Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out stresses an all-consuming danger. Its lead, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), has a knowing wariness of every interaction around him. A black man driven up to visit his white girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) family, he doesn’t get into conversations so much as get subjected to them. He’s questioned, touched, studied, physically challenged, at times even mentally subjugated (through hypnosis), yet reassured by his hosts that, yes, they would all have voted Obama a third time if they could. They apologize for “how it looks” that they have black servants. Chris isn’t allowed a space to just be, he is constantly reminded of his outsider status. At best–as when Bradley Whitford’s neurosurgeon patriarch Dean shows a picture of Jesse Owens, before gushing about the athlete’s historic Olympic win–they offer a lurid idealization of the black man’s body. While there are signifiers of plantation lifestyle (even an auction block, with Chris’ photo on display), there’s an altogether different form of capitalizing human beings at play.
While this subtext is driven by a series of script flips (particularly about the suburbs being dangerous, a jokey inversion of a common horror trope), Peele is far more interested in the difference between genuine and rehearsed behavior. Even before overt malevolence sets in, the Armitages are stagey with their behavior: Dean’s drawling “thang” and repetition of “my man”; the way Rose dismisses Chris’ discomfort (and, later, suspicions about the cagey hired help) with a wink; the apologism. It’s all routine to them, an attempt to approximate well-meaning liberalism. Chris finds this off-putting. All he wants is a nice weekend with the parents. Unfortunately, he’s only welcomed so long as his hosts can benefit from him.