Eating to Erase in Get Out
by Lan Vy Phan
Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” is a horror film that explores societal and racial issues through a unique and unsettling lens. The story revolves around Chris, a Black photographer, who accompanies his white girlfriend, Rose, to her family’s estate for a weekend getaway. What initially appears as a friendly introduction to Rose’s seemingly welcoming family soon takes a sinister turn. Chris becomes increasingly uneasy as he encounters the peculiar behavior of the Armitage family’s Black servants and the predominantly white guests who have gathered for the As the weekend unfolds, Chris discovers the horrifying secrets lurking beneath the veneer of this seemingly “nice white family.” Amidst its myriad elements, one of the most disconcerting elements is the recurring motif of food, with a particular focus on tea, as a hypnotic device. Additionally, the concept of pseudo-cannibalism serves as a potent allegory for the exploitation of Black individuals by white society. These culinary symbols, when complemented by music, lighting, and choice of wardrobe, amplify the film’s central theme of racial exploitation.
The use of tea as a hypnotic device permeates the film from the very start. When Chris first arrives at the Armitage estate, he, along with the rest of the family, is served sweet tea during a brief meal. The constant reassurance from the family that they are not racist masks a sinister plot, with Missy Armitage, a psychiatrist skilled in hypnotherapy, lulls Chris into a state of submission.While they are conversing, Missy begins to tap her glass. This tapping of the glass reoccurs when she meets with Chris late at night, and aims to get rid of his smoking addiction. The choice of eerie and hypnotic music during these scenes, coupled with Missy’s piercing gaze as well as the intense panning in of Chris’s face, amplifies the discomfort, reinforcing the sinister nature of these acts.
Pseudo-cannibalism plays a pivotal role in the film’s climax as Chris confronts the Armitage family. The characters Georgina, the housekeeper, and Walter, the groundskeeper, are revealed to be Black individuals whose consciousness has been supplanted by the spirits of Rose’s grandfather and grandmother through a gruesome procedure known as “the Coagula.” This horrific act serves as a representation of the forced assimilation that Black communities undergo. Another instance of this is through the character, Logan King. Logan, whose original name was Dre and was once a vibrant and independent jazz artist, falls victim to a horrifying fate after marrying an older white woman. His transformation into a submissive and obedient servant is a stark embodiment of pseudo-cannibalism, seen primarily in his shifting mannerisms and wardrobe. Stripped of his agency and identity, Dre’s consciousness is overshadowed by the presence of a separate consciousness, and he only reverts back to his true identity when Chris takes a photo of him.
Throughout the film, these culinary symbols, along with the carefully selected music, lighting, and wardrobe, serve as a compelling narrative device, underscoring the complexities of racial dynamics in society. Food-related symbolism is further enhanced by the choice of lighting, which juxtaposes the bright, seemingly inviting exteriors of the Armitage estate with the dark, ominous interiors, emphasizing the duality of appearances and deception.
Get Out. Dir. Jordan Peele Perf. Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, and Bradley Whiteford. Universal Pictures, 2017. Streaming.