The first time I walked into a therapist’s office at age eleven (I’d walk out diagnosed with depression), I asked if hypnotism was real, if it worked. The therapist, who likely a PhD candidate training towards their degree, answered, in some patients, yes, but not like in movies.

How’s it work, eleven-year-old I asked.

Instead of answering, she started the mandatory questionnaire. I didn’t ask why my father, the one causing turmoil in my home, wasn’t in the therapist’s chair, why school bullies weren’t. Mom couldn’t yet admit how abusive Dad was. I hoped one day they’d divorce. Six long years later, they did.

I remember a vague sense of failure at being there. Herbal supplements and relaxation exercises hadn’t worked. I wasn’t an angry child yet. I was becoming angrier.

Therapy didn’t help, didn’t hurt. Neither did Fluoxetine, better known as Prozac; at least I didn’t think so. Why Prozac? It seemed to help my father (it didn’t, he was as explosive and unstable as before). At 17, I had a nightmare about unknown attackers forcing a funnel of the mint green pills down my throat. During my next session, I spilled those pills on my psychiatrist’s desk. That was that.

A major study published in 2005 indicated antidepressants increased risk of suicidal ideation and risk of suicide in patients under 25. I wonder if Prozac damaged my eleven-year-old brain. Today, I recognize I didn’t understand my right to refuse medications and suffered coercion and medical abuse.

Years later, I learned one of the male therapists I’d seen was arrested for molesting female patients.

I’m glad I never gave up on therapy. My last therapist was the best I’ve ever found. Some healing was finally possible. Finding good therapists can take decades. I consider myself lucky; most never get lucky.

When Chris refuses therapeutic hypnosis with Missy Armitage in Get Out (2017), he’s anxious. Chris doesn’t believe the Armitages, who are white, are okay with their daughter Rose dating a black man.

Out deals with race, but its horror has roots in the history of abusive psychiatry and eugenics. The film makes a crucial point: racists aren’t always stereotypical gun-toting, Bible-thumping, uneducated rural conservatives. Some are cultured, educated upper-class liberals with classicist philosophies.

Rose and Chris hit a deer while driving to the Armitages’ elegant, rustic upstate New York home in a uber-affluent suburb. Chris goes silent, reliving trauma, staring at the deer.

The deer in Out aren’t sustenance, they’re status symbols. Their heads are mounted in Dean’s basement lab. Dean Armitage’s hatred of deer, which he claims are overpopulated, is directed at black people. Dean hates deer because they’re undomesticated. He likes blacks when they’re domesticated, under his control.

The first scene in Out references hunting. Andre Hayworth, another victim, wanders lost in the suburb. Jeremy Armitage drives by, then stops. “Run, Rabbit, Run,” a 1939 song written by Noel Gay, comes from his car. Jeremy ambushes Andre wearing black and an executioner’s mask. Jeremy asphyxiates Andre until he falls unconscious, drags him into the trunk of the car, then drives off. Jeremy’s physically stronger than he appears or pretends to be.

(Noel Gay’s real last name was Armitage. He’s Roman Armitage’s brother or cousin.)

Chris and Rose have a tense interaction with a police officer, who demands to see Chris’s driver’s license, though he wasn’t driving. Rose successfully challenges the officer. Chris finds this attractive. Rose seems anti-racist to gaslight Chris.

Rose talks prepackaged anti-racism and sounds like social justice warrior social media profiles which tag #antiracism while saying nothing. We shouldn’t trust her.

Chris trusts Rose. She’s a manic pixie girl: she’s teenager-like (like her brother), dresses in upscale-yet-casual contemporary fashion and makeup, loves Chris’s dog, and loves sweets. She doesn’t adult.

Rose consistently gaslights Chris. When Georgina unplugs his phone, draining his battery, Rose insists this was accidental. When Walter speaks oddly to Chris, Rose jokes to make it seem he’s being oversensitive.

Not all abusers gaslight by claiming victims have mental illnesses. Some suggest victims are being sensitive.

Chris is a clearly talented, introverted photographer. He’s got unresolved trauma around his mother’s death. Chris isn’t unlike most people who aren’t ready for therapy. In a not-horror movie, his refusal to try hypnotherapy would’ve been met by awkward laughter.

That’s when I knew what scared me about Out. Missy’s approach was the same my doctors used: Missy will hypnotize Chris with or without his consent.

Missy corners Chris in her office. He’s too timid to refuse conversation. Chris is skeptical of hypnotherapy. Missy rhythmically scratches her spoon along the rim of her cup. She asks about events surrounding his mother’s death by hit-and-run when he was four. He remembers rain. He can’t move. Missy plants false memories of him watching TV and avoiding calling 911.

It took several watches to realize what happened. Missy suggests Chris watched lots of TV, he answers when he was a kid. She creates a false memory. Few people retain memories before age five. Missy’s trapping him in the sunken place inside the TV’s screen. Both the spoon and TV are focal points.

It’s apt that Peele chose a TV screen. Chris is an exotic status symbol, unwillingly watched by fascinated elites. His false memory is doubly abusive because Chris blames himself for his mother’s death.

Real hypnotherapy can’t make anyone fall unconscious on command. It does, however, put patients in heightened states of suggestibility, and in some cases, false memories can be planted by the hypnotherapist. Anyone remembering the Satanic panic of the 80’s knows childhood memories are prone to this dynamic, as evidenced in trials where children testified to outlandish abuse.

After Chris is hypnotized, he wanders outside. Walter runs at him full speed, barely missing him. Walter isn’t the happy-go-lucky man he’s mimicking. Someone’s wearing Walter, someone who almost made the qualifying finals for the Olympics in 1933.

We’re ahead of ourselves.

What’s eugenics? Its philosophy (in a very layman’s terms nutshell) is there’s a science to selecting human traits. Eugenicists think it’s a good idea to select for elite traits. They conversely believe “deficient” or “inferior” traits should be weeded out. In its official pseudoscience form, eugenics targets those with “mental disabilities,” “deformities,” the “low IQ,” anyone black, brown, red, yellow, Gypsy, indigenous, criminals, homosexuals, transsexuals, and “deviants.” Nazis added Jews to this list.

There’s evidence that some cultures preferred some traits over others and killed those with very deficient traits, but that’s hotly debated. What’s known is after Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published in 1859, some intellectuals used Darwin’s theories to legitimize bigotry into a pseudoscience.

Eugenicists believe the majority, if not all, of one’s personality is genetic. Therefore, individuals with socially inacceptable traits (specific to each society and era) should be prevented from passing on their genes.

Eugenics defies evolutionary tactics by selecting traits. Doing so deprives the genetic pool of variation and makes it susceptible to errors. That’s why royal families were prone to birth anomalies, why we tell crass cousin-marrying jokes; intermarrying and conceiving between heritage lines causes naturally occurring defenses against anomalies to break down. Selective “breeding” in humans is disastrous.

Of course, some eugenicists posit while “lesser” ethnicities aren’t intellectually fit, they’re physically fit. That’s where the Armitages anchor their arguments.

Dean shows Chris a photo of his father, Roman, who lost in qualifying rounds to Jesse Owens for the 1933 Olympics. Owens accepted the gold medal from Hitler. Dean uses this photograph as evidence of his anti-racism. Chris admires the photograph but recognizes Roman’s loss. Roman almost got over it.

When Peele included anti-Nazi sentiment, it’s misdirection. The Armitages aren’t different from those attending the 1933 games. Dean’s speech about men being greater than fire, gods trapped in cocoons, is reminiscent of Nietzschean quotes. Who misquoted Nietzsche to describe themselves? Welp, they goosestepped.

Dean introduces two black servants, the groundskeeper and housekeeper, Walter and Georgina. Georgina prepares food or cleans standing in a fixed spot, staring at a fixed spot, occasionally with an enraged or terrified expression, but usually smiles and speaks in a pleasant voice. When she overfills Chris’ glass, Missy promptly orders her to rest. Georgina agrees.

Chris is unnerved that the Armitages have black employees. But the Armitages provide explanations for everything. Chris feels he’s drawing preemptive conclusions. After all, he’s being gaslit.

Dean shows Chris the house is isolated from other homes in the community. I was reminded of the dramatic expanses of Colorado landscape in The Shining (1980). Chris knows he’s out of reach from help.

After Chris refuses a hypnotherapy session to quit smoking, the family reminds Rose their annual party occurs that weekend. Family friends will attend. Chris is invited.

Jeremy arrives dressed in a strangely casual Ivy League fashion. During supper, he drunkenly harasses Chris, asking if he’s been in street fights or MMA. Dean discourages the interaction. Chris passes on the bait by insisting he took Jujitsu. Jeremy’s fixated, claiming if Chris pushed himself to his biological potential, he’d be a beast. He attempts putting Chris in a headlock before Chris stops him.

Why’d Dean discourage Jeremy? Jeremy isn’t playing his role in the deception. Jeremy should be rebellious, reckless, but not fixated on biological imperatives. Chris could become suspicious. The next day, Jeremy’s sober: he’s moodier and more argumentative than Rose, but still good natured.

Rose plays her role perfectly: she criticizes her family for being casually racist. This tricks Chris into trusting her. The Armitages act casually judgmental so he’ll be drawn to her.

Dean, Missy and Rose pretend everything’s fine, but Walter accidentally acknowledges running at Chris. Thus, he knows he was hypnotized. When Georgina apologizes for accidentally unplugging the phone, she sobs and sheds a tear while smiling and denying Chris’s fears.

Partygoers arrive and ask Rose or Chris invasive, racialized questions. One asks if Chris plays golf like Tiger Woods. Another asks Rose “is it better?” Another party goer claims popular culture preferences black skin. A Japanese man asks if Chris thinks being African-American is an advantage or disadvantage in the modern world.

During the party, Chris goes upstairs. The partygoers fall silent. They drop their act.

The guests use a technique called love bombing, where abusers patronize victims in objectifying ways. Chris finds a man sitting with a cane whom calls the others ignorant. Chris commiserates. This is Jim Hudson, a blind art dealer. Jim confesses his own photographs were artistic failures before he lost his sight. Hudson’s heard Chris’s photographs described. He calls them brutal, yet praises them. Chris takes the bait.

If this makes Jim relatable to audiences, it shouldn’t. Manipulators sometimes self-disparage to create false dependence on victims, inspiring feeling of pity for their abusers. All partygoers tested Chris to see if he’s their vessel. Jim claims Chris by winning the auction.

Hudson ascribes to a eugenicist philosophy. He thinks Chris’s “eye” is literal, so he claims Chris as his vessel. He cannot conceive Chris’s talent isn’t from sight, but an ineffable talent.

Chris’ photographs, which are displayed in his apartment, aren’t brutal. They’re immediate, well-shot, direct, but they depict black urban life, not brutality. They’re black and white. That’s his aesthetic. They’re not about racism, but lived racial experiences. Jim Hudson interprets them as brutal. Chris takes this as praise, where “brutal” is a compliment on their directness. But Hudson sees urban black life as primitive as Dean saw life in Bali.

Chris finally sees a black party attendee, who calls himself “Logan King.” Unknown to the Armitages, Chris knows Andre from Brooklyn, yet can’t place him with his new demeanor, hairstyle, and clothing. He snaps a photograph to show a friend, Rod. Andre (who wakes inside the vessel) responds violently by seizing Chris, yelling for him to get out, and forcing him away from Dean. Once subdued, Missy brings Andre to her office, “Logan” acts stiffly and artificially as before. Dean, who’s a neurosurgeon, says the flash gave Logan seizures. Chris knows this isn’t true.

There was a psychological symptom, not a physical one, yet the treatment was physical. Sound like a certain reviewer who was prescribed antidepressants when no physical needs were established?

The friend Chris contacts is Rod. Rod’s been his only black social contact outside. Rod’s funny and loves wacky conspiracy theories. Chris needs Rod’s support before he knows the extent of his peril. But Rod recognizes “Logan” and tells Chris that Andre is an acquaintance who vanished months before.

After his interaction with “Logan,” Chris knows he’s made a mistake. He’s desperate to leave. He tells Rose he feels guilty about contributing to his mother’s death (which is a false memory Missy implanted). Rose agrees to leave. They pack hurriedly. In the hustle, he notices her moving items in a hidden closet.

Inside, he finds photographs of Rose posing with over a dozen black men and one black woman. The last man in the collection and the black woman are “Walter” and “Georgina.”

(This might mean Jeremy lures black women, but if Rose is tactically “bisexual” to lure black women, her brother might’ve lured black men in the same fashion.)

Chris is captured when Missy strikes her spoon on her cup. I felt disappointed by this choice. The story explored real abuses of hypnotism. Missy could’ve subdued Chris with trauma, too.

In Dean’s basement lab, Chris is strapped to a soft armchair in front of the TV from his traumatic memory (which is the egg before the chicken routine, since Missy created the memory). Chris sees an eerie mid-80’s commercial. Roman Armitage introduces the Armitage family and his scientific discoveries. Roman sees an alliance between distinct black and white races: with black physical gifts and white intellectual ones, he imagines an opportunity for immortality. He introduces the Coagula, the medical process which makes it possible. Of course, this isn’t immortality for black people, who don’t choose participation, but that’s not mentioned. Afterwards, Missy’s cup and spoon appear onscreen, making him sleep.

Some abusers try to convince victims that the abuse is for the best or for the victim’s benefit. The most narcissistic believe it.

Drowsy, Chris carves his fingernails into the chair, removing cotton.

The Coagula isn’t an alchemical process, but is exactly what it sounds like. White brains and black bodies are inseparable once the surgery is complete. Jim appears onscreen to explain Chris will be aware of everything Jim does, but won’t have control. Jim believes he’ll have sight again and be a great photographer at last. The only reason Jim tells him is it eases the transition, not to ask Chris’s consent.

Rose is in her office, framed photographs of victims on the wall like mounted deer heads, on a website seeking black men (or women) to date. She’s dressed in a fox-hunting outfit with knee high boots and a rifle in the background. Meanwhile, Jeremy unstraps Chris to take him to surgery. Chris bludgeons him with a pool ball until he’s unconscious, then frees himself. Chris removes cotton from his ears; he couldn’t hear the spoon the second time, then mimicked sleeping.

It’s not easy for victims of psychological abuse to recognize they’ve been manipulated. The first thing to do is stop listening to abusers.

Chris attacks each Armitage in turn. He impales Dean on a deer’s antlers. Dean falls over Jim in the operating theater and sets it ablaze. Chris uses a knife to carve Missy’s throat. He doesn’t forget his phone. Jeremy wakes and almost asphyxiates Chris, but Chris overpowers him and savagely crushes his skull, then takes Jeremy’s keys.

It’s my favorite moment in Out. Chris acts with primitive, defensive rage. Chris isn’t biologically primitive, but even the shyest person will defend themselves. That’s not racial, that’s human.

Georgina runs in front of the car as Chris tries to drive off. He accidentally hits her. He remembers his false memory. He’s livid at himself, but picks her up, puts her in the car, and drives again.

That’s another unique point the film capitalized on: when multiple victims are targeted by the same abuser, abusers sometimes pit victims against one another. Georgina either can’t wake or has Stockholm syndrome. Stockholm syndrome is a symptom where, after acting in ways that will make them appear as willing victims, the victim start believing that they are willing participants in their own abuse. The real Georgina is a black woman still asleep inside, but she’s also a vessel for Rose’s grandmother. The grandmother attacks Chris, causing him to wreck the car. Rose fires her rifle at Chris and simultaneously orders Walter (who is Roman’s vessel) to catch him. Chris has his phone for a reason. The flash makes the real Walter wake inside the vessel: he asks for Rose’s rifle to kill Chris. She hands it to him. Walter shoots Rose in the chest, then himself under the chin.

Some victims sadly turn to self-destructive tendencies, even suicide attempts, after being freed of an abuser’s control.

Rose, bleeding from her wounds, tells Chris it’s her. She’s trying to convince Chris she was also a vessel, which isn’t true. Chris recognizes this, and tearfully asphyxiates her.

Some abusers claim that they’ve also been abused. This is an often-simplified summary of research that’s regularly repeated. While being a victim is a positive factor for prediction becoming an abuser, no single contributing factor makes someone into an abuser. No single factor can possess a person to act.

But Chris is rescued when Rod miraculously appears.

Out is significant. It addresses the modern realities of racism that haven’t vanished. But it also addresses Eugenics and its history with abusive psychiatric practices. It recognizes racists can be wealthy, well-educated, and liberal, despite popular stereotypes. It presented a powerful portrayal of the tactics abusers use against victims. Most importantly, Out show that men absolutely can be manipulated, gaslit, and abused by women.