From its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 24th of last year, it was evident that Get Out would be a game-changer. While the bare-bones of the film may have been borrowed from the bodies of cinema past, it’s the repackaging that proved to be special. Writer/director Jordan Peele delivered audiences a horror film that held a mirror to society, racism, and what it’s like to live among white people as a person of color, then he broke that mirror into a thousand pieces and etched a new type of terror in our hearts and minds. One where each individual member of the audience was forced to reflect on their own lives and evaluate who they are and where they’ve been.
For black people, and it’s not lost on me that I’m a white man attempting to explain this, it was about familiarity. The horror that Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) faced in the film isn’t so different from scenarios that people of color face on a daily basis in America. The looks, the backhanded racism, the eggshells. The manner in which a majority of white people act has led to an unimaginable discomfort. That allowed Chris and the situation he found himself in to be entirely relatable for much of the film’s audience. While Peele’s movie may have taken that terror a step further than reality (though I wouldn’t doubt that white people somewhere are trying to transfer their brains into the bodies of other people), it’s grounded in the fear of minorities.
As a white person, though, the horror was in the very reflection of ourselves that Jordan Peele forced us to see: The way that good intentions don’t always equal comfort. How racism has touched us and the way we think to some extent. How, even people who fight for equality may be more mindful of their own agendas than what it’s truly like to be a black person living in a country that seems to be against them at every turn. Get Out showed us people that we know. People that we’re friends with or related to. And to some extent, Get Out showed us ourselves from the perspective of the other side.
A horror movie did that. So genre detractors can actually get bent.
When Jordan Peele won Oscar gold for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards last night, he became the first black screenwriter to win this award. While there’s no reason that it should have taken 90 ceremonies to accomplish, it seems fitting from a storybook perspective that Peele, the mastermind behind what is arguably the most socially aware horror film that’s ever existed, would walk home with the gold. He deserved it. Black people deserved it. Get Out deserved it.
Like I said, it was a game-changer.
Speaking of Oscars…