In the surreal trailer for Jordan Peele’s upcoming film Get Out, a young man named Chris travels to the suburbs with his girlfriend, Rose, to meet her parents for the first time. But this isn’t just any suburb: The Stepford-like existence the parents live in appears to thrive on the white community’s hypnosis-based subjugation of black people. When Chris, a black man, comes face-to-face with a white woman’s mesmerizing, spinning spoon, we know he’s in trouble.
Early on in the trailer, Rose’s father tells Chris that the mother could help him quit smoking via hypnosis. The scene cuts to her steady gaze, paired with a shot of a spoon spinning in a teacup. Later, we see the teacup and the same spoon twirl again, this time in a much more chilling setting: As Rose’s mother and Chris sit opposite of each other, she twirls her spoon and commands him to “sink into the floor.”
If Rose’s mother is a hypnotist, then her spinning spoon is far from a teatime coincidence. The first stage of hypnosis is “hypnotic induction,” which triggers eye fixation that then leads to relaxation. While the Standards of Training in Clinical Hypnosis (endorsed by the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis) acknowledges that every hypnotist has their own induction technique, a common image hypnotists often ask their patients to envision after they’ve had a “hypnotic induction” is a spiral staircase that continues to go round and round. It’s the spinning that’s crucial here: Spinning imagery is thought to prepare the mind to go into a stage of divided consciousness. Some psychologists believe hypnosis is an effective way to force consciousness to divide into distinct components, which in turn is thought to make a person more responsive to external instructions.
The undercurrent of hypnosis runs parallel to the sense of racial unease throughout the trailer. Later, we are introduced to another young black man named Andre who appears dazed until he sees the sudden flash of Chris’s camera, prompting both a nose bleed and a guttural cry for Chris to get out. Is the flash some sort of “coin drop,” a technique used by hypnotists to end the procedure? We don’t know for sure, but it certainly looks like it means more trouble for both Chris and Andre.
Near the end of the trailer, we hear a famous saying being repeated: “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” The quotation, attributed to the former head of the United Negro College Fund, Arthur Fletcher, is emblematic of the idea that power can be wrought by different facets of psychology. Hypnosis can’t be the only force responsible for the strangeness going on here, and this is confirmed, later, when we see a quick shot of a creepy surgeon and a box of menacing scalpel-like tools. But as far as we can tell, hypnosis at least serves as the gateway for control — first of the mind and later of the body.