EDITORIAL: ‘Us’ exemplifies power of authentic representation

By Editorial Board

Fernanda Weissbuch

In 2016, Only 1.4 out of 10 lead actors in films were people of color, even though people of color represented 38.7% of the population that year, according to UCLA’s 2018 Hollywood Diversity Report.

Jordan Peele is a filmmaker taking these dismal statistics head-on. His latest horror movie “Us” broke the record for the best opening weekend for an original horror film, grossing more than $70 million opening weekend, according to a March 25 ABC report. The movie is centered around a black family as they are confronted by evil doppelgängers. Peele has garnered a lot of praise for how the film approaches blackness. The Wilsons are tight-knit and fully fleshed-out, while their doubles are creepy and terrifying. Each of the actors shows an acting range that would challenge even the most seasoned industry veterans. Lupita Nyong’o stars as the matriarchal lead, playing both the main character and her sinister, scissor-wielding, red-jumpsuit-clad doppelgänger.

Fernanda Weissbuch

A genuine, nuanced view of blackness is almost entirely missing in Hollywood. Writers’ rooms often rely on stereotypes and lazy tropes. In horror, time and again, a single black male character dies first while his white castmates fight for survival. Peele has opened the field by giving black actors the long-deserved opportunity to shine in challenging and impressive roles, the likes of which have been reserved for white people.

“Us” is a story written, directed and produced by a black man, starring a cast of black actors, featuring references to important elements of black culture. Marginalized groups have always known the importance of being allowed to tell their own stories, but movies like “Us” showcase that necessity to a privileged audience that needs to recognize it.

Stories that center people of color are critically important both for the people they represent and the people they do not. People of color deserve to see themselves represented in stories that treat them as more than caricatures. They deserve to have their culture and experience expressed in an honest and

Fernanda Weissbuch

meaningful way. Media that accomplishes this goal serves a critical purpose in educating the privileged and fighting racism. Putting black experiences in the center—simply by presenting them as normal and human—challenges the ingrained cultural messaging that whiteness is the default. White people must learn to respect and value black stories. Black people have been expected to relate to white stories for centuries; it is well past time to shatter this expectation and turn the tables.

It is impossible to showcase authentic and genuine marginalized voices when a creator comes from a position of privilege. We want and need diverse stories, which means we can no longer accept writers’ rooms full of white faces and casts with only one tokenized person of color. The privileged must learn when to close their mouths and let the marginalized speak for themselves. Allies must step aside, buy tickets, and use their privilege to uplift diverse voices. Creating space at the table for diversity does not mean anyone has to give up a seat; it means we have to move over and add more chairs.