Now that Jordan Peele’s horror satire “Get Out” is No. 1 at the box office, it’s time to talk about the most insidious moment in the movie: The milk scene.
[Warning, spoilers for “Get Out” follow.]
“Get Out,” the “Key & Peele” star’s directorial debut, scored a $30.5-million opening weekend and near-unanimous praise from critics, who cheered its taut thrills and sharp critique of the bigotry lurking behind smiles in a post-racial America.
It opens on a simple premise: An African American man, Chris, (Daniel Kaluuya) goes home to meet the family of his white girlfriend (Allison Williams).
Terror, naturally, ensues.
Over the course of one WASP-y weekend, Chris finds himself politely enduring subtle micro-aggressions from the white suburbanites in his girlfriend Rose’s hometown while being plagued by the increasingly odd behavior of the few fellow African Americans he meets.
Chris’ mounting paranoia leads to a violent, bloody R-rated showdown after a shattering revelation: Rose is the honeytrap in the racist family business, luring black men (and at least one woman) to be imprisoned and body-snatched for the benefit of an older, rich, white clientele.
As the race-fueled carnage unfolds, it all leads up to a jarring — almost unbelievable — moment where Williams sits serenely in her childhood bedroom, headphones on, jamming out to the theme from “Dirty Dancing.” Munching on dry Froot Loops, she coolly quenches her thirst by sipping a tall glass of milk through a straw.
It’s one of the most sinister sips in movie history, up there with Hannibal Lecter’s Chianti slurp, set to the ’80s anthem “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.” An instant visual encapsulation of “Get Out’s” evil.
But Peele couldn’t have predicted that racists in real life would inadvertently make the film’s milk gag ring even more true.
Milk, it has been argued of late, is the new symbol of white supremacy in America, owing to its hue and the notion that lactose intolerance in certain ethnicities means that milk-absorbing Caucasian genetics are superior.
A Mother Jones article even asked, “Are the U.S. dietary guidelines on milk racist?” citing a study that shows not every ethnic group, African Americans in particular, requires the three glasses of milk per day that the federal government recommends to combat osteoporosis.
The source of milk’s recent spin as the beverage of choice for white supremacists is more directly the product of alt-right Internet trolling.
Just two weeks before “Get Out” opened nationwide, a gaggle of 4chan trolls hijacked Shia LaBeouf’s anti-Trump art installation #HeWillNotDivideUs, an Internet stream in New York City intended to be a public forum of protest throughout the next four years of the Trump administration.
The livestream was shut down after the disrupters commandeered it by spewing hate speech, dancing around shirtless, showing off Nazi tattoos and — yes — defiantly chugging gallons of milk, right from the jug, directly into the camera.
“Hey you nonwhites: I can do this and you can’t,” mocked one white male visitor at the #HeWillNotDivideUs exhibit between performative gulps of milk while mugging for the cameras. “We must secure the future of our diet and the future for milk-drinking!”
When the L.A. Times showed the “Get Out” director the circulating YouTube, Peele grimaced and giggled as he took in footage of the milk-toting neo-Nazis on an iPhone.
“That is just creepy,” he said.
And yet the parallels to “Get Out’s” disquieting dairy derangement are strangely well-timed. So what is it about the traditionally wholesome milk that nowadays feels so … evil?
“There’s something kind of horrific about milk,” said Peele, not a dairy drinker. “Think about it! Think about what we’re doing. Milk is kind of gross.”
As for the reasoning behind “Get Out’s” creepy milk reveal, Williams and Peele envisioned the villain Rose as an emotionally stunted woman with the mentality of a teenager, Williams told The Times (hence the music choice).
Her previous soft and welcoming look is transformed into a more lethal and efficient preppiness. Hair pulled back into a sleek ponytail, she is a vision of cold, meticulous elitism in a white button-up and hunting jodhpurs. Photos of her conquests hang on her wall like trophies as she trawls the Internet for her next targets, nibbling Froot Loops one at a time like an afterschool snack. She and Peele even coined a name for Rose’s true self.
“We started to refer to her as Ro Ro,” Williams said. “It’s more interesting if she actually is kind of an actress herself and goes back to a different version of herself so she can bring home the bacon.”
“That scene is one of my favorites,” he said. “It’s one of those moments, like a good ‘Key & Peele’ sketch, when you know you’ve got it — this is going to work.
“There’s no dialogue in it — just this beautiful, psychotic image that gives me glee when it happens in the film.”
Despite the moment landing some of “Get Out”’s biggest laughs with audiences, Rose’s menacing milk-drinking moment wasn’t originally in the film.
“We came up with it a couple days before we shot it,” Peele said.
“It’s one of those things where I just knew, ‘If I was watching this movie I would melt when this scene came on,’” he said. “There are a handful of those moments when I can forget I’m a filmmaker for a second.”
Suffice to say, “Get Out”’s milk moment is yet another way in which the film cuts into the zeitgeist like no other horror movie has before.
“Oh my God. Well, I intended that,” he joked of the uncannily prescient timing to milk’s sudden surge in popularity with white supremacists.
“And,” Peele said, still in disbelief, “better they [drink milk] than killing people!”
Los Angeles Times staff writer Amy Kaufman contributed to this report.