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Symbolism and Meanings in Get Out

May 11, 2017

THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS do not read this if you haven’t seen the movie

Film Title: Get Out

I can’t remember a film that has made me think like Jordan Peele’s Get Out. After seeing it a second time I decided to compile all the hidden meanings  I uncovered. Some might have been intended by the filmmaker, some may be from my interpretation. Some are just interesting little inserts whilst others are more meaningful symbols. I have definitely missed many explanations. But all combine to make one of the most elaborately textured films of the modern era.

  1. Chris Washington

I think he was intentionally named after George Washington. The first president of the United States owned slaves before becoming an abolitionist.

2. Redbone

Our introduction to Chris and Rose is accompanied with Redbone. A song about unfaithfulness, it’s chorus has the lyric ‘stay woke’ – advice to both Chris and the audience who are being advised to watch the film carefully.

  1. Rose stops Chris from being ID’d, and Chris is grateful

It’s been well documented that this was to prevent documentation of Chris’ journey. However, I am more interested in his response to Rose’s chivalry. It’s a warning for Africans to ‘beware Greeks, even though they bring gifts’. Don’t forget, the film starts with Rose bringing coffee and donuts for their breakfast. Is the film saying Africans are too ready to be grateful for the generosity of white people without questioning their motives? Probably.

  1. Rod gets it

Every time Chris explains to Rod the strangeness of his surroundings, Rod explains EXACTLY what is going on, if in his own unique way. However Chris dismisses his interpretations. This is a metaphor for Africans living in the diaspora today – the unfairness, oppression and racism we experience is well documented, as is our participation in it. It’s explained to us over and over again, but we don’t believe it.

It’s also important that the police officers Rod tries to report the crime to all laugh in his face, even though in managing to locate a missing person he actually presents credible evidence.

  1. The deer represents Africans

I have read a few interpretations that the deer represents the ‘buck’ – a term used to refer to enslaved Africans. It also refers to ‘buck breaking’; the process of sodomising enslaved male Africans in front of children and women to chastise, humiliate and dehumanise them.

However, I think the deer is a metaphor for Africans. Firstly, Chris has sympathy for it, whilst Rose doesn’t care. Also, when Chris and Rose explain that they killed a deer to Dean, Dean’s response is to say they did a good thing, that there are too many, that they are taking over the place. His response is a common refrain used by racists when complaining about immigration and specifically, African people.

Dean is eventually killed by Chris using a deer’s head, perhaps a homage to African uprisings throughout history.

  1. The significance of implied jealousy

All Rose has to do to silence Chris is to tell him that he’s jealous. At various points in the film he’s accused of being jealous of Rod, Walter and even jokingly, of Georgina. No offence to Rod or Walter but it’s kinda crazy that he would see them as threats. This is a mind technique; it positions Rose as an object of desire – a slave legacy white women benefit from – whilst also making him feel stupid for talking. It’s a way of representing how Africans are made to feel that all our problems are inventions in our heads. It’s a metaphor for how conversations get dumbed down.

  1. Are you dealing with a Jeremy or a Rose?

Jeremy and Rose are the two faces of racism, one loud, barely disguised and aggressive, the other incredibly discrete and calculating. Chris gets very clear signals that he should stay away from Jeremy but is oblivious to the racism of Rose. Even after he sees that she’s lied about having African ex-boyfriends, he insists that they leave the house together.

  1. Toe nails

Jeremy says that Rose used to collect toenails in a box as a child, much like the box Chris finds the photographs in. This isn’t the only derogatory metaphor for Africans, Dean advises Chris to stay out of the basement because of  ‘black mould’.

  1. The significance of Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens races a horse in Cuba, 1936

Jesse Owens was one of America’s greatest Olympians but Roses’ grandfather uses his success to reinforce his own mythology about African physicality. This reflects how his country treated Owens after his achievements in Berlin. In his later years, Owens is reduced to racing horses for money.

  1. The significance of the camera flash

Not only a great plot device, the camera flash that awakens victims from the sunken place symbolises the active use of camera phones in recording police brutality and injustice in America today.

  1. Georgina is the only character who breaks free from the sunken place without a camera flash

The implication here is that African men,  flattered by the adulation of white people, need to be woken up to see their mental enslavement. Georgina has some idea of the prison she is kept in. This is seen during two occasions during the film – when pouring the drink for Chris and when apologising for unplugging his phone. It is also highly likely that Georgina left the cupboard door open for Chris to find Rose’s pictures of all her African ex-boyfriends.

  1. British games are everywhere

The auction is disguised as a game of bingo and the room that Chris is trapped in is filled with games of British invention – including darts, a football table and a table tennis table. Chris also kills the crazy brother with a crochet ball. This must be a nod to racism’s origin as British ideology (Africans were first legislated as ‘slaves’ as part of the Barbados Slave Code) and the British direction of the triangular slave trade – half of all Africans enslaved via this passage were taken via British ships. It also reminds white Americans that they are not native to America. They have become the proverbial deer that Dean describes early on in the movie.

  1. Colour blindness

Initially, Chris likes Jim because he is blind and therefore ‘doesn’t see colour’. Jim turns out to be the man who purchases Chris. Not seeing colour makes Jim the most dangerous man Chris encounters because it means he doesn’t see the shady dealing, is least likely to do anything about it and totally happy to benefit. When asked why they only kidnapped Africans Jim response is non-caring to say the least. Don’t trust people who say they don’t see colour guys! How many times do you need to be told?

  1. The weaponisation of white female tears

This has been seen a lot in popular culture, most recently when Frida Pinta cried because someone asked her what ‘political blackness’ was. Rose uses tears to get Chris to stay in the family home, and then tries to use her tears to stop him from killing her (she succeeds). Moments later, Chris is almost made to pay for letting Rose take advantage of him yet again (FFS WAKE UP CHRIS!!) when flashing lights pull up the drive and she calls for help like she’s the victim.

What did I miss?

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