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‘Get Out’: Jordan Peele Reveals the Real Meaning Behind the Sunken Place

Peele's directorial debut has already won him prizes from the Gotham Awards, the National Board of Review, and the New York Film Critics Circle.

"Get Out"

From its clever premise to the bloodshed of its Grand Guignol finale, Jordan Peele’s sledgehammer of a response to the illusion of a “post-racial” America felt like a direct provocation that was somehow detonated across the entire country at once. It helped, of course, that “Get Out” was released just a few short months after the 2016 election, as the film’s timeliness helped it to assume even greater levels of urgency; and, for black audiences, new degrees of knowing catharsis. They were treated to a movie that was effectively “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song” (the other Black man who got away!) for a new generation. There was some concern for whether white audiences would be able to identify with a movie in which every white character was utterly evil and dies gruesomely. But audiences of all shades were more than ready. America has long found it awkward to talk about race, but it certainly was not awkward to talk about “Get Out.”


Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” is already turning awards season on its head. Not only is the movie the rare horror film that is striking a chord with awards voters and critics groups, but it’s also following in the footsteps of “The Silence of the Lambs” by being a major Oscar contender released way back in February. Peele’s directorial debut has won him honors from the Gotham Awards, the National Board of Review, and the New York Film Critics Circle, and the director is hitting the circuit hard to remind voters just how topical “Get Out” really is.

Peele recently joined Greta Gerwig, Darren Aronofsky, Sean Baker, Kathryn Bigelow, Guillermo del Toro, Greta Gerwig, and Angelina Jolie for the Los Angeles Times‘ directors roundtable, and he spent a considerable amount of time shedding a light on one of his film’s most iconic parts: The Sunken Place. Peele had tweeted back in March that the Sunken Place was a symbol for the “marginalized.”

“No matter how hard we scream, the system silences us,” Peele wrote. Now the director has revealed more of the meaning behind the film’s evil purgatory, telling the Los Angeles Times that the Sunken Place was his way of commentating on the lack of black representation in film and in the horror genre, where black characters are often the first to be murdered. Peele’s thoughts on the Sunken Place are as follows:

You know when you’re going to sleep and it feels like you’re about to fall, so you wake up? What if you never woke up? Where would you fall? And that was kind of the most harrowing idea to me. And as I’m writing it becomes clear that the sunken place is this metaphor for the system that is suppressing the freedom of black people, of many outsiders, many minorities. There’s lots of different sunken places. But this one specifically became a metaphor for the prison-industrial complex, the lack of representation of black people in film, in genre. The reason Chris in the film is falling into this place, being forced to watch this screen, that no matter how hard he screams at the screen he can’t get agency across. He’s not represented. And that, to me, was this metaphor for the black horror audience, a very loyal fan base who comes to these movies, and we’re the ones that are going to die first. So the movie for me became almost about representation within the genre, within itself, in a weird way.

“Get Out” recently won Peele the best first film prizes at the NBR and NYFCC. The movie now available to stream on HBO GO.

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