Race in Reviews of “Get Out”

I saw Get Out last week and absolutely loved it. It was released in Australia this week. I was excited about this not just as an horror movie aficionado but to see a film made by and starring Black people. This post compares reviews by white writers from the USA, UK and Australia.

The film has received almost universally positive reviews. White American reviewers mostly write about the film as if it is written for them; that it is meant to reflect other white people’s latent racism (but not the reviewer, not their readers). Reviews by Black writers see that the film is primarily for Black people, a view supported by interviews with the writer/director Jordan Peele.

White Australian reviewers see this film is also about white Americans, but do not reflect on whether the racial dynamics might have some comparison to, and diverge from, race relations in Australia.

Get Out

The ABC reviewer Jason Di Rosso writes: “What Get Out does is ingeniously highlight the hypocrisy of the white American liberal.” What might the film say for the white Australian liberal is barely entertained.

“Just what an Australian audience will make of the racial subtext is interesting to ponder. The forced submission of black people by whites — even well-meaning ones — is a phenomenon running through our history, and on occasion our cinema.”

So it may have some comparisons to our history, but not our present.

The Sydney Morning Herald reviewer, Paul Byrnes, writes: “A new era of Black horror has begun.” This demonstrates how whiteness works: films by and about Black people are “Black films,” but films about and by white people, are not movies about white people. These are simply perceived as race-neutral movies, which, of course, they are not.

Betty Gabriel in Get Out

The film works as a smart horror, but also as social commentary on scientific racism, fetishisation and white supremacy. In Australia, such a retelling would mean we, the audience, would be forced to reckon with genocide, eugenics, enslavement, racialised gender violence, forced removal, and multiple forms of discrimination. The film explores American race dynamics, illustrating what Stuart Hall called, “the spectacle of the other,” exemplified in scenes showing how white people view Black athleticism.

Below are some of the American and UK reviews, which focus on race (warning: spoilers).

Catherine Keener in Get Out


“There is a choice among some white people, to stand in their apathy and ignorance, clinging on to stereotypes about other groups and races in order to continue to make themselves feel superior. What comes forth in the wake of this, are ideals that are entrenched in both bigotry and white privilege, which are so horrifying that they are often borderline amusing.”

Aramide A Tinubu, Masters in Film Studies, USA.

“While you are mentally in the Sunken Place, you can see the injustice being done to you but you are completely unable to stop them. In reality, the Sunken Place is much more complex than a psychotic trance. After the film’s release, Peele revealed it is a metaphor for black people being marginalised, ‘No matter how hard we scream, the system silences us.’ It simultaneously pokes fun at black people who are complicit in their own oppression: think of all the black Trump/ All Lives Matter supporters who claim they don’t see the racism other black people tirelessly campaign against…So how do black people get out of the Sunken Place?”

Kemi Alemoru, Masters student in Magazine Journalism, UK.

Note: This post was first published in parts on Twitter and Tumblr.