Get Out’s Reel Antagonist

Curator's Note


The main antagonist in Jordan Peele’s Get Out is systemic racism itself. I believe that three key scenes point to this: 1) Andre's Abduction, 2) Chris/Georgina's Conversation, and 3) The Final Scene.

Andre’s Abduction

Horror films often position suburbs as horrific settings that go perfectly with lone figures stalking their white, middle-class streets in search of hapless victims (Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Scream). Peele’s first scene inverts this trope, showing not a Freddy Krueger or a Michael Meyers but an unarmed, lost Black man wandering in a stereotypically white space. Andre is the victim, not the menacing killer. Nobody comes to Andre’s aid when someone rushes him from the darkness, and the streets resume their silence after his abduction. This mimics how systemic racism horrifically preserves itself, quickly erasing Black presence to resume its hold. Systemic racism is the killer.

Chris and Georgina
Georgina's discordant dialogue highlights systemic racism as a terrifying force opposed to Black solidarity. When Chris tells Georgina that he wasn’t trying to “snitch” on her for unplugging his now-dead phone, Georgina responds, “Don’t you worry about that… I don’t answer to anyone.” These words are jarring coming from a Black maid’s mouth because they sound white, wealthy, and privileged. Chris then tries to bond over their shared Blackness, confessing his nervousness when too many white people gather. Her appearance again clashes with her words as she denies feeling the same and speaks lovingly of the white Armitages. Systemic racism is the horrifying antagonist here because it demolishes any attempted solidarity between marginalized peoples. No white space is truly safe.

The Final Scene

Black men are stereotyped as aggressively violent, meaning white women can make false claims about their behavior that often imprison and/or kill Black men. In Peele’s final scene, Chris strangles Rose, inverting this stereotype because Chris is a Black male victim and Rose is the violent, white woman killer. A cop car arrives, and its flashing blue and red lights show what systemic racism would have us see: an aggressive, villainous Black man threatening a prone, innocent white woman. Chris slowly stands and holds his hands above his head. Systemic racism has shown him how to respond to cops while also prompting the assumption that the cop will respond with arrest or murder. When Chris’s Black friend Rod emerges from the car, his unexpected appearance plays on these assumptions informed by systemic racism, doing the opposite of what happens too often in horror films and real-life—letting a Black man live.

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