Liberty at the Movies: Get Out

Get Out has been the surprise hit of the winter. A low-budget horror movie, it has grossed almost $200 million at the box office. The film is an excellent horror movie, which pays homage and makes good use of numerous horror-movie standards -- from the soundtrack complete with chants to let you know this is the scary part, to a slow build up that gradually increases the creepiness, to the wise cracking best friend who is the first one to know that something is wrong, to the twist that seems shocking but then when you look in retrospect makes perfect sense. The film also has a biting commentary on American race relations that has some libertarian themes.

Now if you have not heard or read any reviews of this movie, you might be thinking, "Great, another self-righteous lecture from Hollywood on how libertarians and conservatives, especially those from rural areas, are racists." But no, in Get Out, the menace to African-Americans is ... white liberals.

Get Out's lead character is Chris Washington, an African-American photographer who is visiting his white girlfriend Rose Armitage's parents at their spacious  country home -- complete with a spooky basement that Chris is told not to not go into. The parents quickly overcome Chris's nervousness by letting him know how "cool" they are with their daughter dating a black man.

However, they still make him feel awkward by overdoing it. Rose's dad refers to him as "my man" and makes a point of talking about how he wishes he could have voted for Obama for a third time. Chris's uneasiness is furthered by two African-American servants whose behavior can charitably be described as weird.

Chris's discomfort is magnified when he meets the Armitage's friends at an event. Like the Armitages, the friends seem eager to prove how  non-racist they are in the most embarrassing and condescending way. For instance, one man who was a professional golfer makes a point in telling Chris how much he likes Tiger Woods.

Eventually the truth is revealed. The people are there to bid on Chris. The winner undergoes a special medical procedure where most of their brain is put into Chris's body, giving them control over Chris.

The reason African-Americans are chosen as the victims is never specified, but is hinted at. The Armitages and their friends constantly praise African-Americans, suggesting the reason they victimize African-Americans is not our of hatred but out of a twisted type of love. .

A number of commentators have noted how this film presents well-meaning white liberals as villains. These commentators have a point, but I think there is something else one can take from the movie that is as more political than sociological.

Get Out could be taken as an analogy to the relationship of African -Americans to progressives. Like the Armitages, progressives see themselves as the opposite of racists. When they  interfere in the lives of African-Americans, or anyone else, they are doing it for their target's own good -- and the good of humanity, never mind that the progressives' definition of "help" involves taking away their beneficiaries ability to control their own lives.

They do this not only through paternalistic welfare policies, but via economic policies that destroy their economic opportunities.

I doubt Get Out writer and director Jordon Peele intended to make a statement about the harm inflicted on African-Americans and others by well-meaning "progressives." But that is a meaning that can be taken from the film.

Pell does deserve credit for a move that avoids the typical  liberal cliches about racist right-wingers and instead gives us a thought-provoking film that raises questions about well-meaning liberals who are in many ways just as, if not more, dangerous to African-Americans than racists. More importantly, he deserves credit for making a really good  horror movie.


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