Jordan Peele’s ‘Get Out’ opens the door for genre and racial diversity in Hollywood

In Opinion
A scene from the movie "Get Out" shows actor Daniel Kaluuya looking scared.
(Courtesy of Flickr)

The 2018 Academy Awards saw a majority of expected winners walking away with Oscars, but Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” made massive strides for the African-American community and the horror genre alike.

Get Out,” the horror-comedy written and directed by comedian Peele, won Best Original Screenplay while receiving nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Daniel Kaluuya as Best Actor.

Despite decreasing viewership, the Oscars are still a prestigious honor. The success of “Get Out” as a horror movie, and as a film written and directed by a black man, makes it a major stepping stone for Hollywood’s overall diversity moving forward.

In 2016, the #OscarsSoWhite controversy haunted the ceremony after no black actors or actresses received nominations in the lead/supporting acting categories for the second year in a row. People were also upset that films like “Beasts of No Nation” and “Straight Outta Compton” were overlooked for Oscar nominations, despite receiving critics’ prizes and guild awards.

But Best Original Screenplay wasn’t on anyone’s radar at the 2016 Academy Awards, despite the importance of pure, creative storytelling.

In this sense, original screenplays can be the most important aspect of filmmaking for increased diversity. Two actors from different races and backgrounds may be able to act in a role at virtually the same pedigree, but writing a story requires a person to tap into their own experiences, beliefs and inspirations.

Peele wrote his screenplay during the Obama era, addressing what he called at a Vanity Fair screening of “Get Out,” the “post-racial lie” — America had a black president so there was no way people could spout racist commentary — and drawing from news headlines about black individuals suffering at the hands of white people. Peele drew cinematic inspiration from “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Stepford Wives” and also incorporated his comedic background into the film to relieve tense moments with unexpected laughs.

While the film is undoubtedly a bizarre concoction, “Get Out” was well received, drawing in a massive box office haul, which according to The Wrap, brought back a 630 percent profit in relation to its budget. The movie continued its victory tour last week with an Oscar win that made Peele the first African-American to receive an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

Looking forward, this development has opened the door for a wider panel of stories to be told and recognized, particularly when most wouldn’t normally receive time in the spotlight. “Get Out” wasn’t only a barrier breaker for race, it was a resurgence for its genre as well.

The horror genre has been left out to dry at the Academy Awards, which overwhelmingly nominates different blends of dramas. Over the course of 90 years, only six horror films have ever been nominated for Best Picture. The genre has occasionally seen nominations and wins for minor technical awards, including Best Makeup and Best Visual Effects, but a horror film being nominated for multiple larger categories, let alone winning one of them, is an extreme rarity.

This is a result of horror being seen as less-than, producing mostly low-quality films. While the market has admittedly been saturated with forgettable films laced with cheap jump scares, there have also been high-quality films worthy of recognition in recent years.

“The Babadook,” “It Follows” and “The Witch” were all released within the past four years, each receiving glowing responses from critics, but none of them were nominated in any category for the Oscars.

Maybe Peele’s horror film was another flash in the pan for the academy and the diversity of race and genre will continue to stay stagnant. But the movie was, at the very least, a breath of fresh air and a triumph for the underrepresented during a time in Hollywood when the demand for change is at an all-time high.

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