Jordan Peele's US

[Editorial] Jordan Peele Isn’t Wrong: Representation And Why It Matters

As with most mainstream films, Jordan Peele’s US is receiving love and criticism from both fans and critics alike. Much like his 2017 hit film, Get Out, it’s creating quite a controversy. People are going crazy over US and its successful box office numbers. With success comes power, and it’s important how you use that power. Peele realizes this and plans to utilize the opportunities he’s been given to create the stories he wants to see.

If you’ve been on the internet in the last week, most likely you witnessed the backlash Peele has received after talking to the The Hollywood Reporter and expressing his artistic vision.

“I don’t see myself casting a white dude as the lead in my movie. Not that I don’t like white dudes. But I’ve seen that movie. The way I look at it, I get to cast black people in my movies. I feel fortunate to be in this position where I can say to Universal, ‘I want to make a $20 million horror movie with a black family.’ And they say yes.”

These few sentences have caused such a discord in the horror community. People are quick to anger about anything these days, especially comments having to do with race. But I’m here to say that mentioning a person’s color does not automatically equal prejudice, and in this case, is just one man’s idea on the kind of art he wants to make. It’s less about racism and more about opening our eyes to something original and different.

After reading a well-written and thought out article about diversity in horror, I was inspired to write one myself. I’m not here to tell you that I understand what it’s like to be person of color, or that I understand the struggle of any minority at all, for that matter. I’m simply a straight white woman who thinks that this situation is ridiculous, and the level of hypocrisy on this subject is crazy. What Peele said was not racism. It wasn’t reverse racism. It wasn’t negative in any form. He simply expressed that he plans to tell his stories a certain way – his way – and in doing so, a cast of color is necessary and important. This is something that has been happening for decades by white directors, but no one blinks an eye.

One of the biggest outcries I saw was, “If a white man had said this, he would have been crucified.” Well, let me stop you there. White men have said this many times before, and although they may have seen some backlash because of their words, it was little to none and quickly forgotten. Surprisingly, most people have actually supported this idea. Many of our favorite directors have made similar comments, and time and time, have proven their points time and time again by hiring all white casts. This includes our beloved Tim Burton. In an odd but straight to the point way, he told Bustle in a 2016 article why his films are typically an all white cast.

“Nowadays, people are talking about it more… things either call for things, or they don’t. I remember back when I was a child watching The Brady Bunch, and they started to get all politically correct. Like, okay, let’s have an Asian child and a black. I used to get more offended by that than just… I grew up watching blaxploitation movies, right? And I said, that’s great. I didn’t go like, okay, there should be more white people in these movies.”

That comparison is a little weird if you ask me, but it’s his opinion. Is Burton wrong or racist for saying it? It depends on who you ask. Regardless, those are his films and his stories, so he can portray them however he wants. Similarly, that’s exactly what Jordan Peele is doing and more. The difference is we’ve seen a group of white people coming together in blockbuster films over and over (the original Star Wars franchise, the Indiana Jones franchise, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Titanic (1997), most early superhero movies, etc.). In Peele’s new horror story, US, there’s meaning and references to other fantastic movies throughout the film. One of them is when the family’s son, Jason (Evan Alex) is wearing a Jaws shirt, but the kids don’t know what Home Alone is. Both films are iconic but with all white casts. Peele wants to represent something we haven’t seen and something that HE wants to see. And why shouldn’t he?

Jordan Peele: US

After saying that he wants to do something different, someone will always argue that his films aren’t original, stating things like Get Out is like Skeleton Key and US is mix of C.H.U.D. and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I’m not going to tell you that you’re wrong on that. Yes, they have similarities, and maybe he used those tales as inspiration for his films. However, that’s not the point. The point is, he is putting a black cast in these situations, making them relatable, heroic, and familiar to people of color. That’s why it’s important. That is why it’s different. Those are the facts.

I know I grow tired of seeing a black actor play the same stereotypical role all the time. It has been an industry joke that black people are often the first to die in a film. An article from Project Casting sums up the thoughts on this subject perfectly with this quote:

If you’re a black man, you are allowed to be a rapper, a bouncer, a drug dealer, a convict, a gang member, a rapist, or a wife beater. You can be a noble slave, norm core best friend, a duplicitous merchant, or a space-pirate. You also get to die first. If you’re a black or Hispanic woman, you can be a prostitute, a maid, a nanny, a crack addict, a stripper, or a dead body. If you’re an East-Asian woman, you can be a geisha, a witch, a concubine, a submissive wife, a waitress in your father’s restaurant, or a kidnap victim. Middle Eastern men can be terrorists or local peasants, and East-Asian men can be sadistic enforcers with martial art skills.

The article also states that, back in 2015, a study was done by the University of Southern California that discovered that “in 700 movies in the past seven years, 75% of all movie characters were white. In addition, only 17% of the top 100 films featured a lead or co-star as a non-white actor.” This is just another example as to why Jordan Peele’s actions should be applauded, not looked down upon.

White directors have already cast white leads. Peele isn’t taking away from that, and those movies will continue to be made by some other director. As I mentioned above, other Caucasian directors have said that they will only ever cast white actors. That’s their choice, but keep in mind that Peele never once stated that. Both of his films have had well known white actors in them, just not as the leads. Caucasian directors also cast white people for roles that are meant to be for people of another ethnicity to play (see: Death Note (2017), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Prince of Persia (2008), Gods of Egypt (2016), etc.), also known as whitewashing. This is annoying in and of itself, as there’s no need for it when there’s plenty of talented people of color and ethnicity to fill those roles. However, this is just another reason why it’s important for Peele’s representation, and why we should be applauding him for what he is doing instead of getting pissed over it.

Back in October of 2018, I attended the Women in Horror Film Festival and was lucky enough to sit in on the Diversity and Inclusion Panel. It really opened my eyes. I never thought much about representation before that, just because it never occurred to me how little screen time some people see because of their skin color or ethnicity. I’m lucky that I get to watch a lot of indie horror films that embrace humanity’s differences, but after witnessing this panel and doing research, I finally understand that the mainstream world of filmmaking still has a long way to go. Representation is important, and we all crave it to a certain extent, whether we want to admit or not. When discussing this topic, a friend sated:

I mean, yeah. I admit that I sometimes feel more compelled to watch a film if the cast reminds me of me. But that goes for being a woman, being middle aged, being a parent as well as being white.

So, in reality, representation takes many things into account.

I’m sure some people will disagree with this article, but it’s my hope that I have helped at least one person understand how ridiculous the reaction to Jordan Peele’s statement was. We all want to see ourselves portrayed on screen. We all want to experience that connection. So let the man do his job.

About Tori Danielle

Tori has had a passion for Horror and music ever since she was a little girl. She got bit by the writing bug in high school where she was involved in both the school newspaper and the yearbook. While getting her Bachelors degree, she took Journalism and Creative Writing classes where her passion grew even stronger. Now, in between work and family, she spends all of her spare time indulging in music, Horror movies, and nerdy fandoms, all while running/assisting one of the biggest Horror groups on Facebook and writing for various websites.

Check Also

A Nightmare On Elm Street

The Final Girl And Killer Relationship – ‘A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET’

Slasher films have a foundation of tropes and archetypes that make it one of the …