Jordan Peele, Norman Lear Discuss Search for ‘Common Humanity’ Through Race
Art and Experience: Jordan Peele and Norman Lear engaged in a free-wheeling discussion on the success of Peele’s recent box office smash hit film “Get Out” at the Producer Guild of America’s Produced By conference in Los Angeles on Sunday.
“The fact of my life is I waited 94 years, a few months, and some weeks and days to see your film,” Lear began the back and forth. “And it was worth every f—ing minute of it. I have never been more touched or impressed.”
Lear also drew parallels between himself and Peele’s careers, saying they both have spent their lives looking for a “common humanity,” as both have tackled race through the power of comedy. Peele agreed, saying, “I think what you’re talking about is the essence of why story is one of the most powerful things we have as human beings. What you’ve done with your work and what I think is one of the most successful elements of ‘Get Out’ is story is a way of stepping inside someone else’s shoes.”
“Successful” is quite the understatement with regards to the film. “Get Out,” about a black man who begins to suspect something nefarious is afoot at his white girlfriend’s family estate, grossed over $250 million worldwide on an estimated budget of just $4.5 million.
Peele said that his own experiences watching horror movies in the theater as a child with primarily black audiences greatly influenced the film. When people would criticize the actions of a movie’s protagonist in the theater, Peele took that as a frustration with a lack of representation as to what real people would do under similar circumstances.
“It’s no accident that the sunken place resembles this darkened theater, where we’re marginalized, we’re relegated to, where no matter how loud and hard we scream at the screen we can’t affect what’s happening,” he said.
Later during a Q&A session, Peele also said that one of the starting points for this film was his experiences with unwanted attention, both as a black man growing up and as a performer on a hit TV show later with “Key & Peele.”
“I once had this dream where I was walking through the lobby of this bank or something, this bustling lobby,” he said. “I walked into the elevator area and all the noise stopped. I turned back and everyone had stopped moving and was looking at me. I think I was trying to work out this weird fear of being recognized and how unnatural that feels … Through that I realized that this is an emotion intrinsic to the black experience.”