It took Jordan Peele one movie to make history at the 90th Academy Awards. Peele is the first African-American director to receive nominations in the writing, directing, and best picture categories for a directorial debut. If that isn’t enough, he took home the best original screenplay Academy Award for his movie Get Out.
If you have not yet seen Get Out, you are missing out on one of the most socially provocative films of this generation. Get Out is a social thriller about the interactions of a black man going to meet his white girlfriend’s family in a white suburban town. The movie is a political statement masked by the horror genre – a genre that has been created to elicit an emotional and physical reaction. It exposes the state of the societal affairs of post-Obama America and the well-meaning white liberals who have not accepted their internalized racism. It not only challenges the place of white privilege in American culture, but it also uncovers the reality of the exploitation of people of color.
Jordan Peele’s win was a historic victory, showing how a movie that evokes discomfort and makes the white viewer feel culpable could still gain such praise. His win went along with a landmark speech where he thanked the people “who raised my voice and let me make this movie.” Peele deserves all the praise, but at the same time, this victory also shows how little progress Hollywood has made. The Oscars were 11 years old when the first black actress, Hattie McDaniel, won for best-supporting performance. In her acceptance speech, she stated, “The Academy is apparently growing up, and so is Hollywood. We are beginning to realize that art has no boundaries, and that creed, race or color must not interfere where credit is due.” That was in 1939, and I would think that inclusion would have vastly improved since then. But Jordan Peele’s victory called attention to the fact that we are still having “firsts” in Hollywood.
The success of Get Out can be attributed to the fact that it promotes empathy by seeing the world through somebody else’s eyes; exposing the real-life horrors of racism. In Peele’s acceptance speech, he touches upon the theory that black does not sell overseas, “We need to give more diverse points of views the platforms to do good work. And I think part of the key is for the underdogs to realize that this is a possible aspiration, […] I want to produce untapped voices, find people and help them get their platform.” Peele pushes societal boundaries and has created a movie that allows for a conscious conversation about white privilege and racism.
Peele felt that racism was not being called out sufficiently, so he took a chance and created a movie that purposefully created discomfort. This discomfort sparked an ongoing debate about race in America, which goes to show that we need to have more uncomfortable conversations because discomfort pushes progress.
COVER PHOTO: NME.com