Like Beyoncé’s “Lemonade,” “Get Out” has become so influential that a college professor decided to build a course around it.
The satirical racial horror film directed by Jordan Peele pushed novelist and screenwriter Tananarive Due to launch a new class at UCLA. “Sunken Place: Racism, Survival and Black Horror Aesthetic” will begin Sept. 28 and explore how anti-Black racism and horror have mixed onscreen during the semester.
“I’ve taught the Afrofuturism course, I think, about four times,” the self-described horror head told Gizmodo Wednesday, Sept. 6. “And I thought, ‘You know…horror, to me, is a subset of Afrofuturism in that fantasy is a subset of Afrofuturism.’ 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.”
Due explained she never thought about a class on Black horror prior to the release of “Get Out.” When the semester begins, students will learn about the genre by relying heavily on film, but literature from fantasy authors like Kai Ashante Wilson and Nisi Shawl also will be included. Movies dating back to the 1930s will be on the syllabus and Due is mulling adding D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation.”
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“In a lot of ways, it was just a really on-the-nose way of doing the same thing subsequent movies would do later with the buffoonery and the idea of Black menace,” she said.
Although it may not dive deeply into “Nation,” “Sunken Place” will use it as a jumping point for commentary on how Hollywood treats race.
“Hollywood has a special responsibility for the proliferation of white supremacist imagery,” Due, an acclaimed author, said. “And I think that really calls for a responsibility to come fix it. … Starting with ‘Birth of a Nation,’ I’m planning to look at how fear of Black otherness and Black power were there from the start. …
“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.”