Immigration Impact: “Director Jordan Peele Casts More Immigrant Actors, Tells More Inclusive Stories.”

by Joseph McKeown

Fifty percent of Latino immigrants, thirty-three percent of black immigrants, and twenty-five percent of Muslim immigrants on television are portrayed as criminals, according to a 2017 study by The Opportunity Agenda, a social justice communications lab. The study, called “Power of POP: Media Analysis of Representations of Immigrants in Popular TV Shows,” demonstrates that biased and narrow portrayals of immigrants and people of color in Hollywood is not new. But some in Hollywood, including Academy-Award winning writer and director Jordan Peele, are beginning to change this. Peele recently announced that he will only cast people of color as the leads in his films. "I don’t see myself casting a white dude as the lead in my movie,” Peele told the Hollywood Reporter. “It’s not that I don’t like white dudes. But I’ve seen that movie.”

While Hollywood has become more open to diverse casting and having people of color in lead roles, the horror genre is not known to be “PoC friendly,” and has been dominated by white leads for decades. That is, until Peele came into the scene. Peele’s first writing and directorial debut Get Out became an Oscar-winning cultural phenomenon and grossed over $250 million worldwide while his second film, Us, had an $88 million global box office opening weekend. Maryssa Hall writes in Immigration Impact:

His intentional choice to tell stories through the eyes of people of color—many of whom are immigrants—allows Hollywood’s old storylines to expand into something new. He is opening doors for immigrants of color to showcase previously untold stories—and viewers are responding at the box office. 

These types of stories are resonating with audiences. “America’s increasingly diverse audience prefer diverse film and television content,” the 2019 Hollywood Diversity Report states. The success behind Peele’s films and his decision to cast diversely suggest that Hollywood may take cues from audiences who want to see a true reflection of the America they live in today