So before I start this essay on Chris’ role in the new movie Get Out, I must warn you. This will have spoilers. I REPEAT: SPOILER ALERT! Now that that’s out of the way, Rotten Tomatoes got it right giving Get Out a 100 percent rating. Jordan Peele loaded it with racial symbolism that would be difficult to break down in one sitting, but Chris Washington’s (played by Daniel Kaluuya) journey stuck out the most.
We start out the movie with Chris and his girlfriend of four months, Rose Armitage (played by Allison Williams), driving to the Armitage house. Right away, you can tell who is the leader in the relationship. Rose drives. Chris calls his friend Rod and Rose ignores his refusal when she requests to speak with him. When a police officer asks for his ID, she takes the stronger stance (though Chris’ compliance against his own rights is understandable in light of the fear of police brutality). Rose is in charge, and Chris depends on her. This matters.
Later in the movie, Chris figures out that a black man who went missing from Brooklyn was actually captured and paraded around at the Armitage’s house party (Logan). At this point, Chris is not feeling the scene anyway due to Logan’s earlier outburst, but now he’s in a hurry to leave. Chris also finds a box of photos and realizes that Rose lied about him being her first black boyfriend when he sees her multiple black suitors, including the black people helping around the house. Still, he trusts Rose. He depends on Rose. He rushes Rose, telling her they need to leave, so she looks for her keys. When he reaches the bottom of the stairs, Chris is surrounded by Rose’s family while Rose stays on the steps. When Mrs. Armitage questions him, he asks Rose to speak for him and she does. She makes up a story about his dog. Then comes the pivotal moment when he demands she finds the keys. She shows them and says:
“You know I can’t give you these, right babe?”
Of course Rose can’t give Chris the keys. The keys symbolize control. She decides when Chris comes and goes, and she has decided that he’s not going anywhere. Mrs. Armitage stuns Chris with her hypnotism, and as they carry him to the basement, Rose blows a kiss and says, “You were one of my favorites.” The Armitages continue brainwashing Chris in their basement, prepping him to give his eyes to a blind white man who wants them for his purposes.
At this point it’s obvious the Armitages have a hustle. Rose seduces black people and lures them home where Mrs. Armitage hypnotizes them. Mr. Armitage then operates on black people paid for by the highest bidders at their house parties while Rose searches for her next target(NCAA athletes). They control and consume black people, much like systematic racism does and white supremacists would prefer, and Chris is no different. When the time comes to defend himself against a band of bigots who he knows will harm him, he sticks to what he’s done all movie. He leans on Rose for help just as she trained him like the perfect sucker.
After sitting strapped in a chair for an unknown amount of time, Chris scratches through the leather and finds cotton. The symbolism of him literally picking cotton in that house is obvious. What’s not so obvious, is how he uses the cotton to plug his ears, preventing Mrs. Armitage’s sound hypnosis from reaching his ears. He pretends to be unconscious as Jeremy Armitage unties him and wastes no time knocking Jeremy out. Chris then kills Mr. Armitage with his own stuffed deer head. Mr. Armitage falls and sparks a fire, spreading smoke around the house.
Chris looks different at this point. There are no more requests for help. He walks through the Armitage’s house as if it’s his own. When Chris runs into Mrs. Armitage upstairs, he smashes the tea-cup, her tool of control over him, before she tries to stab him. He kills her with her own blade. This new, independent Chris is almost out the door when Jeremy tries to choke him out. Chris stabs him and stomps his head in with little hesitation before taking his keys, walking out of this burning house that resembles a plantation during a violent slave revolt, and driving away. Rose walks out dressed like a slave owner with her rifle, aiming to shoot her self-aware, confident, rebellious slave.
I won’t ruin the end of the movie, so I’ll stop here at this point in the story, but Chris is now a new character. At the beginning of the movie, he does whatever Rose tells him. Whenever he speaks up, he lets her shut him down. Sure, Rose backs him up in front of a cop, but that’s not because she cares about him. She just wants to be the only person who gets to police him (that and she didn’t want any record of his presence there before he went missing). You see, when you’ve bought and paid for a slave, you make sure you’re his only master, no one else. Rose is an experienced slave owner. She knows how to train black men with a potent combination of authority, seduction and security while keeping them unaware of their true place in her eyes before it’s too late. What resembles loving defense is really just establishing ownership.
Once Chris learns he is a slave, when he learns that Rose doesn’t love him and the Armitages don’t see him as anything more than a product for consumption, Chris knows he can’t depend on Rose anymore. He sees that leaning on Rose enslaves him long before he reaches the plantation, no matter how much she pretends to have his back. So Chris rises up and gets his own back. He revolts against his oppression and snatches his freedom from the Armitages with newfound strength and authority.
Before I saw Get Out, I read a review in Cosmopolitan that stated the moral of the story is that “white women are not to be trusted”. Well Chris certainly can’t trust Rose. She is a racist, savage, psychopath who uses her body and emotional manipulation to enslave Chris and then pulls a gun on him when he flees. But I have a different take that focuses less on the white woman and gives more power to the black man in the movie. The biggest moral in Get Out is that if you want freedom from oppression, you can’t expect your oppressor to give it to you. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr.,“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Chris adopts this philosophy, and throws in a little bit of Malcolm X’s any means necessary. He stops seeking Rose’s approval, permission, and protection. He decides he is free and makes it happen.
In real life, the Chris’s of the world always frighten the Armitages. Their names are Nat Turner, Garson, Toussaint L’Ouverture, Huey P. Newton and Fred Hampton. They’re threatening because they challenge the status quo with force if necessary. They demand equality or else. They require humanity in a world that allows barbaric oppressors to label them as savages, terrorists, and thugs. They are what happens when the very strength the Armitages thought they could use for their benefit discovers it has agency and is willing to fight to protect it.
Get Out doesn’t just show what happens when you trust the wrong white woman. It’s not just a warning for the Chris’s out there but a cautionary tale for the bigoted, savage Armitages in America. Clean your house up or it shall catch fire and burn down. No one tolerates oppression forever, and Get Out shows us that all it takes is one strong Chris to wake up and lead a revolution.
Rise up, my friends.