with her. This sequence shows Chilton in close-up, looking right at the camera and at us. This makes the viewer feel as if Chilton is invading our personal space and makes us as uncomfortable as the exchange makes Starling.
Peele uses similar techniques in his film. Much of the efforts to appeal to Chris show the offending parties in medium and wide shots, focusing more on their behavior than on them as individuals. Chris, however, is typically shown in much tighter shots, allowing us to focus on his reactions to these comments. It creates a greater feeling of empathy in the viewer, putting us in Chris' shoes to see just how empty these supposed appeals really are, making him like this strange group of people even less.
As it turns out, these comments are more than just empty rhetoric; they mask something far more sinister.
It is no coincidence that these characters have ulterior motives to inviting Chris up to the family estate, which I will not get into here for those who haven't seen the film. Every "kind word" directed at Chris is but an empty gesture to hide their real plans for him, which are inhumane and unimaginably cruel. Simply put, they put in a show for Chris to try and make him comfortable. He doesn't realize it's a show until it's too late.
That is exactly what so called Nice Racism is — a show put on to make the other person comfortable. Though most of us aren't like the Armitages and genuinely are making efforts to be friendly, such efforts are still based on the same ignorance that breeds hate. It is assuming a need to behave a certain way based on someone's skin color.
Chris is viewed as a black man when he should be viewed as a man, a man with a camera and an eye for making strikingly beautiful images at the click of a shutter. This is what should be his defining characteristic and the topic of conversation. Ignorance, however, casts this obvious artistic talent aside and instead focuses on the melanin levels in Chris' skin.
Peele makes many statements in this film, but one of the loudest is on "Nice Racism," where Peele asks his viewers to stop putting on the show.
What did you think of Get Out? Are you looking forward to more films from Jordan Peele? Let us known in the comments below!