Pop Culture dictionary

Sunken Place

or the sunken place

[suhng-kuh n pleys]

What does the Sunken Place mean?

In the film Get Out, the Sunken Place is a trance-like, otherworld state black victims of hypnosis are trapped in when their bodies are taken over by white hosts. It has inspired memes and become a symbol of the unwitting oppression of black people.

Related words

Black Twitter, digital blackface, Cross-Race Effect, noice

Where does Sunken Place come from?

sunken place
Villians Wiki

WATCH: How This Horror Movie Term Became A Real Life Metaphor

In Jordan Peele’s 2017 horror-satire Get Out, Missy (Catherine Keener) is a hypnotist who puts black men and women into trances, leaving their minds stuck in what she calls the Sunken Place as white people’s minds get transplanted into their bodies. She also uses the Sunken Place to control the black people she and her family lure to their house and keep them from escaping before the transplant occurs.

The Sunken Place was one of the most lauded elements of the acclaimed Get Out, recognized as a metaphor for the feelings of helplessness and subjugation that black people experience in society built on systemic, institutional racism. It also represents the control that white people can assert over black people through psychological, economic, and cultural oppression.

Following the film, the Sunken Place became a meme that features photos or written examples of black people showing coerced deference to white people along with a quote from the movie: “Now you’re in the sunken place.” Jordan Peele produced many notable examples himself:

In late 2017, Kanye West became the subject of mocking memes after his associations with the Kardashian family led many to joke he had been taken to the Sunken Place.

In April 2018, West replied to the Sunken Place jokes with a picture of his high-end home. Soon after, his critics only further ribbed him for being in the Sunken Place after he issued pro-Donald Trump statements and a gross revisionism of slavery.

Examples of Sunken Place

If distancing himself from Trump was an attempt to get out of the sunken place, then Mayweather seriously failed.
Parker Riley, News One, June, 2018
And how, as a liberal party leader, do you adapt a Trump hashtag for your anti-crime in Cape Town campaign? Whomever's advising you is sowing the seeds for your downfall, @MusiMaimane. This is a pointless warning, however earnest, because you're deep in the sunken place.
@tomolefe, July, 2018
[Sammy Davis Jr.] also fought to be taken seriously as a performer coming up during Jim Crow amid a sea of white celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin—which often meant distancing himself from his blackness and being a quiet ally in the civil rights movement. It also meant that he'd occasionally find himself inside the "sunken place."
Candice Frederick, Vice, September, 2017  

Who uses Sunken Place?

The Sunken Place is one of the most recognizable aspects of Get Out‘s legacy.

In black media and online communities, it has become a way to characterize black oppression, in all its many and often insidious forms, in American society.

Sunken Place memes are used to imply a black person who appears complicit with racist people or institutions.

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