Opinion Piece By: Beverly Kwakye
It’s no surprise that the racial divide in America continues to exist and can be experienced through various scopes of life. With the 2016 election fueling many heated ideas on topics like racial relations and the underlying problems within immigration, it is evident that the U.S. as a country has a long way to go when it comes to diversity of thought.
American Director Jordan Peele, in his 2017 film Get Out, uses thematic elements like symbolism, comedy, satire, and realism, to address the status of race in America. Peele proves that today, racism continues to be driven by factors like systematic oppression, stereotypes, and other social injustices influenced by white superiority.
In Peele’s film, the protagonist Chris Washington, a black man played by Daniel Kaluuya, travels with his white girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), to visit her family at their wooded estate. As Chris first arrives at the Armitage estate, it’s obvious race is consciously on his mind. The realism in Peele’s film strongly emerges through the roles certain characters’ play. The protagonist is a black man being brought to a white home, which also alludes to the concept of the 1960s comedy-drama, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Not only is the Armitage’s housekeeper a black woman, their wood chopper Walter is also a black man. Historically, blacks have been represented as service workers performing duties that whites deemed as minuscule chores an individual of lesser value was subject to complete. Walter and the housekeeper Georgina represent this notion.
Peele addresses race in America in a unique way. Unlike other films centered on race, Peele avoids transparency when addressing the racial divide in America and portraying the social disadvantages blacks and many other ethnic groups face. Peele avoids taking an empathetic approach to addressing racism, instead, he uses humor and satire to open the minds of everyone who watches the film. These humorous moments are not simply for comedic effect, they serve a greater purpose in the film. Like Johnathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, Peele follows a similar narrative in the style of his film. He too satirizes the truth in order to address a greater societal issue. Figuratively, Chris is under white control and begins to think and act differently. In reality, Chris’ is an example of a black man who is systematically oppressed.
So what can we learn from this?
In Peele’s film, when Chris is hypnotized by Rose’s mother, he reaches a deep hypnotic state known as “The Sunken Place.” It is a place he struggles to get out of in the film. The Sunken Place symbolizes racial control and dominance. Not only has Chris reached The Sunken Place, but the other black characters in the Armitage’s life have also reached this fate.
Like Georgina and Walter, Chris is no longer an independent right-thinking member of society, but another individual working under white control. The film shows a repetitive instance of blacks working under whites and this is a social hierarchy that is still prevalent today. Get Out shows viewers that racism is inherent in the white culture. Peele uses a figment hypnotic state known as “The Sunken Place” to represent the racial oppression of today’s social system that one cannot easily get out. Peele satirizes the truth of today’s society. Once in The Sunken Place, an individual is in a state of mind so far deep, classically conditioning them to not only believe but accept that the white control over them is the standard way of life, blinding them from the racism involved.