What does the glowing success of Get Out—a horror film with racism at its center—say about our cultural moment? If popular entertainment serves as a kind of barometer for national anxieties, this is a highly revealing film, one that may someday hold as much interest for sociologists and historians as it does for critics.

For many Christians, the word “horror” sets off alarm bells. Isn’t this an especially deviant and heartless genre that does little more than celebrate mayhem and bloodshed? Why would Christians venture anywhere near this morbid territory?

Consider, however, that though the close kinship between the two is frequently overlooked, Christians should be the first to recognize that both horror and comedy are uniquely adept at addressing serious moral issues. One of the reasons for this is that certain subjects are so polarizing, so politically charged, and so volatile that they can only be effectively addressed by a mode of storytelling that releases their inherent tensions by detonating them in a moment of heated catharsis, like a laugh or a scream.

Indeed, laughter and screaming are frequently indistinguishable in black comedy and satire, comic sensibilities that are very familiar to horror fans. Think of the moral force of Jonathan Swift’s icy satire, “A Modest Proposal,” which famously recommended that poor Irish families supplement their meager incomes by selling their children as a particularly exotic form of cuisine to the nation’s wealthiest citizens. Though it may seem like a long way from Swift to a contemporary horror film, I’d argue that few stories address the subject of racism with the force and moral urgency of Get Out.

As I’ve argued ...

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