The universally beloved film Get Out, directed and written by comedian Jordan Peele, has become an iconic fixture in black cinema after successfully dominating the box office this year.
And its signature motif of liberal racism has inspired a new course at the University of California Los Angeles called “The Sunken Place: Racism, Survival, and Black Horror Aesthetic.”
Taught by horror author and filmmaker Tananarive Due, the course will dive into the cinematic history of blackness in horror films starting as far back as D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation. In an interview with Gizmodo, Due said she was inspired to teach a course like this after realizing she could use Peele's film in an Afrofuturism course she taught.
"So, I decided, instead of doing the broader course, why not just break open black horror? Because Get Out is not the first black-made horror film, but it’s definitely the most successful. And I think it definitely has the ability to be culture-changing, let’s say.”
Get Out has served as a discussion starter for larger social issues ranging from micro-aggressions, racism in medicine and interracial dating that have not be showcased in a film like this before. Due believes that the film can serve as an introduction to a larger conversation about blackness in cinema.
"When a movie like that comes along, you now have a reference point to talk about everything that has come before," Due told Gizmodo. "['The Sunken Place'] is going to be a black horror overview course that will be very cinema-based. It’ll look at cinema going back to the ’30s. Both black-made movies and films that have blacks featured, which were very, very different movies then and are still usually very different movies now."
Peele's film works because of the imagery it uses to convey the mental anguish white supremacy has on black people. "Hollywood has a special responsibility for the proliferation of white supremacist imagery," Due said. "It really does. And I think that really calls for a responsibility to come fix it."
While that imagery has been used against black people, Get Out turns it around and gives black people imagery to explain white supremacy.
"Early Hollywood very much used this sort of fear-mongering. Either we were beast-like and scary and we had scary, magical ways that might harm them. Or, we were the comic relief and less brave, more cowardly."
No film is off limits. The course will be available Sept. 28 for horror and Get Out fans.