3 Ways Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” is inspired by the Dutch
Hooray for Jordan Peele! The writer and director of ‘Get Out’ won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. As Dutch NOS News reported, “2 Years After #OscarsSoWhite Chances Are Growing for Black Oscars.”
But the Dutch national news missed an interesting detail – JORDAN PEELE STARTED HIS CAREER IN THE NETHERLANDS.
In fact – having worked alongside Jordan for 3+ years – here are 3 reasons I think it’s possible the inspiration for the racism in ‘Get Out’ was partly the Netherlands. A country so deep under sea level it may as well be called ‘The Sunken Place.’
ONE – ALIEN NATION.
If you don’t know the movie ‘Get Out,’ it starts with a black guy going to meet his white girlfriend’s parents. He’s invited to leave home, be surrounded by bunch of white people, and feel like he’s onstage the whole time. That pretty much sums up Jordan’s life in Amsterdam.
Jordan Peele started his career in Amsterdam at Boom Chicago from 2001-2004. He was so young! He and Becky Drysdale were hired on the basis of their show ‘2 White Guys’ (neither of them being white guys). About his time in Amsterdam, Jordan writes this: “Being there in The Netherlands, I found I was an outsider in a different way than I was used to.”
And indeed, Jordan’s characters were all kinds of outsiders. He played Rodrigo the Latin lover, whose ‘love for all women’ would quickly go to the grossly overweight and burn victims – whatever it took to creep people out. (He was already mixing comedy and horror.) Right after 9/11, Jordan was developing a character that could basically be called Achmed the Stoned Terrorist. The only black man he played was MC Forest Whitaker (‘I’m awkward, I talk weird, my left eye is Peter Falk weird.’)
But Jordan’s biggest hit at Boom Chicago was Ute, the Swedish supermodel – in which he transcended both racial and gender roles. The inspiration for Ute was a Eurovision Song Contest with a randomly blond hostess, who spoke terrible English with supreme confidence. But still, after the show, it would be mostly Dutch guys coming up to Jordan and asking ‘when are you going to do the Angry Black Man?’ At first Jordan seemed to enjoy doing everything but that.
I’m not sure if racism remained a theme for Jordan once he got to Boom Chicago – maybe because he was high a large part of the time. Yes, the weed culture played a part in many of Boom Chicago’s transplants from the US. But Jordan took to weed like a fish to water. Jordan, high, was brilliant.
[Footnote: In 2002, Boom Chicago hired Colton Dunn, also African American. Jordan said that – at the time – he was afraid for his job, assuming that no comedy group would want TWO black ensemble members. Funny that Colton ended up a writer on ‘Key & Peele,’ where they made a sketch about 2 black guys competing to be the token black guy in an all-white comedy group.
So in retrospect, I suppose Part ONE of Jordan’s inspiration was US.
[Front row left: Jordan Peele. Back row right, Keegan Michael Key. Second City, 2003. When Key Met Peele.]
TWO – PROGRESSIVE RACISM.
The twist of ‘Get Out’ is that it’s progressive white people who turn out to be racist. And Dutch culture is super progressive! Which is why it’s all the more surprising when you see graffiti like “Turken Terug Naar Marokko.”
Dutch culture is so open & tolerant & progressive… but they still have a way of letting you know you’re an outsider.
A poster for ‘Get Out’ says ‘Just because you’re invited doesn’t mean you’re WELCOME…’
And as Boom Chicago likes to say about Dutch culture: ‘Just because they tolerate you – doesn’t mean they LIKE you.’
Or to put it in the words of this campaign ad from the Dutch Prime Minister: “Doe normaal of ga weg.” Let’s see… how would I translate that? “Just act normal – or GET OUT.”
THREE – ZWARTE PIET.
The same day Jordan Peele won his Oscar, the Dutch Prime Minister released this ad: “Just Because You Celebrate Sinterklaas Doesn’t Make You Racist.”
I agree Zwarte Piet not meant to be racist! But I have observed some of my colleagues who find the blackface to be a bit insensitive.
WATCH: Amber Ruffin meeting Zwarte Piet https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Za_e9Ip9o9U&t=28s
I’ve seen progressive Dutch people insist that they’re really quiet progressive, and that Zwarte Piet is not intended to be racist – ignoring the effect it may have on people of color. It’s rather like Bradley Whitford insisting that he’d have voted for Barack Obama a third time, if he could.
In ‘Get Out,’ the main character finds himself in armed conflict with his hosts. And at Boom Chicago, Jordan Peele made this video (written by Pep Rosenfeld) in which 2 Zwarte Pieten rise up in armed revolt against Sinterklaas.
aka ‘Zwarte Piet Unchained’
So there you have it, Dutch people – You can claim partial credit for winning an Oscar! …but it does involve admitting that some people find Zwarte Piet insensitive. Good luck!