Get Out (2017)

Consumed: Perceptions of the Black Body

By Genna Holtz

Jordan Peeles thriller Get Out offers a chilling metaphorical perspective on the lived experiences of black individuals in racialized America.  The storyline of the protagonist Chriss visit to and escape from his girlfriend Roses family home dominates, but every scene is laced with racial undertones that layer the films exploration of the body.  The depiction of animals and black bodies as food is particularly illuminating in this discussion.  Reoccurring similarities drawn between Chris and deer and rabbits as well as surprisingly small details suggest that racial inequality pervades in the United States.

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Deer head mounted on the wall in the basement of the Armitage is Chriss only companion as the horrors of his situation reveal themselves

From the outset of the film, a parallel between black individuals and food animals is established.  In the very first scene Jeremy, a white man, kidnaps Logan, a black man.  During their struggle, Peele extradiagetically inserts a jovial song, Run, Run Rabbit.  The contrast between the heaviness of the situation and the levity of the song adds a highly disturbing undercurrent to the mis-en-scene and forces audiences to question the directors choice. The lyrics of the song read the following:

On the farm, every Friday
On the farm, it’s rabbit pie day.
So, every Friday that ever comes along,
I get up early and sing this little song
Run rabbit – run rabbit – Run! Run! Run!
Run rabbit – run rabbit – Run! Run! Run!
Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!
Goes the farmer’s gun.
Run, rabbit, run, rabbit, run.
Run rabbit – run rabbit – Run! Run! Run!
Don’t give the farmer his fun! Fun! Fun!
He’ll get by
Without his rabbit pie
So run rabbit – run rabbit – Run! Run! Run!

These unsettling words establish the relationship that viewers will parse out the remainder of the film. The rabbit represents black people persecuted by the farmer, the allegorical white race.  This foreshadows that the Armitage family will try to catch Chris and use him for their demonic eugenics project.  The metaphor of Chris as the rabbit is strengthened by the fact that the Armitages slyly serve a carrot-based dessert, carrot cake, to Chris on his first night at the house.  Chriss desperate flee from the Armitage plantation at the end of the film parallels the rabbits flee from the farmer.

This message is furthered by a scene in which Chris empathizes with a creature meant to be consumed.  On the way to the couples ‘meet the parentsweekend, Rose, driving, accidentally hits a deer as it dashes across the road.  After the initially shock, Rose sits in the car, and calls the police.  She quickly recovers and has no further emotional response. Chris, on the other hand, is deeply shaken.  Eerie extradiegetic tones louden, and the camera zooms in onto Chriss face, keying the audiences into his precarious mental state.  Unlike Rose, Chris exits the vehicle, and in a painfully tedious manner drawn out by tracking shots of his boots, finds the wounded animal on the side of the road. Point of view shots that flash rapidly between Chriss eyes and the deers eyes to emphasize a uniquely emotional interaction.  The framing of both creature and human eyes suggest that perhaps they see things in the same way.  The intimacy of the cinematography and the contrasting responses of Rose and Chris in this scene further the parallel between deer and black individuals. Audiences can infer from such technique that Peele presents a claim that while deer are animals eaten and hunted by humans, black people are socially, culturally, and politically devoured by inequalities entrenched in American institutions, often propitiated by whites. When Rose and Chris tell the Armitages about hitting the deer, Mr. Armitage, later revealed to be a racist, conniving sociopath, responds, “One down, a couple hundred thousand to go…I do not like the deer…theyre taking over, theyre destroying the ecosystem, I see a dead deer on the side of the road and I think ‘thats a start’” (Peele, 2017).  His disregard for the wellbeing of the animal and myopic view of the event foreshadow his equally unforgiving attitude towards his black victims.

 More parallels between other black characters and deer reinforce this.  A strong comparison that emerges between Chriss mom and the wounded deer builds on this theory.  Chris tells Rose that just before her death, “[his mom] lay there cold and alone on the side of the road…and there was time, [he] could have done something, but [he] did nothing” (Peele, 2017).  The similarity between the death of his mother and the death of the deer hit by the car contribute the idea that both black individuals and deer are consumed.  Additionally, just as the deer came at Chris in the car, Logan, a black man who has received Mr. Armitages brain transplant surgery, charges Chris to warn him.  Later Chris reflects, “I didnt know [Logan], but I knew the guy coming at me” (Peele, 2017). In this way Peele expertly crafts a black/animal narrative that underpins the unbearable moments of tension throughout the film.

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Rose sips white milk and colored cereal consecutively rather than simultaneously as she searches online for her next victim

Other tiny details in the film key audiences into the storys racial underpinnings and implicitly further Peeles commentary.  In the first few minutes of the movie, shots cross cut between Chriss apartment and Rose, Chriss girlfriend, picking up breakfast for the two of them at a bakery.  In a particular shot, the camera pans over a case of all white pastries such as croissants, danishes, and cookies and then widens out to show Rose looming over them.  Though this is a tiny detail, Peele couldve displayed an array of foods, maybe included a brown dessert such as brownie but purposefully didnt. This small detail shows Rose has preferential treatment for lightly colored things.  Later, Mrs. Armitage stirs her tea with a spoon to heighten Chriss suggestibility and send him to the “sunken place”.  The silver spoon she uses to stir could be a reference to the phrase that a privileged people are “born with a silver spoon in their mouth”.  This interaction therefore echoes previous suggestions that white people use their privilege to take advantage of black people by various means, such as cultural appropriation and preference in the eyes of the law. Lastly, after audiences discover Rose is a psychopath that has tricked a plethora of black people into relationships only to abuse their bodies and steal their consciousness, a frame centers her on her laptop.  To her right lie a glass of milk and a bowl of fruit loops.  Besides being incredibly odd (who doesnt eat cereal the regular way) it is a subtle metaphor for her racism.  Just as she doesnt want to mix her milk and fruit loops, she wants to increase separation between races by viewing black people as other-than-human.  She sips the milk generously, but she eats the colored cereal one at a time, just as she picks off her black victims one and a time. These small details reinforce Peeles message about race in the US.

Jordan Peele expertly uses cinematography to communicate through food racist perceptions of black bodies in America.  He conveys the inequalities black people face by comparing their experience to that of animals typically consumed as food, such as deer and rabbits.  Subtle references throughout the film exhibit Peeles masterful use of food as a communication device, and heighten audiencessensitivity to the micro-aggressions they tolerate in their own lives.

Works Cited

Peele, Jordan, director. Get Out. Universal Pictures, 2017.