- All the great horror films have something to say. They have a real horror that they’re about, and the issue of racism had been ignored in this genre, and I felt like this meant to fill in a gap, a missing piece of conversation. Maybe this’ll fuck shit up in the wrong way, I don’t know. Art and communication is the one tool we have against the true horror of the world which is violence, so I hope that this is an inclusive experience, and that it inspires people to just talk. We’re also in need right now for things that are going to bring us together as people, so hopefully this movie creates a collective creative catharsis, in a way.
In the commentary, he talks about how he wrote the script under Obama but shot it under Trump:
- When President Obama was elected, we entered this era that I call the post-racial lie: “We got a black president, it’s done, we’re past it.” And many of us know that race is very much alive and racism is alive and it’s the monster that was simmering beneath the surface of the country for a while, and so I felt like this movie was originally meant to address that. Now we live in a completely different era, and it’s been fascinating to see how this movie’s journey has led up to this moment, where now I feel like it’s more relevant in a way than ever.
Interestingly, he says that the shift from Obama to Trump was the reason he changed the ending:
- By the time I was shooting it, it was quite clear the world had shifted, racism was being dealt with, people were woke, and people needed a release and a hero, which is why I changed the ending and had Rod show up at the end.
(I say in my checklist that movies should reflect the way the world works, and that’s far more true of the original ending, but I agree with Peele: Everyone needed to stand up and cheer instead of seeing how it would actually go down. The brilliant solution was to give us that moment where we think he’s going to be arrested, and that hits us like a ton of bricks …but then it’s Rod, and our horror turns to elation. He’s giving us both emotions.)
It’s interesting to try to parse exactly what the movie is saying about the Obama era. One key question that can’t be answered: Is Dean telling the truth when he says he’d vote for Obama a third time? Is that just a lie to put Chris at ease, or does he mean it? Obviously what Dean’s group wants is white minds in black skins. Is Peele saying that that’s what Obama represented to some pseudo-liberals? (Chris is neither surprised nor impressed when Dean tells him this.) Peele says in the commentary that in America, “all black people are in the Sunken Place” One can’t help but wonder to what degree that he’s talking about Obama specifically.
Peele first became a household name (and got to meet Obama) because of a recurring skit on his TV show where he impersonated Obama’s placid exterior while his sketch partner Keegan Michael Key acted out Obama’s hidden angry side. It was hilarious, and painful, and cathartic: Obama fans were gratified to finally get to see the anger that surely must be trapped under the surface of “No-Drama Obama”, possibly in his own personal Sunken Place. It’s unimaginable what Obama must have gone through as he endured constant racial hatred from Fox News, but he rarely let it show.
Peele is grappling with profound national pain, but he’s doing so in an entertaining, even thrilling way, without a lot of speeches. His metaphor does the work.