How Barack Obama's America Inspired Jordan Peele To Make An Interracial Horror Movie
"We were in this America that was like this post-racial lie," Peele said.
LOS ANGELES — Jordan Peele started writing the interracial horror movie Get Out shortly after Barack Obama was elected the first black president of the US in 2008. In a Facebook Live interview on Friday at BuzzFeed's Siren Studios in LA, Peele said he was inspired to make a movie that debunked the fact that America had become post-racial society under Obama.
"We were in this America that was like this post-racial lie. We weren't supposed to talk about race. Obama, it seemed like he couldn't talk about race. The whole notion was like, 'It's over! We got a black president!'" Peele, who also directed the movie, told BuzzFeed News' Kovie Biakolo. "So I wanted to make a movie that took the clues and hints that racism is lurking underneath the surface of this country and present it in my favorite genre, in a horror thriller."
But the movie will open on Feb. 24, at a time when racism has bubbled to the surface, which Peele said gives Get Out that much more weight. "In Trump's America, it's an even more interesting film and has a bigger catharsis attached into it," he said. "I think it's unfortunate, the direction of the world, the direction this country has gone, but this movie is about racism, which I feel like has been here all along; it just has a different face, and it has a different form and energy."
Get Out tells the story of Brooklynite Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), who goes home to meet the family of his girlfriend of four months, Rose (Allison Williams). To reveal much more about the plot would spoil the twist, but Peele isn't subtle with the metaphors it explores: being black in America is a horror in and of itself.
"I was just like, 'Oh my god. Are you allowed to say this? Are you allowed to make this? Are you allowed to do this?' And I was like, 'I need to be a part of this,'" Kaluuya said of his reaction to the script. When Williams read Get Out, she recalled, "I was like, 'Ooooh people are going to be so mad! I'm definitely in!'"
"I loved the idea of using a horrifying construct of racism and putting it in a movie where you could kind of just entertain people and Trojan-horse these bigger conversations into the package of what is an entertaining movie," she said.
As the story in Get Out unfolds, Chris starts to notice Rose's family has some prejudices, but he's uncomfortable voicing his concerns at the risk of offending Rose. "You can think of it as a metaphor — how many people in their jobs, they feel racism, they feel sexism, but they can't speak up," Kaluuya said. "They feel frozen. And I've been in that situation."
Kaluuya also said he personally felt for Chris: "It's crazily relatable." He specifically noted a party scene in which Chris meets some of Rose's family's friends. "I've been to those parties, man," he said. "People are really nice and they want to be welcoming, but the impact of that is that it's alienating and you feel other. And that confusion, that paranoia, goes, 'Do I have the right to be offended?'"
Peele added: "The pleasant olive branch form of prejudice that we talk about in the movie, those are the little signals that in the Obama era, any minority, anybody in some sort of oppressed group, could identify why we're not in fact in a post-race society."
Get Out, Peele hopes, will help audiences see racism from another perspective. "With a good, thrilling story, we have the ability to see through someone else's eyes," he said.
"You're forcing an audience that isn't always filled with black men to see what it's like to go through a weekend as a black man and there's nothing you can do about it," Williams added. "You're just in the audience and you have to experience everything as he sees it."
Williams also said that Get Out is best experienced in a theater where viewers can learn something about themselves in their responses to it and in the responses of strangers around them. "If there's something that other people are laughing at that you don't get, maybe do some thinking about why you didn't understand that joke," she said.
But Peele wanted to make clear that "the movie's not 'white people are evil.'" "I truly believe that racism is not something that one group is guilty of," he said. "It's something that is a human trait: to categorize, to tribalize." Chris, he noted, "also makes assumptions about what he's going to find in people."
Time will tell how audiences respond to Get Out (though the trailer got quite the rise out of Twitter). But Williams is excited for people to see it and react, saying: "I'm glad it's not gonna come and go quietly."