Over the next month, The Atlantic’s “And, Scene” series will delve into some of the most interesting films of the year by examining a single, noteworthy moment and unpacking what it says about 2017. First up is Jordan Peele’s Get Out. (Read our previous entries here.)
Thirty minutes into the horror film Get Out, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) senses something malevolent is afoot as he sits down to talk about his smoking problem with his girlfriend’s mom, Missy Armitage (Catherine Keener). A first-time guest at the Armitages’ home, Chris had just watched the family’s groundskeeper Walter (Marcus Henderson) charge at him in the dead of night, as if chasing an invisible enemy. Then Chris saw the housekeeper Georgina (Betty Gabriel) staring at her own reflection in a zombified state. Walter and Georgina are both African American, like Chris. Missy and her husband Dean (Bradley Whitford), who are white, have already copped to the unfortunate optics of being waited on by black employees in their fancy country estate, while insisting the pair are part of the family.
Still reeling from Georgina and Walter’s odd behavior, Chris tries to return to his bedroom when a light flicks on: It’s Missy, sitting quietly in the living room. She invites Chris to join her. “Do you realize how dangerous smoking is?” she asks him, with a hint of a smile. Earlier, Missy—a therapist—had offered to hypnotize Chris to cure him of his nicotine cravings. It’s clear, both to Chris and to the viewer, that a trap is being sprung. But what can he really do?