Jordan Peele has now made two visits to Professor Tananarive Due’s UCLA class, “The Sunken Place: Racism, Survival and the Black Horror Aesthetic,” and a new 40-minute video posted by Due captured the visit.
The students are surprised when Peele walks in, trading his baseball hat for plastic frame glasses. When one student arrives late to class, he gets his very own “hey” from the Oscar nominated “Get Out” director. From off camera, Due mentions the Oscar nomination, and Peele launches into his memory of watching Whoopi Goldberg win an Oscar for “Ghost” in 1991.
“I remember being 12 years old and rooting for Whoopi,” he said. “There was this feeling that she was the outsider in the group, the long shot. I remember she got up onstage and she said something like, ‘To everybody out there who looks like me and feels like me and thinks they’ll never be able to make it, and achieve their dreams, you can do it.'”
More recently, he said, it was the success of F. Gary Gray’s “Straight Outta Compton” that gave him the confidence to make “Get Out.”
“The industry follows the money,” said Peele. “We proved that the business is there, so once that door was open I felt extremely relieved. Because up until then, part of the systemic racism and the sunken place that was taking place was this notion that black movies don’t do well.”
Peele also took the opportunity to expand on the idea of the sunken place, and take a more intersectional view on oppression.
“The sunken place is something that exists not just for black people, but for women, for our Latino brothers and sisters, for any marginalized group that gets told not to say what they’re experiencing. That’s what the sunken place really is… It’s the system. It’s all these cogs in the wheel that sort of keep us where we are… The sunken place is the silencing. It’s the taking away of our expression of our art. It’s the very fact that this movie has never been made before.”
When asked about the current political moment, Peele received a loud cheer when whipped out his famous Barack Obama impression to tell the class: “You know, progress isn’t a straight line.”
When asked the top five movies that informed the tone of “Get Out,” Peele lumped “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Stepford Wives” together as equally influential. He also listed “Night of the Living Dead,” “The Shining,” “Halloween,” and “The Silence of the Lambs,” adding that “the sequences between Hannibal and Clarice were very inspiring to me for the therapy scenes.”
Watch Peele’s full lecture below.