Art & Race with Jordan Peele

By Destinee Schriner

Art is more than an expression of oneself, it is and can be used to express an entire group of
people. Jordan Peele is a prime example of doing this, not only in his movies but in television as
well. What drew most American’s attention was his very successful movie, Get Out which
premiered in 2017. It tackled issues that were prevalent in African American society as well as
handling stereotypes. Most Americans had never seen a Black man at the forefront of a horror
movie much less one that embodies every Black person in America. Nothing was so heart-
stopping than the climax of the police car heading toward the protagonist. I know every person in
the theater that had melanin in their skin caught their breath. But why was that? Because we
know that as a Black person in America that sometimes the police aren’t on our side. It was a
moment that we asked ourselves, who is the police going to believe? The injured White woman?
Or the Black man? If the first thought that came to mind was the White woman, you understand
what I mean.

When Us came out in 2019, most audiences were looking for some racial aspect much like Get
. To many, they saw him as bringing more of these racial divides to the light and they were
disappointed. Of course, some racial points were made within the movie. Such as with the White
family that lived nearby in a vacation home. The protagonist’s husband tried to compete with
their brand new boat by buying a shabby one. How about the modern house the white family
lived in, furnished with the top of the line technology? This is in contrast to the protagonist’s
modest house by the lake with little amenities. There were a few other scenes, but you get the point; it wasn’t the main storyline. It was about a Black family who is being chased by their

How about before Jordan Peele became an acclaimed director? He was known for his comedy on
the hit Comedy Central show Key and Peele. Even then, he was making meaningful skits that
were funny, yes, but held underlying racial tones. One example is “Apologies” in which Key and
Peele were having a conversation about Game of Thrones and they’re interrupted by white
people. Some apologized for racism while one pretends he spilled beer on his ‘Tribe Called
Quest’ shirt just to get some validation from the two main characters. In the end, the bartender
tells them he’s uncomfortable around Black people and Key and Peele, appear relieved and say
‘thank you’. This skit isn’t saying that it’s wrong to understand Black suffering and advocate for
people of color, but it shouldn’t be for clout and validation of being a good White person.
Anyone of any color or race should do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.
Another sketch that really hit home in our society is called, ‘Confederate Reenactors’. As the
title suggests, it has Confederate reenactors with the commander making a speech about the
Southern way of life. That’s when Key and Peele come in—as slaves. Yes, that’s right and they
act like stereotypical happy slaves. This interrupts the commander’s speech and he proclaims he
isn’t racist, but in typical Key and Peele fashion they ramp up the ridiculousness of being slave
stereotypes. That is until the commander almost says the n-word and this gives the protagonist
permission to then rob them. Like most of their skits, this is satire with an underlayer of true-to-
life people of color issues. Many would say that the Civil War was not based on slavery and they
would be wrong. I won’t go into a history lesson nor am I going to debate this fact. Slavery was
free labor, free labor boosted the southern economy and thus the supposed, ‘way of life’ most
people talk about when they refer to the Confederacy. Now back to Jordan Peele’s recent work.

Since Get Out he has become the new host of the hit show The Twilight Zone. If you aren’t
familiar, this is based on the original 1950’s physiological thriller. It had the iconic Rod Serling
as host back then and there have been numerous attempts to restore the illustrious T.V. show.
CBS has done just that with Jordan Peele replacing the mysterious chain-smoking Serling with
his quiet enigmatic presence. As a producer, he has added numerous prominent actors of color.
This is versus the earlier version where there were mostly white actors. Mr. Serling was a man
that always wanted to push the boundaries of genre. This includes race, but due to the
uninclusive time the show had been produced in, he was not always able to tell the full story.
Jordan Peele’s revival pushes the boundaries in new ways and it’s my belief that Rod Serling
would be proud. With so many actors of color, more stories of their plaits can be told. If you
haven’t yet watched it, I would highly suggest it.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Jordan Peele became the first African American to win an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Get Out.

On top of this, he has brought people of color to the forefront of entertainment and not just in
movies. Although the horror genre will never be the same thanks to him highlighting Black
people as the main character trying to survive the movie. No more are we delegated to be the
Black friend that has no real substance. No longer are we the first or second to be killed off in
horror movies. We are more than that, we are people that finally through Jordan Peele, have a
voice. People see us. As Jordan Peele said, “But I’ve seen that movie.” I can only hope that
through this door that Mr. Peele has opened, we see more and more directors willing to highlight
people of color. Although not as a side character or a villain but as the heroine because at the end
of the day, everyone deserves to be the hero of their own story or at least survive it.

Destinee Schriner loves anime, comics, crocheting, and everything romantic. One
of her favorite things to do is sit down with a steaming fragrant cup of chai tea
and write. Her dream is to tour and experience the beauty of Japan one day. She
is an Air Force Veteran and has traveled all over the United States. Destinee
identifies as bisexual and lives with her husband and daughter in Idaho.
Her short story, “Beware of the Iso-Onna”, was published in the 2019 anthology Of Kami
& Yokai by Fantasia Divinity Magazine. Her debut novel, Bluebell, will be released spring 2022 by REUTS Publications.

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This article is a reprint.

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