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Nearly a year after its breakout release, Get Out remains a prevalent part of the cultural conversation. What first appeared as a horror film riff on the rom-com setup of a boyfriend meeting his girlfriend’s parents transformed into a sobering satire for modern race relations. The film’s bait-and-switch premise has earned widespread acclaim and plenty of accolades, and has even begun to spark Oscar chatter for Get Out — a rarity for a horror flick. Further, Get Out became a box office hit, making the film an all-around success.
Along the way, it’s also spawned a flurry of fan theories. Some have speculated that the narrative was merely a figment of TSA agent Rod’s (Lil Rel Howery) imagination, while others are convinced that Rose (Allison Williams) separating her milk and Fruit Loops was a conscious decision to keep the “whites” and “colors” apart, an early indicator for just how deep her racism extends.
In a recent video for Vanity Fair , director Jordan Peele addressed several of these theories, including the idea that Get Out is a secret sequel to 1999’s Being John Malkovich, a surrealist comedy that shares both a star — Catherine Keener — and a comparable plot. Peele said:
“Um, wow. I love this theory, I have heard this theory. It was definitely not lost on me that I was able to get Catherine Keener in her second like weird perspective, living in someone else’s brain movie. We joked about that and I’m a huge fan of the movie Being John Malkovich. I also sat down with [Being John Malkovich director] Spike Jonze a couple months ago, told him this theory myself and he chuckled. So as far as I’m concerned, it’s true.”
In Being John Malkovich, Craig (John Cusack), a frustrated puppeteer and his wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz) stumble upon the ability to ride passenger to the mind of actor John Malkovich, and eventually, override his consciousness completely. This bares a striking resemblance to the transubstantiation in Get Out, a radical medical procedure by which Rose’s parents have been implanting white minds into Black bodies so that they may live longer. The body’s original inhabitants, meanwhile, are forced into the “sunken place,” where they’re reduced to passive viewers of their physical experiences.
Both films also revolve around older characters who initially come across as relatively harmless, but are, in fact, quite insidious. In Being John Malkovich, it’s Craig’s boss, Dr. Lester, who reveals he’s known about the portal to Malkovich’s mind all along, and in Get Out , it’s Rose’s parents (well, it’s the whole of Rose’s family, but they’re the heads of the operation).
According to the theory, Get Out takes place in the same universe as Being John Malkovich, but 20 years later. Keener’s character is the link between them. In Being John Malkovich, she played Maxine, who Lotte and Craig had fallen in love with; In Get Out , she plays Rose’s mother, Missy. Being John Malkovich ended with Maxine and Lotte raising a child fathered by Malkovich, but unbeknownst to them, Craig was trapped inside the child’s mind. With the portal to Malkovich officially closed, they sought out other avenues for mind transplant experimentation, and to avoid suspicion, crafted a new identity as a rich, liberal family living in isolated suburbia. Their child, unknowingly carrying Craig’s wretched spirit, grew up to become a malevolent sociopath (Rose) complicit in their scheme.
It’s clear from Peele’s comments that any connection wasn’t intentional, but Keener’s casting seems to be a winking acknowledgement to the two movies’ similarities. It’s not a seamless parallel, but if Peele is on board, why not let the theory be true?